When Grades Don’t Matter

In case you missed it, grades for the fall semester were released last Thursday at 5PM (er, ok, maybe not EXACTLY at 5PM). But chances are, you didn’t miss it. In fact, you dreaded waking up Thursday morning because you already anticipated the heavy cloud that would hang over you until 5PM arrived. You anticipated the pit in your stomach as you signed into PAWS, half-hoping the site would crash and all grades would magically be erased. But what if they actually were erased? What if all the work you put in for fourteen weeks didn’t come down to a single letter grade, often determined only by a final exam?

Several prestigious law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, are doing just that. Although these schools often still administer a curve, the final grade is simply often “Pass” or “Fail,” with some variation for distinguished performers, usually those in the top 10% of a class.

On the surface, this seems like a dream. Imagine only needing to compete for a “Pass” instead of for one of only two A’s to be distributed in a class. This would certainly take the pressure off those students who don’t perform well on tests, as well as those who feel that law school exams do not adequately measure their level of comprehension of a subject. It also eliminates any penalty for those otherwise high-ranking students with the occasional blemish on their transcript for a class where they simply did not do well.

But this system poses a serious problem – without class rank and a competitive GPA, how do you market yourself when it comes time to apply for jobs? How do you differentiate yourself from literally every other person in your graduating class? Elite law schools are able to get away with this because they consider every student as elite and demand for their lower ranked graduates is still strong. Students graduating from second-tier law schools, however, do not have this luxury. For us, being able to show an employer (especially a BigLaw employer) how well we did when measured against our peers is essential to job placement. A graded top-performer is able to go into job interviews with tangible evidence of his academic distinctions and thus is able to take advantage of a greater number of job prospects.

Although the pressure faced during our three (or four) years of law school may be greater due to the constant anxiety surrounding grades and rank, this pressure mimics the reality of what competition in the real world looks like. There is often an absurd amount of work that comes along with expectations of perfect execution, a reality where only the top performers advance. The competition we face now, as stressful as it may be, will only prepare us for the reality of an aggressive and often unforgiving workplace.

ALERT Program: Spring Lineup

The spring ALERT program topics and dates:

ALERT Spring Update

What is the Alert Program?

ALERT (Applied Legal Experience, Research, & Technology) is a non-credit program that provides law students additional opportunities outside of the College of Law’s curriculum to learn legal research and technology skills.

By completing the ALERT Program, students can demonstrate to potential employers that they have obtained practice ready skills. Students will have their entire law school term to complete the program.

Levels of Completion:

With Distinction: Complete 6 Topics
With High Distinction: Complete 8 Topics
With Highest Distinction: Complete 10 Topics

For more information, or to RSVP please see: http://lawlibrary.gsu.edu/services/alert-program/

 

HOW TO SURVIVE THE WINTER BREAK WITHOUT YOUR LAW SCHOOL CLASSMATES

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You have just spent the last 3 months with your new best friends – your classmates.  You have cried with them, argued (“debated”) with them, and even occasionally laughed with them (probably harder than you should have at law school memes and inside jokes).  As you head into finals and the study time increases, so do the bonds of friendship.  No one on the outside of these glass walls can understand what the past 3 months have been like, but now that you have to immerse yourself back into the world of people not concerned with discussing eggshell skulls, how will you survive?  How will you endure the family gatherings and Aunt Ida and Uncle Jim asking you how your semester went, how did you do on your exams (which of course you won’t have a grade for until January), why haven’t you called, the uncomfortable you-look-tired statements, and of course all the questions about the law that you haven’t covered yet… you survive by keeping your law school friends close.

You are probably thinking that you can’t wait to get away from all the study and legal talk and there is no way you will even want to think about law school for the entire break, but believe me, you will feel lost without your classmates.  It is a strange feeling for sure, but after you decompress from finals, you will find yourself floating and needing your classmates to help you navigate the real world.

When you are sitting at the family table and nobody gets your jokes, text your classmates.  They will understand.  It is hard to explain, but your brain has been rewired, you look at the world differently and although it’s sad to say; only your classmates will understand.  They are the only ones who will get the joke from Lawyering Foundations Class about the stupid dog, they are the only ones who understand when your Great Aunt with the red lipstick kisses you and you start yelling “Battery”.  You will need at least one get together with the people who understand and appreciate your new mind.

