Raising the Bar

As final exams get closer and closer (and closer…not that I’m freaking out or anything), I can’t help but think of the Academic Success Lectures I attended last year around this time in an effort to find that golden nugget of advice that would serve as a life raft as I approached my first law exams. Unfortunately there isn’t one piece of advice that will necessarily work for everyone in terms of actual study skills and strategy, but of all those lectures there was actually one comment that has stuck with me and that I do think is universally applicable. This is something pretty basic that might be self-evident, but I think it is something us law students might have a habit of losing sight of at times. Ready? Here it is:

Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Your only frame of reference for how you are doing should be you because while there is absolutely nothing you can do about what other people are doing, you can change your own habits and behaviour.

Maybe this doesn’t immediately come off as being all that magical, but my personal belief is that it can help more than one might expect. If we are completely honest with ourselves, a lot of us law students are more than a touch competitive. We probably cheated at the odd game of Monopoly as children and I think we all know that the foosball game loss we suffered the other lunch hour probably annoyed us more than we would care to admit – but hey, that’s just who we are. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, this drive of ours, because it got us here and makes us passionate individuals (doesn’t it sound downright noble now?). However, where this can get us into trouble is if we start thinking that we need to be in the library all day every day just because someone in our small group seems to have set up permanent camp in there; or that we need to have the most upper year CANs of anyone heading into a given exam just to be sure; or that being in the top 10% of our class is all that is ever going to matter to us.

This is a pretty easy trap to fall into because when you are so unsure of how everything is going to go, you can’t help but try to find some kind of indicator of what you ought to be doing to ensure preparedness. Here’s the thing though: we all work differently. I personally prefer to avoid the library during final exams because to me it feels as though it has become a living, breathing organism fuelled by the stress of the students in there. However, I have friends who swear by the tables on the fourth floor by the window. I know some students who can sit down and comfortably study all day, and those who need a mid-day workout to get out the nerves. There are students who will voluntarily pull all-nighters if they are on a roll, but on the flip side there are others who know that they cannot function without sleep.

My point is this: if you are trying to do something just because it seems like a mandatory law student behaviour, you are going to be doing yourself a great disservice because only you can know what is best for you. A little cheesy, yes, but true. We all need to work hard to succeed, but success should be measured by our standards, not by those of the people next to you in the library – for all you know, they aren’t focusing on torts so much as having an eyes-open nap.

So, my friends, stay healthy and don’t be afraid to take those breaks! (my personal recommendation would be to walk to the SUB and grab a Ranger cookie from Blue Chip, but I will leave the details up to you)


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