So, you’re wondering whether you should study during the holidays? It’s a good question. I personally think it’s worth it to get a head start on your next semester; a small investment (key word being small) at this stage will cut down your workload in the next semester, help you hit the ground running, and prevent you from falling behind.
From what I’ve seen, only law students understand the pain of being behind in their readings in week two. Thanks to the absurd amount of reading required every week we need to manage our time and ensure we stay ahead. Here are some quick and easy tips to do just that.
What you need to do during your holidays
Unfortunately, the only way to come prepared for your first lecture is to work during your holidays. The good news is that this small investment will pay off, and it definitely won’t destroy your holiday break.
Here is a list of things that I did during holidays to help prepare.
The easy stuff
You should have no problem getting this list done:
- Get your semester calendars prepared. I printed out blank monthly calendars for the relevant semester from Calendar Labs (free) and hand wrote only the key dates. These are the start and end of semester, lecture times, essay due dates and exam periods. Having a separate calendar in my study helped me a lot. You won’t have all this information yet, but put in as much as you can and add the rest later.
- Print out your subject guide and reading list. If these contain any key dates put them into your calendar.
- Buy or otherwise get all your folders ready (or whatever it is that you use during the semester to organise your notes).
- Buy pens and notepads.
- Buy text books (or better yet, borrow them all from the library). You will need these during your holidays, so don’t leave this until the new semester.
The (slightly) harder stuff
Ok, so you’ve done the basic housekeeping and it hasn’t ruined your holidays just yet. The next stage is to finish all your reading for the first lecture, so that when you start the new semester, you can start your second week’s reading.
This process works because, as you will discover during the course of your degree, you really don’t cover anything that important in your first week.
- Flick through the prescribed textbook to get an overview (5 – 10 mins).
- Read the introduction chapter only (that is, the chapter that provides an overview of the subject) (30 – 40 mins).
- You will have various “introductory” readings on your reading list. These can include some introductory chapters (that you flicked through / read in the paragraphs immediately above) up to entire journal articles on various aspects of the subject. Skim over these and don’t take any notes! You’re on holidays and should be resting, and besides, nothing you write down in your first week will make it to your exam notes (45 mins – 1hr).
- If there is something that you find particularly interesting and can read it without taking notes, then go wild, but do your best to keep it to a minimum. If you really feel the need to take notes, leave it for the new semester (and take a read of our post on note taking first).
How this will help you
First of all, the above preparation will save you a hell of a lot of time. The first week of any subject is an overview (read: almost useless) and it is extremely unlikely that you will learn anything important (read: it won’t be substantive and won’t be required for the exam).
It can be difficult to believe this at first – I was still reading everything at the end of the first year – but trust me on this one. Following these steps will mean you won’t waste your time reading a significant amount of unnecessary material. Save that for this and other law student blogs.
Because you have done everything you need to for your first week (while also reducing the required work by about 75%) you will come to the lecture prepared and can start working on the second week of reading immediately.
Unfortunately, this is probably the only shortcut you will be able to take all semester.
That’s all folks
It is a great feeling to start the semester ahead of the pack. For me this feeling would last around 3 weeks, at which point our essay topics were released, and I would play catch up for the remainder of the semester. Oh well, it is a nice feeling while it lasts…
Best of luck to you all with the upcoming semester (and especially to those who are starting their first semester of law school)!