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8 Ways to Prep for a Healthy Final Exam Experience

Law school finals are coming... it is time to prepare for the onslaught of outlines, notecards and practice essays. I have compiled a list of some of my best tips for staying healthy throughout final exams.... exams are super important but they are not worth sacrificing your health and wellness.

1. Prep Healthy Snacks and Dinners
I spent a good part of this weekend making myself some healthy snack packs and prepped some healthy dinners. I made baggies of carrots, celery, apple slices, crackers, pretzels, and blueberries. I love having them ready and bagged in my fridge so I can just grab a healthy snack on the go and avoid the temptation of a handful of Pringles or cookies.

For healthy dinners, I like having ingredients on hand for some easy dinners in the heat of finals week. A few of my favorites are chicken and rice casserole (only 4 ingredients!), tacos, grilled chicken salad, tuna salad sandwichs and shepherds pie. I always have broccoli and green beans for sides.  I would rather make something quickly at home with healthy ingredients than stop and pick up fast food.

As one of my professors recently said, eating crappy food makes you feel crappy so eat healthy and fuel yourself the right way! Having healthy food ready on hand is the simplest way to do this.

2. Mental Health is Important
During finals, especially as a 1L, it is very easy to psych yourself out and let the stress get the best of you. You have to right to stay right mentally. Take breaks, go for a run, take a bubble bath, have a good cry... whatever you need to do. Final exams is as much an endurance challenge as it is an academic challenge- take care of yourself and your mind so that you can make it to the finish line.

3. Exercise
Exercise is a great way to stay feeling healthy and energized. I enjoy a yoga session or a short run during finals as a mental break. As the great Elle Woods said, exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy! You need to be happy during finals so do whatever you need to. You can even take your books or outlines to the gym and read while you ride the stationary bike.

4. Sleep
It is tempting to pull all-nighters and skimp on sleep during the heat of finals. As much as that extra hour of studying seems appealing, the extra sleep will do you much better in the long run. Getting a normal amount of sleep during finals will help you so much. Your brain cannot process information when it is overtired so your studying will be far more effective if you are rested. Also, 2 weeks of little sleep will make you a walking zombie... don't let it get to that. Manage your time and plan for 5-6 hours of sleep each night minimum.

5. Take Care of Your Eyes
Studying involves staring at papers, books, and computers for outrageous amounts of time... this is very hard on the eyes- especially if you already have poor eyesight and wear glasses or contacts. I generally wear contacts and I have found that blue light blocking glasses help immensely when studying for long period of time. Also, I keep eye drops in my bookbag for long study sessions because my eyes inevitably get dry. I also alternate between contacts and glasses to keep my eyes from getting to dried out by my contacts. Keep your eyes feeling good so you can keep staring at the books!

6. De-stress in a Healthy Way
Law school exams are stressful, there is no denying that. But de-tressing should be done in healthy ways... basically don't drink away your problems. It will not help. Exercise or go to the park... find a healthy way to get rid of your excess stress and don't let it take over your life. I usually bake cookies, clean my house or take a bubble bath when I need to de-stress. Drinking away your stress will only lead to problems.

7. Surround Yourself with Support
You need people to lean on during finals. Spend time with the people who support you: family, friends, significant others, study groups. Avoid negative influences in your life. Find a study group that is productive or study alone if that works for you. Call your mom when you need to talk to someone. Have dinner with your significant other as a study break. Cuddle with your pet while reviewing notecards. Let your support system support you during this stressful time.

8. Eliminate Distractions
I find that removing social media app's from my phone during finals is a great way to cut out all that drama and distraction from my life. the important people in my life will text or call so I am not missing out on anything important. I am not sad about missing out on a Christmas party to study if I don't see the snapchats of it and I am not tempted to scroll through Instagram for 30 minutes if the app isn't on my phone. As soon as finals are over, I re-download but for two weeks, life is just fine without social media.

Best of luck!! Go crush those exams!

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Law Student in Your Life

Christmas is coming up!! Call me crazy but I have been listening to Christmas music and watching Hallmark Channel as much as possible. It is my favorite time of year!

I love shopping for Christmas presents and finding things I know the people in my life will love. But us law students... we are a special breed and our wants and needs can be different from most. For all those family and friends out there who want to be supportive and help out your law student, here are some gift ideas that will be helpful and appreciated as they finish their legal education!

