Imposter Syndrome: Who, ME?

Today was the first day of my last semester of school, ever.* (*Unless I decide I want another degree down the line, but for now, after seven straight years of undergrad and grad school, I’m definitely done for the near future.) As I saw all of the “happy last first day of school” messages this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of restlessness. I’m externing this semester and was working full-time for the day. I realized my anxiety was building up over being in this new externship placement. Here, I’m working in an area of law that I have no experience in, so before I began this morning, I felt incredibly nervous about this new position: What if I’m in a meeting and get asked a question I have no idea how to answer? What if I’m supposed to know about some substantive area of the law that I actually am clueless about? Until I eventually calmed down, I even started wondering how and why I landed the position in the first place. Who, me? How? Why?

This feeling of doubt and lack of confidence isn’t foreign to me. I felt similarly on my very first day of law school, my first case during my clinic experience, and throughout my 2L summer as a summer associate at a law firm. These feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty are a form of imposter syndrome, which is something I continue to struggle with as a final semester 3L. Imposter syndrome can come in various forms for various people. One HBR article defines it as “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.”

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Enter Spring Semester with a Plan

As we enter a spring semester that is all too familiar with Spring 2021, I encourage everyone to step back and strategize on how to make the most of our short time at BC Law. Around this time last year, I wrote a blog post outlining three strategies for excelling academically and professionally. Additionally, I (unsuccessfully) called on everyone to share their keys to success. I’m reposting that blog, along with other similar blogs, to help first year students navigate the waters after experiencing their first semester. It’s critical for 1Ls, and really all students, to approach the spring semester with a game plan. As always, please fill the comments with your ideas and advice…

A Reflection on My First Semester: Staying Focused on the Big Picture

School is always a bit of a bubble: something that quickly becomes your entire world and focus. This dynamic is especially true at law school, where balancing the intense schedule of classes, assignments, and reading is frequently compared to attempting to “drink from a fire hose.” Even having been out of school for six years, … Continue reading A Reflection on My First Semester: Staying Focused on the Big Picture

A Reflection on My First Semester: One Down, Five to Go

It’s hard to believe that just four months ago, we were nervously waiting in line to pick up our name cards in the Law Library. In a way, that first day of school in August was a lot like the first day of kindergarten, in that we were completely alone in a room full of strangers with nothing but a homemade sandwich in our lunchboxes and a nametag on our chests.

I was told by many upperclassmen that the first semester of 1L year would probably be the most difficult in terms of the steep learning curve–and they were right. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post; what makes 1L such a difficult time for many students is not only the new way of learning material, but also the uncertainty of a new city, new environment, with new people you have never met before. September was the worst period of adjustment for many people, including me. I had nights where I doubted whether or not law school was truly for me. Could I really see myself reading convoluted legal jargon for the rest of my life? Was this really what I wanted to do?

Thankfully, because it was such a prevalent sentiment, I was able to bond with like-minded people who ended up becoming some of my closest friends, and we constantly pushed and supported each other whenever things became difficult.

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“Don’t Make Law School Your Personality”

Before starting my first semester of law school, some of the most repeated advice I heard from those who had taken this journey before me was “don’t make law school your personality.” This sentiment was echoed in personal conversations with current students and in sessions hosted by student reps during orientation, and each time I heard it, I laughed it off.

It felt like such a strange thing to be saying over and over! It was too specific to be coincidentally repeated, but I didn’t really get what it meant. I understood the more general advice to take time off from school every once in a while, but what did that have to do with law school becoming your personality? I started to think this was some weird joke I wasn’t in on.

But then, classes started. It turns out what I wasn’t “in on” was law school, because once I was in on that, I saw what all those 2Ls and 3Ls were talking about.

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How Stress Can Help with Finals

Headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, and feelings of exhaustion. I’m not talking about Covid; these are all negative side effects of stress. As law students, we are likely familiar with managing stress, especially during finals season. In the midst of the madness, there are a few consequences of stress that actually benefit us:

  1. Increased Productivity

When you’re about to hit that begin test button on Examplify and a knot forms in the pit of your stomach, it can actually be helpful. This is because moderate stress strengthens the neural connections in your brain which enhances memory and attention span, and increases productivity.

In a UC Berkeley study, researchers found intermittent stressful events caused stem cells in rat brains to proliferate into new nerve cells that improved the rats’ mental performance.

“You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it’s not… Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.”

Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

That explains why as a chronic procrastinator, the stress of an impending deadline is sometimes the only thing that can kick start getting my work done.

