Thursday, February 3, 2011

Driving the Wrong Way on the Highway

Today while driving to work, I saw a car heading the wrong way on the highway. The car was in the shoulder, but it was still pretty scary.  I guess the driver slid on the ice and got turned the wrong way. The driver couldn’t figure out how to turn back around to head the correct way. In the meantime, those of us heading westbound slowed down and prayed the car did not slide into us.
Sometimes law school can feel like you are driving the wrong way down the highway. Everyone else seems to get it and you feel like you are the only student who is not “getting it.”  At least that’s how I felt during those early days in law school, but I am sure I was not the only one who felt that way.  And if you feel that way, you are not alone.   I think many students just act like they get it, while actually they are a little confused as well.  The good news is that eventually you will get it! It might take you longer, but eventually the pieced some together and you have that "aha moment." 

So if you find yourself turned around in law school, how do you get yourself back on track? The first step is recognizing that you are going the wrong way and get help.  I could not stop to help the driver driving the wrong way on the highway; fortunately, however, you can get help when law school does not seem to be going the way you would like.  Talk to family, friends, or a professor you trust.  You might also want to sit down and figure out what caused you to get off track.  

There are other reasons why law students might get turned around. Some students become overwhelmed by the workload and can’t quite figure out how to set up an effective study schedule.  If this is you, make a list of long-term and short-term goals and then make a list of action items that you will need to accomplish to achieve your goals. This helps you take things in smaller bits so they are more manageable, making your goals more achievable.

Other students get turned around due to the stress of law school. They turn to alcohol, video games, or other activities to distract them from their stress. Dealing with the stress negatively, however, can lead to addictive and dangerous behavior. It is best to address these issues early on before they lead to academic and social consequences.  If you are struggling with alcohol, drugs, or depression, seek help.  Most law schools have a law student assistance program for students dealing with these sorts of issues. You do not have to handle it alone.

Lastly, some students get turned around by getting involved in too many things.  I think it is important to have social life in law school; however, joining too many clubs and organizations might distract you from your studies.  Pick 2 or 3 organizations to get involved in and limit leadership roles to only one of those groups.  That way you still have time to study, while maintaining the important leadership and social skills that law school organizations can provide. 

Sometimes, we get turned around in life and that’s okay. The important thing is to find a way to get back on track, learn from your mistakes, and move on.  Additionally, once you get yourself turned back around, you will now have an excellent answer for an interview question.  If asked, give an example of a time you overcame an obstacle, you can describe the process you took get back on track. 

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