Work, school... school, work... not to mention other obligations that only increase in intensity throughout the term. For part-time law students, it often seems like the weekdays never end, the weekends end too soon, and there's just never enough time. Despite that, I wouldn't have it any other way.
The US News and World Report ranked 87 nationwide part-time law school programs last year, and placed GWU close to the top at number two. Washington, DC offers a great opportunity to study law part-time, with five of the top six programs located right here. This year, first-year part-time students will have an even stronger community than usual with the University hoping to lessen the number of transfers to the full-time program by creating Section 15. With a smaller part-time population, you can start building your network early and really get to know your classmates.
Even with a strong network, it can be difficult to handle the pressure as you complete this journey. For the first-year part-timers beginning to understand time management and upper-level part-timers still perfecting it, here are some tips that worked well for me so far:
l Bucket your time: It helps to block off time on your calendar for your weekly activities. This is something I learned from working at an office and wanting to skip out to the gym for an hour: the best way to make sure no one schedules a meeting during gym time is to make an appointment with yourself. This transfers well to managing law school activities - make appointments to keep yourself honest. By writing down your weekly plans on a calendar that you and your coworkers have access to, you are more likely to stick with it, especially with the incredibly demanding reading you have to keep up with.
- Don't forget your roots: After spending five years on my career, adjusting to life as a student again was weird. In the world I had become comfortable in, I was regularly delivering presentations to rooms full of executives, and facilitating conversations among groups of people with different backgrounds and priorities. I could slip into an office of 5, or 500, employees and do this with ease. Despite this "experience," the first time I was called on Socratic style, I froze. I think the anxiety of facing something new never goes away - one year into school, I still can't say I'm comfortable being "on call" in class. But, it gets better and it's good to remember that if you've made it in the "real world" and as a student before that, then surely you can get through both at once!
l Get out: Schedule a day, or a few hours, of time just for you. It could be going for a run (as we learned from Legally Blonde, endorphins are a good thing), reading a book for fun, or even taking a nap. Just like with your studying time, set time blocks for fun time, too.
l Let yourself break down: If you really can't take the stress, talk to someone. Find a non-student to remind you about the light at the end of the tunnel, and encourage you to push through the tough times. It can be exhausting, and once in a while you just need a reminder from someone else why you are here.
l Take PTO: To prepare for finals, take a few days off work. Once you're comfortably in "student" mode again, it's much easier to focus on your exams. Take a few days to celebrate, too - if only to avoid being tagged as the team member who takes incredibly boring vacations.
l Join in: There's a lot to do on campus, and many of us part-time students disregard them for lack of time, or because some of us are lucky to already be gainfully employed. Outside of the obvious networking opportunities for joining student organizations, there's simply nothing like the energy of a college campus. From cool speakers to on-campus events, there's so much going on that it would be a waste of our tuition dollars to ignore the world of GWU. Even if joining in, for you, is arriving an hour before class to study (and, let's be honest, people watch) in the hard lounge, it's a way to stay inspired by the other bright minds around us.
With work and school, part-time students have to manage stress and frustration and often feel overworked. On the flip side, we get an opportunity to meet people with incredibly diverse backgrounds and experiences. We also learn how to effectively manage ourselves and our time, skills that serve any professional well. Hopefully, all the stress "pays off" so that we can pay down some of our overwhelming debt as we go through school. As so many have said before, anything we can do to stand out in this interesting economic time can only help in the long run. Keep on truckin', part-time students, and we'll have a lot to be proud of when we make it through.