A law school friend of mine who is now a professor at one of our wonderful state universities recently noted the following about his most recent crop of students: 66% of the students received a final grade that was the same letter as the grade they received on their first assignment. Moreover, only 9% of the students received a final grade that was higher than the grade they received on their first assignment. Do the math and you’ll see that a sizeable portion of students received a final grade that was worse than the grade they received on their first assignment.

The message is clear: the way you decide to start a course will often correspond to how you finish it. Unlike some academic pursuits where cramming for a few days before finals might be sufficient, law school success requires methodical preparation and diligence throughout the semester. Because law school emphasizes critical thinking and analysis rather than rote memorization or basic summarization, you have to be focused and working hard starting from day one. The knowledge you need to acquire and the skills you need to master in order to be successful on final exams aren’t things you can pick up during a few days of hurried studying, but instead require consistent review and practice. This is one of the features that makes law school particularly challenging, but it’s also what makes it particularly rewarding when you succeed.

The Spring semester is still in its infancy, so now is the perfect time to evaluate whether you’re starting strong this semester. Starting strong means you have a positive attitude about school, have a good study plan in place, and are staying on top of all of your assignments. So ask yourself, have you settled in to a good study routine or are you already starting to procrastinate? Are you feeling motivated and engaged or are you feeling jaded and bored? Have you set specific goals to strive for this semester or are you just going through the motions? If you haven’t started the semester off on the right foot, try to make some changes now. The earlier you get your priorities in order and start executing a good study plan the bigger an impact it will have on your final performance.

The way you start any task usually sets the tone for how the rest of the project proceeds. Be sure you start this semester by being engaged, focused, and diligent in your preparation. Start this semester strong so you can finish strong!