Things I Wish I Knew, Vol. 14: New semester resolutions you should have (and ones you shouldn’t)

Happy almost new year!

I find that this time of year, people generally fall into one of two buckets: what I like to call the Calvins of the world…

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions

…and those of us who resolutely (heh) make a list of things about ourselves that we would like to change. If you’re anything like me growing up, you make your list feeling great about it  every December, then come February, you kind of feel the way you do when you’ve napped for too long: disoriented, vaguely angry, and wondering what the heck happened to you.

And I mean, the Calvins of the world would tell you this is why you don’t need to make a resolution at all. But the end/beginning of the semester can be a time of great relief or great disappointment: our grades weren’t what we wanted them to be, we’ve left an externship or clinic and are going back into the classroom or vise versa and we’re either nervous or unhappy about making the transition, we haven’t found a job yet and we feel like everyone else has. It’s natural to feel like something’s gotta give.

For the past few years, I’ve started making resolutions that pack more of a punch and actually get me through The February Slump. So, while I’m no expert, I figured everyone could use either a little help shaping their resolutions for how to be better versions of themselves for next semester, or maybe just some reassurance that they’re on the right track.

Don’t resolve to get straight As. I know that sounds a little odd, because law school students have gone their whole lives striving for perfection. Don’t get me wrong: certainly you should be trying for an A. But what does a resolution to get straight As actually mean? These vague, amorphous resolutions are as lazy as they are impractical.  What concrete benchmarks can you set with a resolution that blobby? Instead, resolve to make concrete steps to improve your school performance. Resolve to speak to any professor willing to go over your exam with you to find out why you received the grade you did. Resolve to create a study schedule at the start of the semester and to stick to it. Resolve to form a study group if that’s your thing, or to find other ways to review the material if it’s not. Resolve to finish your reading for class the day before rather than the day of when you have to scramble to finish it over common lunch. Resolve to participate more in class. Resolve to go to office hours when you have a question, or even when you don’t. Resolve to take advantage of outside opportunities the professor offers to learn more about the subject area. Resolve to care more about your courses, even the ones that make you feel like you couldn’t care less.

Don’t resolve to “go out more” or “be more social.” It’s a common resolution many people have after they realize that they don’t have too many memories from fall semester that don’t involve the inside of a textbook. But the idea of just going out more can be daunting (and what is more, anyway?) and it’s often easier or more comforting to stay in and feel like your tuition dollars are being put to a better use by you not going out and studying instead. Instead, resolve to make an effort to get to know people at school or work or wherever you choose. Leaving the library to do so is a natural progression of this resolution. Before you know it, you’ll be wanting to spend time with people at non-school locations and wanting to participate more in social functions involving those people. Because chances are you will forget a large part of the things you learn within the covers of a book, and you’ll even forget who ended up going to that one bar review, but you won’t forget the people that got you through law school.

Don’t resolve to get a job. Because you will. Whether it’s two days before graduation or sometime in May when you’re studying for finals, we have a fantastic Career Services Office that is positively relentless in their efforts to help every student find a secure position somewhere. You will get there if you only work to help yourself, so you can cross this resolution off the list. Instead, resolve to look for a job and work hard at finding one. In this area, there is so much that is a combination of chance and timing and who you know and who they know, that resolving to do anything but try is out of the question. (Sorry, Yoda). But really analyze the ways you intend to try. Resolve to look for job postings and to actually apply to them. Resolve to apply to any job you feel drawn to, even if you feel you may not be the most qualified candidate applying. (1Ls, check out Zain’s awesome post on summer jobs here). Resolve to be patient.

And finally, resolve to be kinder to yourself. Law school is rough. Across the board, law students are some of the most at-risk populations for things like anxiety and mental illness. Resolve to remind yourself that you are not defined by your GPA. Resolve to reassure yourself that you are good enough to be where you are and that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Resolve to find something that makes you feel good about yourself whether it’s yoga or reading for fun or watching Gray’s Anatomy and to stick with it, even when (especially when) the law school blues hit you.

We at BC Law Impact hope that you had an awesome 2015, and wish you all the best of luck going into 2016. See you on the other side!

I’m 2L, but check out my posts about things I wish I knew as a 1L, from day one to the last exam. My inbox is always open so you can comment on here, or shoot me an email at ochogo@bc.edu. 

 

 

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