1. Wireless Headphones 
These are so wonderful for law school!! I can listen to my music or recorded lectures, with no strings attached!! In loud and busy law school areas, these will be a law students best friend- particularly around exams!

2. A Coffee Mug 
Law students tend to go overboard with caffeine so a coffee/tea mug is never a bad idea. I think this one is perfect for any aspiring lawyer ... Trust me (I am almost a lawyer). 

3. A Professional Bag 
Every aspiring lawyer needs a professional bag for interviews and internships. This would be a super useful gift that will serve your law student very well through law school and beyond! 

For the ladies: 

For the men: 

4. Gift Cards
Law students are notoriously broke and stressed. Gift cards to take themselves out to dinner, for a relaxing shopping trip or most importantly, for coffee. If all else fails, you truly cannot go wrong with some gift cards to let the law student in your life treat themselves.

Also, gift cards to help law students build their legal wardrobes are a great idea. Express, Banana Republic, J. Crew are all great options for them to purchase professional wardrobe staples. 

5. Stress Relief 
Law school is super stressful... items to help your law student get some stress relief are always a good idea. Bath bombs, oil diffusers, a yoga mat, candles... etc.

6. Inspirational Items 
Your law student is probably always looking for inspiration... cute desktop signs or things to hang on the wall of their office to keep the motivation up in the heat of finals is a great gift idea. 

7. Travel Mugs and Water Bottles
Remember when I said caffeine is very important to law students?? Well, this is extremely true and travel mugs are a lifesaver in the morning when you are running out the door for class. I LOVE the Contigo no spill mugs.
Long days of class also call for lots of h2o. I have two favorites for this: Camelbak water bottles and my RITC tumblr (keeps ice cold for a full school day!). Your law student would certainly get lots of use from either of these. 

8. Amazon Student Prime Membership
Amazon prime is the greatest thing. Not only do you get access to Prime movies and TV shows and the Amazon music library, there is free two-day shipping on almost everything! For busy law students, that is the best way to shop. Your law student would be so appreciative of an Amazon Prime membership and for students, it is half price! This is the gift that keeps on giving all year long. 

Happy Holidays!!

Friday Five 11/10/17

Hello friends!
Another busy week... finals are coming on fast. I can't believe how fast this semester has been flying. I do not have any classes or work today in observance of Veterans Day so I have collected my 5 Friday Favorites this week.

1. reputation
I LOVE TAYLOR SWIFT. I have been obsessed since she released Tim McGraw, her very first song. Her songs have always been relatable and my favorite jams. I have followed her through the transition from country to pop and I love her no matter what. I have been anxiously awaiting new music and enter reputation, her newest album. It dropped at midnight and I have not yet had a chance to buy it but I will be soon! I am liking the new singles so far, even if they are different. It wouldn't matter though, I am a Swifty for life and nothing can change that!

2. Instant Pot
Guys... this is basically magic. I never seem to have enough time to cook dinner... night classes and extra reading just leave no time for cooking most days. I have been reading a lot about the Instant Pot and decided it was worth a try. It is a game changer. Fully cooked chicken and baked potatoes in 20 minutes. Spaghetti and meatballs in 15 minutes. I can't even describe how amazing this thing is. It cooks by pressure which is why it cooks so fast. It cleans up easily and had made dinner on busy nights possible. So worth the money!!

3. Seat Cushion
Law school friends... this is life-changing. I hate sitting at my desk for the massive amount of hours law school requires. I have scoliosis and my back is always so sore from all the bending over my desk and sitting in crappy desk chairs. I came across this seat cushion on Amazon and given how bad my back was hurting, I decided to give it a try. Best decision ever. The cushion is designed in a unique U-shape is recommended most by orthopedists and doctors to improve chronic and acute pain, by alleviating pressure in strategic areas surrounding the sciatic nerve. It has helped me so much in just a short time. I think anyone who sits as much as law students do could benefit from this!! Well worth the cost.

4. Hallmark Channel
I LOVE Christmas... like more than normal people. As soon as Halloween was over, I am in full Christmas mode. The Hallmark Channel has begun their 24/7 Christmas movie marathon and I am loving every second. The movies are the perfect study break- sweet, simple and festive. I love the sweet romance and adorable storylines... it feeds my inner sappy romantic. I know people say to wait until after Thanksgiving.... well 25 days just isn't enough Christmas for me so if anyone needs me I will be glued to the Hallmark Channel from now until Dec. 25.

