Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The real study group advice I promised a few days ago when my post degenerated into a "Dear Diary" tale of study groups gone awry:

1. It's not a race. You don't need to be the first one to have a study group. I can't for the life of me figure out why a study group would be of any value in September, or October, or anytime before Thanksgiving -- heck, anytime before reading period. Because what is there to study? You're hardly in law school, there's nothing to review for, you don't know what you'll need to study. A friend to ask what he thinks when you don't understand something in a case? Sure. Three-hour meetings twice a week? Watch TV instead. If you haven't worn your winter coat yet (or, in the case of people in warm-weather climates, long pants), you shouldn't be in a study group.

2. Before you commit, make sure your study styles are all semi-compatible, and I just mean in the "how long will our meetings be and what will we do" sense; anything else matters not. If you think the point of a study group should be to go over practice exams a week before the test and maybe share outlines right at the end, just to double-check you haven't missed anything key, it's probably a bad idea to be in a study group with someone who wants to meet for an hour every morning and go over the reading. Heck, if you want to meet every morning for an hour and go over the reading, I don't think you should be in a study group regardless. You should be in a mental hospital.

3. Study groups ought to be fun. You're going to be spending perhaps a bunch of hours with these people. If you don't like them, don't join their study group. Study with your friends, or least with people who you think could become your friends, because studying doesn't have to be torture. Being in a room with people you don't like will make you unhappy. Unhappy people are less productive. That said, someone out there is thinking, "but if I study with my friends we'll end up having fun and not getting any studying done." Well, if you can't force yourself to get work done in a group, maybe you should study alone. And anyway, it's not like you're going to fail the exam. If you have fun and don't get anything done for two hours one afternoon, the world won't explode. I see very little reason to actively try to avoid activities that might be fun, even if you think they're not supposed to be because they involve studying. Look, everyone at law school has enough self-discipline to make themselves study when they need to study. There are lots of reasons why a study group might not work out -- different styles of learning, different time management skills, personality conflicts -- "it's too much fun" shouldn't be one of them.

4. Just because they ask you... doesn't mean you have to say yes. Also doesn't mean you have to say no. Just think about it. Ask yourself if they hadn't asked you, would you have asked them. Ask yourself if you're saying yes just because it's nice to be asked. Ask yourself why these people are forming a study group on the second week of school.

5. Practice exams, practice exams, practice exams. This is what study groups are best for, in my humble opinion. Just thought I'd repeat that.

6. Don't just trade outlines. Well, maybe the day before the exam or something. But if you're using a study group to get out making your own study materials, whatever they happen to be to best fit your style, you're just sabotaging your own efforts to learn the material. I found that I learned best when I did things myself instead of just reading someone else's work output. But maybe I'm wrong. Just a warning.

7. Don't let a bad study spoil a good friendship. It's not worth it. Study groups are easy to find, friends less so. (Isn't that a lovely piece of advice? Not tinged with sarcasm, I swear.)

8. Studying sucks. Studying with other people can sometimes make it suck less, even if you get nothing done. I recommend being in a study group for three reasons ("Why couldn't you just list those three reasons at the top and forget about these eight points?" "Shut up."): (1) Practice exams, (2) Because it's lonely to study alone and you need interaction with people sometimes, and (3) Because if you're not in a study group you're going to feel left out and wonder what all of the people in study groups are doing (the answer: wasting their time, probably, and not really getting anything of any use done -- so no reason to be jealous)

9. The last list I did had nine points also -- see below. Just figured I'd make this one match even though I really only had eight things to say.

10. Nah, I'll make this one an even ten.