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Fear and Anxiety in Gotham City

Dear Wormwood,

Yesterday afternoon I had what I can only describe as a panic attack.

In hindsight, I think it was foolish to plan an afternoon's studying immediately following a look at my finances to see if I'd make it to December. The sudden adrenaline worry of watching MS Money's alerts go off one by one, and simultaneously being surrounded by some heavily-studying law students and two study groups, just flipped a switch, and suddenly my enjoyment of a four-day weekend was gone. Everyone seems to have serious human rights interests, extracurriculars, and still have time to have fifteen pages of outline finished.

It's not like I hadn't had a productive day. I'd gotten most of my tax situation in England sorted, billed a client on a small translation project, and even taken a look at some extra torts reading. But you look across the tables and see people with two commercial torts outlines, or a study group that's meeting for the second time in a week, or just someone who is there whenever you're at the library, and you begin to wonder, "Am I doing enough?"

Columbia does not give one much in the way of benchmarks to go by. Prof. Torts is in her first year teaching here, so I have no past papers for reference, while Prof Civ Pro has only put one up on the network share. I suppose this is fair--we're all grown ups, and don't need handholding, but it means that the question "Am I doing enough?" is inevitably answered by "How many more hours do you have left?"

It's actually this insecurity, rather than any kind of competitiveness, that causes me stress. Serious Law Student has been desiring her own study group; I'm wondering if mine meets often enough. The implied answer, of course, is, "no." I promised myself I'd be blithely unconcerned with class rank when I got here, and so far I'm keeping to that promise. But even with a goal to do 'tolerably well,' you can't really get away: the level of work required for 'tolerable' is no clearer than for 'top of the class,' and the only thing you have to go by is what you know of your fellow students, which is (if you're honest about it) precious little.

Ah well. My former teammates back at my web company knew full well that 50% of all coding gets done in the last week of the project, and I'm not sure that if I were pushing myself to exhaustion right now, I'd have the stock of energy I'd need to get myself through the heavy examination months. Perhaps my near-ancient age comes to advantage here: I've learned enough to know that it's better to wait until you know what you're doing before you waste a ton of effort on something you'll just have to do again. Then again, maybe that's just what I'm telling myself.

I went home and finished my accounts, cleared everything else (except, unfortunately, laundry) off my task list, had a pleasant evening with one of my flatmates from the Malebolge. Today I am ready to hit Torts with a passion, having repeated before bed my mantra that, "It's only law school." All the worry yesterday wasn't very productive, so Wormwood, when you start law school, remember that keeping your head about you is worth a dozen outlines and a hundred hours study. Or, as I might say in big, red, friendly letters:

Don't Panic


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Ok .. some comments. Assuming you actually want some solace, UCLA's academic support study (now a bit old) made an effort to track the impact of study groups on failure. What they found was that everyone who needed academic support was *not* in a study group, everyone who had been in a study group was not in need of academic support. The entire paper is pretty long, but it is worth reading if you need some comfort (and study groups were not the focus of the paper).

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