5. CMA Performance by Carrie Underwood
I had a class canceled this week so I actually had time to sit down and watch the CMA awards on Nov. 8th. I am a lifetime lover of country music and this show was full of wonderful performances. My favorite artist of all time, Garth Brooks, won Entertainer of the Year again and Tim and Faith performed their new song *swoon*. But the highlight for me was this truly awesome remembrance performance of a classic gospel hymn by Carrie Underwood. I shed a tear when Tom Petty was shown, I shed a few more for Troy Gentry and I broke down sobbing on my couch when the Vegas victims came on the screen.... throughout the many speeches given throughout the night, a message of peace, love and unity was consistently present and this show of remembrance put me over the edge. It was great to see country music pulling together in the aftermath of tragedy and remembering those lost to a senseless act of violence.

Enjoy the holiday weekend! Thank you to all who have served our country past and present. 

Mid-Semester Finals Prep Guide

Well hello! It has been a full month since I last blogged. Life has been absolutely crazy- I made it to the final four in my law schools interscholastic appellate advocacy competition which involved 2.5 weeks of daily practices and constant revision on top of reading, class, work and food/sleep. It cumulated in an oral argument in front of 3 real, federal judges as well as our whole student body. It was stressful and exhausting but such a great experience. 

It is now midway through the semester and I know there are many 1L's out there getting stressed about final exams but are not sure quite what to do to start preparing. I have gotten a few questions about prepping for finals so I am sharing what I am doing at this point in the semester to start prepping for final exams. I hope it helps! 

1. Update Outlines 
I know every 1L ever is beyond tired of hearing the word outline but this is the time to be working on them and updating so you don't end up spending your whole Thanksgiving break outlining. I have been working on updating all of my outlines to the current point of material so that I can relax more on Thanksgiving break this year. For more on outlining see this post: A Guide to Outlining.

2. Meet with Professors
Now is the time to clear up confusion in the material. As you are outlining, make note of areas where you are confused or your notes were messy. Go get it cleared up by the professor sooner rather than later so you are not stressing at the last minute and fighting for office hours with all the people who waited until the week before exams to ask for help. Having your outlines updated will help you to know if there were confusing areas you need to get some help with. Then you know that whatever info is in that final outline is correct and you fully understand it.

3. Practice Essay Questions 
Law school essay questions are a new breed of essays you have likely never encountered. My biggest downfall my first semester of law school was not doing enough practice questions, not being comfortable with how to write them out and not having a solid plan for how to attack them. I highly highly suggest tracking down some practice essay questions for each subject and taking some time to write them out in exam-style conditions. It will help you to become comfortable with the feel of law school essays and make it less intimidating come exam day. The best case scenario is getting old practice questions from your professor along with model answers. If you can't get those, many of the bar prep companies give out free study materials on first-year subjects and there is also tons available online after a simple google search. There are often practice questions in your casebooks as well so make sure to look there.

4. Practice Multiple Choice
Just like essays, law school multiple choice questions are very different from other multiple choice. Find some to practice and get comfortable with them. It will make exam day way less stressful when you are prepared for the type of questions you will encounter. In addition, practice essay and multiple choice questions can pinpoint some weak areas in your understanding of the subject that need to be cleared up before exam time.

5. Start Studying
I know it seems crazy early, but it is time to start actually studying. Practice essay questions and practice multiple choice are a part of that but substantively studying the material is most important. I like to start making flashcards and reading over my outlines at this time. I also start meeting with my study group or study partners to go over out outlines and ensure that we have everything/there are no holes. I love group studying but it is not for everyone. If you are studying solo, start making a habit out of studying and find a good spot for it. If you plan to group study, start meeting with your group and ironing out the kinks. Law school exams require you to know and understand a massive amount of information. The earlier you start studying, the better.

6. Relax and Stay Healthy 
Don't get me wrong, this is a stressful time and working hard is vital. But doing so at the sacrifice of your mental and physical health is not good. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, take some time for yourself and the things you enjoy, exercise and spend time with friends and family. Law school takes over your life but you have to fight back a little bit and keep yourself happy and healthy. Also, it is cold and flu season so it wouldn't hurt to start taking a multi-vitamin and vitamin C- it is no good to be sick during exams!!

Here is a free printable to help you stay on track! 