Break won’t come for another month, but now is the time to start planning a gathering (or at least set up your group chat).  There are some really fun things to do in and around Atlanta – but as busy as everyone will be over the break, it’s smart to set up that playdate now.  Here are some suggestions for a good day of fun with your classmates:

FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO KEEP THE COMPETITION GOING TRY:

WHIRLY BALL – ATLANTA

http://whirlyballatlanta.com/

A combination of bumper cars and lacrosse.  You can get pizza and wings and they even have a bar package– but call ahead for reservations.   You will need a group of at least 10.

TOP GOLF – ATLANTA

https://topgolf.com/us/atlanta/

Get your own bay for up to 6 people and enjoy golf, food and drinks.  100+ climate-controlled hitting bays, full-service restaurant and bars, rooftop terrace with fire pit, over 200 HDTVs, free Wi-Fi.

FOR THOSE WHO PREFER A RELAXING DAY TRY:

ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDENS

http://atlantabg.org/visit/events/garden-lights

The seventh annual electrical extravaganza features spectacular light displays throughout the Garden, including the new high-tech Nature’s Wonders, illuminating the world’s natural phenomena through countless strands of synchronized dancing lights strung high over Storza Woods

PIEDMONT PARK

https://www.piedmontpark.org/

Spend the afternoon picnicking, going for a bike ride, or just enjoying the day outside.  Plan a picnic – there are 22 grills provided throughout the park!  Pick a spot and play some Frisbee, too.

FINALLY, FOR THOSE WHO PREFER AN ACTIVE DAY TRY:

STONE MOUNTAIN

https://www.stonemountainpark.com/

The Stone Mountain Christmas activities will be in full force.  Or, climb Stone Mountain for breathtaking views.  If you are really wanting to get away from the real world, they even offer hotel packages for a full weekend of fun.

ICE SKATING – ATLANTIC STATION

https://www.atlanticstation.com/

Atlantic Station hasn’t announced opening dates, but they should be up soon.  You can always google “outdoor ice skating rinks in Atlanta” and find a different rink (I think I found about 7 others when I searched – remember Centennial Olympic Park is closed for renovations).  Rumor has it there will even be ice skating at the Ponce City Market this year!

Preparing for your Final Exam

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As Exams approach you will be inundated with a myriad of advice about study tips; which supplement is the best, how each professors prefers their answers, and so on, but there is one piece of advice everyone forgets to mention:

GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!!!

I know, I know, there is not enough time in the day and you have to stay up later than usual to study.  Everyone in Law School knows you don’t sleep during the exam period and you are panicking because you just realized you only have 2 weeks to get everything in your head but guess what – your brain won’t work if you don’t take care of it!

This shouldn’t be news to you.  I’m sure your parents set a bedtime (and not just because they needed adult time) because they knew getting a good night’s sleep is important.  One of the first sleep studies was done in 1896 at the University of Iowa.  The fascination with sleep and learning has been going strong ever since![1]  However, as smart as we law students think we are, we don’t listen to the experts when we are pulling all-nighters to cram for our exams.

It has been proven that sleep deprivation impedes your capacity to complete difficult cognitive tasks–  like our final exams.  Even worse, all the studying you do while super-sleepy is not going to stick, so you are going to end up restudying everything and will STILL be tired and cranky.  So just be smart – get some sleep and start fresh in the morning.

Don’t believe me or your parents?  How about Harvard Doctors:

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Learning and Performance

Another area that researchers study is the impact that a lack of adequate sleep has on learning and memory. When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.

In addition, our interpretation of events may be affected. We lose our ability to make sound decisions because we can no longer accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior. Judgment becomes impaired.

Being chronically tired to the point of fatigue or exhaustion means that we are less likely to perform well. Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body’s organ systems are not synchronized. Lapses in focus from sleep deprivation can even result in accidents or injury.

Low-quality sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively impact mood, which has consequences for learning. Alterations in mood affect our ability to acquire new information and subsequently to remember that information. Although chronic sleep deprivation affects different individuals in a variety of ways (and the effects are not entirely known), it is clear that a good night’s rest has a strong impact on learning and memory.[2]

Got your attention?  Now the question is: how do I shut down and actually get some rest?  Personally, my biggest problem is turning off my brain.  I lay down and my mind just speeds up.  I found some tips and have even tried a couple, especially turning off technology (sigh).  That one seemed to work the best for me.  Check out the list below, get some rest, and get some A’s on those exams.  Good Luck!