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1L Guide: The Last Three Weeks of the Semester

Almost there. These are the last few weeks, the final stretch, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, it’s a red, angry light – not the warm, golden glow you were hoping for – but that’s show business. Papers are due, and exams are right around the corner. This was never going to be the fun part of the semester.

Still, when you’re done, you’ll be done. For at least a little while, there will be no impending assignments to complete or grade-points to score (and if you don’t move, the summer job application deadlines can’t see you). Winter break will be a time for seeing family, celebrating whatever holidays you observe, and most decidedly NOT reading court cases about the axioms of contract interpretation.

The 2Ls and 3Ls have run this race before. For the 1Ls, Travis pulled together a great compilation of helpful final exam advice, so I’ll not bore readers with too much more of my own. Instead, I thought I’d just offer a few quick thoughts about wrapping up the semester, and the break that follows:

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Exams are Coming; Here’s Our Advice

We’re gearing up to enter reading days and next week and final exams will be upon us soon. Over the years, BC Law Impact has offered lots of advice to students about how to prepare and how to manage stress. I put a few of our most widely-read posts below.


Travis Salters is a second-year student at BC Law and Vice President of the Impact blog. Contact him at salterst@bc.edu.

How to Make the Most of 1L: Keep Your Head Up

About a semester into undergrad a few years ago, I did something pretty crazy: I signed up for an extracurricular.

Revolutionary, I know.

This certainly wasn’t an unusual move, but it was pretty unusual for me. I did it on a whim, without any of my new friends joining me, and it felt really bold to just try something completely new with a group of strangers.

This spontaneous decision was one of the most influential ones I made in college, and it really shaped the entire experience for me. It helped me choose my major, it introduced me to people I likely never would’ve met otherwise, and it allowed me to develop new skills and hone those I already had.

While I still had this formative experience in the back of my mind as I stepped back on a college campus this fall at BC, I didn’t really expect to have a similar experience in law school. From what I had heard, the academics would be keeping me more than busy, and I didn’t anticipate having time to put energy into anything besides my studies. I started school with my head down, ready to focus on nothing else for the foreseeable future.

But, only about a week into this new experience, Boston College Law School threw me a curveball. The school was starting its first of two competitions — a negotiations tournament where you and a partner would go head-to-head with another pair to see who could secure the best deal for their hypothetical client. What’s more, while it wasn’t mandatory that we participate, it was highly recommended.

Oh, and if you wanted to participate, you’d have about three days to decide.

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Application Advice: Three Tips for Prospective Students

As the fall weather starts to pick up and the end of the semester is in sight, I am constantly reminded that I am approaching my final months at Boston College Law School. Recently I have been feeling very nostalgic.

Thinking back to this time three short years ago, I knew little to nothing about this place that would take so much of my time and energy in the near future. Instead, I was hurriedly getting application materials together, parsing through the web for any shred of advice on how to get into law school (and pick the right one at that).

Looking back, there are a few tips I wish I had known that were not so obvious to me as I was submitting my own applications. While I knew the basic strategies, I was missing a few principles less frequently emphasized.

So, for you prospective student readers out there: here are three things I wish someone had told me during the law school application process. While you’re here, be sure to check out advice from past Impact bloggers, located at the bottom of this post.

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1L Guide: How Do I Get Started on Outlining?

When I was a 1L, my Civ Pro TA told us that Halloween was the absolute latest day to get started on outlining. What she must not have understood at the time was that I didn’t really feel like it.

I instead started outlining a few days into November instead, rebel that I am, and it worked out fine. Still, everyone runs this race at their own pace, and it’s getting to be that time – December isn’t as far away as we might like to think. For 1Ls especially, outlining can be a lengthy process when you’ve never done it before. I didn’t even know what “outlining” meant when I showed up as a 1L, let alone how to get started.

It turns out that outlining is just *checks notes* checking your notes. Essentially, it refers to the process of reviewing and reorganizing class material into a convenient document to study and use as a reference during the exam. It’s writing yourself a comprehensive study guide/cheat-sheet, synthesizing all your course content into a handy one-stop shop. At this point, that content is probably scattered across assigned readings, class recordings, presentation slides, course handouts, and your own notes. Outlining is about bringing all that stuff together, and putting it into a format that is useful for answering exam questions.

Now that I’m a 3L, endowed with the awesome wisdom a passing grade in Torts bestows, my solemn duty is to impose unsolicited and marginally-helpful-at-best advice upon you, 1L reader. Here are some outlining tips and tricks:

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