Best of luck to all! Thankfully, the light at the end of the first-semester tunnel is growing closer.

How to be Prepared for a Law School Class

I have been so busy and I just have not had the gumption to get around to writing up posts. I finally got a little reprieve thanks to a canceled class and felt caught up on life enough to make time for a little blogging.

Today's post is all about how to properly prepare for a law school class. It is so different from how I prepared in undergrad. My class preparation in undergrad was something along the lines of skim the assigned reading, pack the book, a notebook and pencil bag in my bookbag and show up to class. That was it and it was good enough to get me through a majority of my undergrad classes. When I hit law school, class preparation took on a whole new meaning: reading the assigned reading multiple times, taking reading notes, doing additional outside research, typing case briefs, packing my bookbag until it almost burst... law school class prep was a whole new world. Now halfway through my third semester of law school, I finally feel that, through lots of trial and error, I have perfected a class preparation that works perfectly for me. It may not work for everyone but this is my method and maybe it will help you to develop your own method.

1. Choose Class Materials 
I have a binder for each class. I take all my notes on reinforced loose-leaf paper organized within the binder and I also add any additional class papers to the binder: syllabi, powerpoints, handouts, practice questions, etc. The night before class, my bookbag will be packed with my class binder, casebook, my planner, my pencil case (filled with my favorite Uniball Gel Pens), laptop and laptop charger.


2. Read Before Class
Something everyone thinking about law school or starting law school has heard a hundred times is always always always read for class. I will echo that- I always read before class except for the rare occasion when I am sick or crazy busy when I will still do a skim of the reading instead of reading it deeply. I never want to go into class without an inkling of what we will be covering. My process for reading for class is to read each case straight through once to get a just of it. Then I skim back through it, pulling out the important bits and I write those down in my reading notes. Sometimes, if I am really struggling to get the point out of a confusing case, I will look up a case brief online to help me identify what is important. I do that rarely but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. I take my reading notes on loose leaf paper in black ink, leaving space on the page to be added to later in class. I also like to get to class 10-15 minutes earlier to skim over my notes once more before class starts so that if I get called on, I am ready.

3. Prepare Your Body
This may seem a little weird but in the spirit of full disclosure... I make sure to never go to class on an empty stomach and I keep a few granola bars in my bookbag just in case I get hungry. I have trouble focusing when I am hungry so I avoid that at all costs when I am in class. Also, I make sure to have a full water bottle- it drives me nuts when people leave in the middle of class just to go fill up a water bottle. I also bring coffee to my morning classes because otherwise, I would fall asleep. I keep peppermint gum in my bookbag at all times because I think it helps me think. Additionally, I have trouble focusing if I am too cold. Our school tends to run on the cold side so I am always dressed in layers and sometimes I even carry a blanket. I refuse to let something as preventable as being cold keep me from focusing to my full potential. Also, full disclosure, I use the restroom before every class. I have a small bladder and I hate leaving in the middle of class just to use the restroom and potentially missing good information. I try to eliminate as many distractions, stressors, annoyances, etc. to ensure that I can focus and get the most out of my classes.

4. Class Set Up
When I am in class, I keep my casebook, binder, pencil case, and planner on the desktop. On our tiny little desks, that is all I have space for and that is really all I need. I do not take computer notes so I leave that in my bookbag. I always have my casebook open to the page we are covering for easy reference and I have my reading notes on one side of my binder with a blank sheet for class notes on the other side. I take all my class notes in a different color than reading notes- this way when I am looking back at my notes, I know exactly what the professor said in class in comparison to what I got out of the reading and I can ensure I am getting the correct information in my outline. I keep my bookbag and purse under the desktop by my feet and I leave my phone zipped inside my purse to avoid distractions.

5. Focus
You have seen all the actions I take to avoid any distractions that would keep me from focusing in class. Therefore, when I am in class, I try to be in it 100%. I listen, I take notes, I participate when I have something compelling to say. It is easy to zone out during class so I make a constant effort to stay engaged. I am not saying I am always perfect- I have been known to write my grocery list in my head during Constitutional Law every once in a while but I do try my hardest to avoid that and stay focused on class information.

I hope this helps new law students to form a method of preparing for class that works for them. It certainly takes a little while to determine what works for you and what is the best process. Once you get it figured out, it takes a lot of the stress out of law school because you know what to do and you just have to sit down and do it.

Happy studying! Enjoy your weekend!