  • 30 minutes before bed stop using all technology. Shut off the cell phone, close the laptop, and don’t even use a Kindle. The lights are keeping your mind moving, so no TV either.
  • Read a print book. It’s very old fashioned but it will help (I have found Civ Pro puts me right to sleep).  Seriously, nothing that stirs the brain, just light reading.
  • Go to sleep as soon as you start feeling sleepy. If you wait you will kick into second gear and be up for even longer.
  • Try a weighted blanket, which molds to your body and the weight actually helps your nervous system relax.
  • Try aromatherapy. I hear that lavender is the best. You can take a nice hot bath with some lavender oil, spray your pillows, or just lightly spritz the bedroom with whichever scent you prefer.
  • Cut out the sugar and caffeine before bedtime. Try to keep limit your intake after 4 pm.  I know you need the afternoon boost, but try a healthy energy snack like an apple with peanut butter or dried fruits and nuts instead.[3]
  • Get in your PJ’s and have a soothing cup of Chamomile tea (remember no sugar).
  • Really old fashioned here, but a nice glass of warm milk.
  • This is a little weird but… the a study from the University of Glasgow said to lay in bed with your eyes open trying to keep yourself awake will actually make you fall asleep faster (playing reverse psychology with your own mind… who knew?).

Put some socks on those piggies!  When your feet are cold that means the blood is not flowing to your extremities and all the heat stays in your core, so warm up those little toes and get the blood flowing.  This releases heat from your body and helps you relax

[1] Patrick, G. T. & Gilbert, J. A. On the effects of loss of sleep. Psychol. Rev., 1896, 3: 469–483.

[2] http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory

[3] http://www.health.com/sleep/5-energy-boosting-snacks

Authored by Kimberly Carabotta & edited by Sarah Malkin

Holiday Cards For Jacob

 

card sign

Jacob Thompson is a 9 year old boy from Maine.  Three years ago, Jacob was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that has now moved to his head and hip.   As of late October, Jacob’s doctors gave him a month to live.

In response to a GoFundMe page for Jacob’s funeral expenses, people began sending Jacob and his family holiday cards.  Jacob was delighted by the cards, especially those containing penguins – his favorite animal. On a CNN News story, Jacob said that he wants people to celebrate the holidays with him by sending him cards.  Because of Jacob’s request, a  national grassroots holiday card campaign has begun.  On November 2, even TV personality Jake Tapper got into the effort by tweeting the address where people could send cards.

tapper

Georgia State College of Law student Honey Shaw approached the library to ask if she could set up a card making station. The library obviously agreed, and cards are flying out the door! The card station will be up until the end of this week. Many thanks to Honey Shaw and the SBA for their support of this wonderful idea.

cards

Get rid of the distractions and make the most of your study time

Sign that says Social Distraction

by Daniel Lobo

As we get closer to exams you may be wondering how to make the most of your study time. One of the biggest distractions can be the constant barrage of new text messages, emails, and social media posts. Studies have shown that every time you check email or look at social media you lose 23 minutes. However, there are some things you can do to create a distraction free study space.

  1. Turn off the notifications on your phone, tablet, laptop, etc. You can control when you take a break from studying instead of being at the mercy of notifications.
  2. Install an anti-distraction app. See some suggestions below.
  3. If your phone is the problem, set it on airplane mode while you are studying

Anti-distraction apps:

Freedom – Mac, iOS, Windows – You can use Freedom on your devices, computer, iPhone, and iPad. An Android subscription to (OFFTIME) Pro (see below) is included with purchase. Freedom allows you to block specific websites and apps or the entire internet. You can schedule specific times for the blocking to start and even put your device in locked mode. However, Freedom is not free. (See what I did there?) You can get unlimited access on a month by month basis for $6.99/month. If you commit to a year, it is $29/year.

(OFFTIME) – Android and iOS ((OFFTIME) Light) phones – (OFFTIME) allows you to block apps, calls, text, and notifications. The Android version allows you to select people who can still get through. The app has some other interesting features such as analytics of your phone usage and the ability to invite others to a shared (OFFTIME). The less robust (OFFTIME) Light is $2.99 for iOS devices. The Android pricing is somewhat unclear. It appears that you can download the app for free and upgrade to (OFFTIME) Pro for a suggested payment of 3 Euro.

SelfControl – OS X – SelfControl allows you to block email and websites for a period of time that you choose. Caution: Once it is started you can not turn it off until the timer runs out. It is Free Software under the GNU General Public License (GPL). If you know how to code, you can make changes to the sourcecode posted on Github.

Focus Lock – Android – Lock out selected apps for a set period of time. The default setting is for 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break. Free.

Focus – Mac – Block websites and apps for a set period of time. Focus also allows you to schedule blocked times. A license for one Mac is $19.99.

Looking for other options? Try search anti-distraction apps to find what works best for you.

Now, stop being distracted and get back to studying. Good luck on exams!