by Melinda Drew, Lawyering Skills Professor and Director of the Academic Success Program

Law school orientation is coming up soon. Many students want to know what they should do to get ready. My advice is to take care of the things that would otherwise be a distraction for you during the first few weeks. In no particular order, here are some possibilities to consider…

  1. How will you get to school? If you plan to use the T, you can get a semester pass (the deadline is today, August 1, at 3:00 PM), which is good from September through December, through the student portal. If you plan to commute by car, sign up for your parking pass and make sure your car is in good working order.
  2. Open a bank account and make sure your bank has ATMs near where you will be living or near school.
  3. Prepare a study space in your home. It should be a place that is as free of distractions as possible and where you can keep your books and study materials out and available.
  4. Get your school email set up, if you haven’t already done so. You can also set it up so any school emails are automatically forwarded to your personal account (e.g. gmail).
  5. Make sure your finances are in order.
  6. Talk to your family and/or roommates about what law school will be like. Look at the law school academic calendar and see when exams will be. Once you have your syllabi, check when assignments are due. Prepare your significant others for those times when you will be too busy to spend time with them and ask for their support.
  7. If you are not purchasing the university health insurance, make sure your health insurance is up-to-date. If you need health care, you do not want to be worrying about how to pay for it.
  8. If you have a disability for which you need reasonable accommodations, get in touch with me, the law school’s disability services coordinator, and find out how to set up accommodations. Do this as soon as possible because once school starts, you will be busy.
  9. If you have prescriptions you take regularly, have them filled.
  10. Make a self-care plan. When and where will you exercise? How will you eat healthy meals? Will you be cooking for yourself? Do you have a partner who can help with this? If so, talk with your partner now and decide who will cook when.
  11. Make sure your laptop is in good working order and set up routine backups. Losing your class notes or your outlines will not only be a problem for studying for exams; it will also increase your anxiety.
  12. Buy any school supplies you need. Consider: paper for printing at home, an extra ink cartridge for your printer, pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. TIP: don’t buy too many highlighters or extra pens unless you have a special kind you like. The bar review companies which table in the law school every week starting in your first month will keep you well supplied with those (and usually candy too!).
  13. Read some books you want to read (not school-oriented books).
  14. If there are any movies you have wanted to see, do that too.
  15. Update your resume.
  16. Think about what distracts you when you are studying. Try and eliminate those distractions as much as possible.
  17. Think about connecting with your classmates before school begins.
  18. Once you know what books you will need, buy them as soon as possible. Some classes will have reading assignments for the first week. TIP: CISP (the law school’s Co-operative Income Sharing Program) sells used books. If you are in the area, you might check with them to see if they have any of the books you will need. The CISP room is located on the 1st floor of the law school next to the Deans’ Suite.
  19. Again, if you are in the area (or when you arrive), check out the law library’s resources. You will have a tour during orientation, but you can also look around on your own. You might also check out the Snell Library which is the University’s main library. In addition to lots of resources, there are quiet study rooms available there to which you also have access.
  20. Check out on Blackboard the Academic Success Programs available to you every Tuesday and Thursday at lunch time. Tell yourself you should go to these and learn skills that will help you succeed in law school – then go to them!
  21. Your professors have office hours every week. Go to them if you need help or have a question. Don’t wait until the end of the semester! Some professors and the Academic Success Program director (that’s me) have an open door policy which means you can drop in anytime the person is in the office. If a faculty member has such a policy, feel free to use it.
  22. Many of your professors have Teaching Assistants (TAs) who are upper level students. They can help you – go to them if you need help in a course. The Academic Success Program also has TAs – all third year students. They can teach you study skills and help you with basics such as how to read cases, case briefing, course outlining. They too have office hours and are located in 86 CG (CG is Cargill Hall) – right next to the 1L locker room. Use their services when you need them!
  23. Join groups you are interested in and get to know other upper level students. They have lots of helpful information and are willing to share it with you.
  24. If you are from the Boston area, you already know many of the things available to you. If you are from elsewhere, you might want to check out the places and activities available for your free time. For example, the Museum of Fine Arts is only a couple of blocks away from the law school. Downtown Boston, where there are clubs, theaters, and shops is only a short T (subway) ride away. Fenway Park, if you’re a baseball fan, is a short walk from the law school, or you can take the T there too. If you have access to a car, New England is full of beautiful places to see brilliant foliage in the Fall (especially around Columbus Day weekend) and all of the New England states are within a reasonable driving distance.
  25. Remember, you cannot get through law school without doing the work but you can also have fun. Budget your time well and enjoy the trip!

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