1L Orientation: How Not to Stress (Too Much) Your First Year

Law school is going to be a lot of work.  And you are inevitably going to experience certain levels of stress.  A moderate amount of stress can be beneficial, as your body produces hormones that can improve memory and help complete tasks more efficiently.  “Good” stress stimulates us and encourages us to go out in the world and accomplish our tasks.  But do not let your stress control you, make you feel overwhelmed, or affect your health.

Here is a list of tips for reducing your stress:

  • Be prepared for every class, and start outlining your classes early in the semester.  The more prepared and in control you feel, the less stressed you will feel during the year and at finals time.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to complete your writing assignments.  This may mean giving up your weekend, but know that they always take longer to complete than you expected.
  • Talk to someone who has recently experienced his or her first year.  They can tell you what worked for them and what did not.  Someone who has had your professors can also tell you specifically how to take notes and study for each professor.  You can sign up for the mentor program, or make friends with a 2L or 3L. 
  • Take a mini break each day, even during finals.  Go for a walk or play with your pet.  As busy as you are, make sure you take a little time for yourself.  I also try not to study while I am eating, I instead use those 30 minutes to eat with my friends, listen to music, or watch television.
  • Get plenty of sleep, especially during finals time.
  • Exercise!  Go to the gym, go for a hike, or practice yoga regularly.  It will keep you in shape, improve your health, and physical exercise is a great way to relax.
  • Do not commit to too many extracurricular activities.  If you are overcommitted, your studies will suffer.  Studying for law school is probably very different from your previous studies, and it will take you time to learn how to read efficiently.  So do not sign up for too much, especially your first semester.  Learn to say no, and give up a club or the softball team if you have to.  School is always the priority.
  • Have a non-law student to talk to.  Call your mom, a friend, your boyfriend.  Someone that will tell you that you can do this, that you will succeed, and that everything will be alright.
  • If you want to talk to a professional about your problems or stress, visit the Counseling Center.  They have professionals who deal specifically with students.
  • Go to your professor’s and TA’s office hours.  They can answer any questions you have and help you review the material.
  • Go visit Janet Madden, director of Academic Support Services.  She is a valuable resource for studying advice, and can help you find a studying group or tutor if you need one.
  • Go sit on the beach.  You are in San Diego!  Enjoy it. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting on the sand and staring at the water.

Finally, always remember that, no matter how bad things seem, someone else always has it worse.  For example, you could be in medical school.

Good luck!

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