Jan 3, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Prospective law school students spend countless hours managing application-related factors, including everything from studying for the LSAT to getting letters of recommendation.  Once they get in, they spend even more time evaluating which schools are best for them. Contrary to common misconception, however, their work isn’t over when a program is picked. What’s next (and often overlooked)? Getting ready for law school itself. Read on for a roundup of ways to start preparing for law student life. 

1. Pick reading-intensive courses.

Hopefully you’re aware of this by now: There’s a lot of reading in law school -- reading that requires breaking down and analyzing complex information. 

Propose Ruta K. Stropus and Charlotte D. Taylor in their book, Bridging the Gap Between College and Law School, “Nothing will help you succeed more than the ability to read and retain large amounts of information and write about it effectively. Start developing these skills now….Consider taking courses that require reading difficult texts and synthesizing large amounts of complex material into a workable format; upper level literature and philosophy courses are excellent choices for acquiring these skills.”

Adds U.S. News & World Report, “Consider taking a speed-reading course. Be sure that the course focuses on how to absorb information efficiently, rather than how to read as fast as possible without fully digesting the material.”

Some insiders even recommend reading ahead. Continues U.S. News & World Report, “It may seem strange to learn concepts that will be covered during your first semester before setting foot on campus as a student, but many future law students choose to take a course specifically geared toward prepping them for their 1L year. The more deeply and precisely you understand the material, the better you will do academically because 1L classes are based on a forced curve – your grades depend specifically on your performance as compared to that of your peers.”

2. Join a pre-law group.

You don’t have to major in pre-law to be law school-ready. However, joining a pre-law society can offer a helpful introduction to law school topics, as well as to peers with similar goals and interests. 

But you can also gain benefits from talking to current and former law students in an informal capacity. Says U.S. News & World Report, “Current students or recent graduates know what you are about to experience better than anyone. Advice from recent law school students will be infinitely more valuable than that from individuals who graduated 20 or more years ago as law school has evolved significantly.”

3. Keep up your extracurriculars.

Many law school applicants think of extracurricular activities as application padding. But getting involved in groups and activities that you’re interested in is much more than a means to an end. Because law school life can be overwhelming, prioritizing life outside of law school can help keep burnout at bay. 

Advises LawLifeline, “Many law students think that the key to success is pursuing every activity and opportunity, and spending non-class hours chained to the law library. This is especially tempting as a 1L when you’re not used to the strain and pace of law school. Many students say that suffering for success isn’t just necessary, it’s a badge of honor….But taking on too much is the fastest way to burnout. While you might not have as much free time as you did before law school, find time to engage in activities you love. Remember that law school is just one part of your life.”

Getting -- and staying -- involved with extracurriculars while in college can help you lead a fuller life as a graduate student. The same concept applies to exercise, sleeping and eating right. Making these things a habit now to ensure that they continue -- even amidst the craziness of law school. 

4. Make -- and stick to -- a schedule

So you’ve coasted through college on a combination of natural intellect, procrastination and crossed fingers? This approach is unlikely to make it in law school, where grades are based entirely on a final exam.  To avoid an unpleasant surprise, get in the habit now by learning to study according to a schedule. Evaluate all of your commitments -- both academic and personal -- and devise a study plan. 

This also means taking other factors into account, such as where and when you study best. The more you acknowledge your personal needs and preferences, the more effective your study plan will be. 

Law school will be here before you know it. Why wait until the first day to start learning what you need to know? Taking these four steps during your undergraduate years can help lay the foundation for law school success. 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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