For many, the first months of being in the part-time program at McGeorge can feel overwhelming. You may have thought that “part-time” meant “half-time” (and that you would be doing half the work of the full-time students), but this isn’t the case. Virtually the whole of the part-time cohort had spinning heads during the fall semester, as we pushed and clawed to keep up the pace. We hope the future incoming part-time 1L’s can learn from our struggles. The following are some tidbits of wisdom that my cohort wanted to share:
- Stick to your schedule to make sure everything gets done. This includes work, school, personal time (if you can fit it in), and office hours (office hours are crucial: you will learn things that you cannot get during regular class time because students often have insightful questions they are too shy to ask in class). You must be self-disciplined, and be prepared to be exhausted.
- One of the biggest challenges is accepting that your social life will be the biggest area in which you are going to have to make cutbacks. While this is also true for full-time students, it seems especially true for part-timers because what little free time we had after work has been consumed to make room for school.
- Build in time to decompress, even if it is only 30 minutes. It shows in your work if you don’t. While it doesn’t have to be exercise, remember endorphins are great for battling depression, and some days you are going to feel depressed.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow cohort members. If you are feeling lost or alone, either they can help you or they are lost too; and you can support each other as you both make your way to office hours to get more help.
- When you plan, be specific. Don’t just clear a slot for GLS work on Saturday. Know when your due dates are and schedule backwards with exactly what you will do to reach your goals. If your midterm is on Sept. 9th, plan to have your outline done by a specific date and schedule time for practice exams. You will be shocked by how fast time moves with everything on your plate.
- Practice exams are incredibly helpful and you should review them with your professors. They cannot help you during your midterm or final, so get help when it is available; the scored assessments will look eerily similar to the practice question.
- Keep a running list of what did and didn’t get done, and learn to prioritize assignments – e.g. is it worth spending a few hours on a reading assignment or would it be better spent perfecting that GLS memo? The brutal reality is that there will always be more work than time, so prioritize and make peace with your choices.
- Even though you are tired after working a full day and having classes in the evening, make use of the nights after classes to help spread out the workload so your weekends are not completely packed. If you happen to be a morning person, study before work.
- Be yourself: one member of my cohort spent a lot of time trying to craft outlines and notes the way she had seen others doing it and it was not clicking with her learning style. She was so overwhelmed with being a 1L and not knowing how things worked that she forgot how to be a student and how her own learning style had gotten her this far. She finally stopped trying to copy everyone else’s style and crafted study aids her own way. It made such a dramatic difference.
- Note that each class will require something different. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Your Criminal Law professor may be very particular about the format of the exam, while your Civil Procedure professor may not care. Attention to detail is key in law school.
It all comes down to advice that you will hear over and over again: keep a schedule, reach out when you are lost, and compromise when necessary. But this isn’t your professors talking at you, this is the part-time class of 2024 reaching back a supportive hand to help you along. We wish you the best, keep your head up, and remember that it has all been done before. We know you can do it too.