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Top Ten Ways I Have Survived Finals and How to Deal If You Literally Cannot…

January 24, 2015

10)  It’s okay to cry.  When a concept has eluded you all semester and it hits you all of a sudden that you have three days to master it, it’s okay to cry – but then you have to take a deep breath and figure out how to tackle it.  There is some supplement, somewhere, that will answer your question.  And the moment that it “clicks” is quite possibly the best moment of your life.

9)  Sleep when you can, where you can.  For any Grey’s Anatomy fans, you’ll remember Baily’s sage advice to little Grey and Yang.  Just because you are getting in more hours at the library does not mean they are effective hours.  Your brain can only handle so much at a time before it needs down time to process it.  Recognize those times and listen to your body.  I do.  In fact, if you see me curled up in a corner napping during finals week, this is exactly what’s happening.

8)  Stay off social media.  Some people choose to deactivate completely during finals.  Personally, I stay on and browse through at the end of the night just to do something completely mindless, but while I am studying, I stay off.  Not only because of the distraction, but also because other people are posting about their own studies, which makes me nervous and because I don’t want to post statuses whining about finals.  Whining on social media really helps no one.

7)  Pick a soothing distraction that will take some of the pressure of when you hit your breaking point.  I use the San Diego Koala Cam.  I know that’s not for everyone, but whether it’s a book, sitting outside without any notes, yoga, running, Pandora spa station, whatever, just make sure to take a moment now and then to breathe and reconnect with yourself.

6)  Find real world situations in which to apply the concepts you are working on.  For instance, one semester I was eating a Reeses Peanut Butter cup when, much to my surprise, I had a peanut butter-less cup!  I used this as an opportunity to write Reeses about this issue and analyzed it under “manufacture defect” while studying for torts.  I also got a coupon for free peanut butter cups, so win-win.

5)  Keep track of funny things you and your friends do or say during finals time.  Finals is a time when we shove common sense out of our minds to make room for legal jargon.  For example, during one finals period, one of my friends shouted in sudden realization of a fact that had been escaping her, “Nationwide means the United States!”  Yes, yes it does, but finals brain doesn’t always know these things.  Keeping a log of the funny things that happen helps out when you need some comic relief.

4)  You get to be a bit selfish and not hang out with non-law school people.  It might even be best not to hang out with non-law school people because they will not understand what you are feeling.  If they have never been to law school, they won’t get it, and dang it, you get to be as overwhelmed as you want to be.  That being said, don’t be a jerk to people who aren’t in law school.  You will probably still want to talk to these people once exams are over.

3)  Past Exams.  I cannot stress this enough.  If your professor has ever given a past exam, track it down.  Take that exam, look at the professor’s analysis, then take the exam again, as many times as it takes to master it.  Your grade is as much based on how well your exam is written as the substance of the exam.  I would argue that with some professors, formatting is even more important than content.  Learn and know your professor’s exam grading practices.  TA’s come in very handy here, too.

2) Spend time with law school friends. Whether you are in a study group, just study in the same room, or just eat lunch together, it’s nice to have people to commiserate with and just know you are not alone.  It also helps you stay focused way more than “five more minutes” on Facebook when you are alone.

1) Be good to your future self.  I know that having a week to prepare always seems like a lot of time but if you play around too much the first few days of study-week, Future You will hate Present You.  It’s not a good feeling.  Also, try to eat something healthy now and then. Post-Finals You will not appreciate your transformation into a grease-blob.

When those don’t work because something happens that you literally cannot take your finals – do not panic.  At least, try not to. 

Last year I had taken two finals and had two more to go.  I was studying for my professional responsibility final when, ever so slowly, my neck became very stiff and sore.  I was sure this was from sitting in the same position too long.  Over the course of the evening I ended up in excruciating pain and drove to urgent care first thing in the morning, flash cards in tow.  First, I laid in urgent care with an IV, reading flashcards.  Then I was transferred to a different hospital’s emergency room, with a new IV, reading flashcards.  Then I underwent a spinal tap, wishing they had let me bring my flashcards into the room.  Then my flashcards and I were admitted to the hospital, which is when I called Kay Henley to figure out what to do. Somewhere between trying to remember which meningitis was deadly (thankfully for me, viral meningitis sucks but doesn’t really kill), trying to keep nurses from giving me medication that I’m allergic to, and keeping track of my flashcards (which I now don’t know where to find and have to remake them), I realized the obvious reality was, I was not going to be taking that PR exam, and I was not going to take the California Evidence exam the next day, either.  Fortunately, Kay Henley is a very nice person when you are admitted to a hospital.  If the worst-case scenario happens, you can take your exams the next time they are offered.  I, for example, will be taking PR and CA Evidence this fall.  The school will base my grades solely on those final exam scores and my previous midterm/participation credits no longer exist.  But a crisis was averted and all will be right in the world after this exam period.  And I didn’t have to take a proctored test in the hospital.