Semester Review

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

One of my favorite things that I learned during my teaching days of long ago is the value of doing a semester review. At the end of every semester, I would schedule an hour to sit at my favorite coffee shop, order my favorite drink, put on my favorite non-study music (thank you, Harry Styles), and write out an inventory of the positives and negatives of the semester with goals for moving forward.

The Negativity Bias

I love this exercise for so many reasons, the least of which are caffeine and British pop music. First, it helps combat negativity bias, which is the idea that our brains remember negative experiences more acutely than positive ones. In law school, when exams loom so large and are the very last memory of the semester, I think this is especially true. Even in the toughest of tough semesters, though, there are always positive things: involvement in an organization, volunteer work, a good friend or two, a system that worked for you.

Here are the questions that I ask:

Positives:

  1. Who are you thankful for this semester?
  2. What are you proud of? Consider 3-4 challenges and how you worked through them.
  3. How did you grow? Be specific.
  4. What systems worked?

Growth:

  1. What was the most difficult obstacle you faced? How did you respond to it? How could you improve your ability to respond to it in the future?
  2. What balls did you drop? How can you prevent similar mistakes in the future?
  3. What systems didn’t work?

After writing out responses to each of the seven questions above, I make a list of goals for the following semester starting with reaching out to the people I am thankful for and letting them know why. Often I’ll just send a text or an email, but I love to send snail mail if I can, because who doesn’t love getting real mail.

The key to the list of goals is making sure they are manageable. It is easy for me to get carried away and want to redo my whole system, and improve in every area that I am deficient, but that defeats the purpose. Small, measurable goals are key.

Do you have any end-of-semester rituals? I’d love to hear about them! Shoot me a message on Twitter or Instagram at @the1lLife!