Academic Success Tip - Beware of Bad Advice

This week’s tips focus on bad advice that is often given out by well-intentioned students.  Critique these pieces of advice carefully and consider the alternatives.

Bad advice:  When you have someone else’s outline for the course, you don’t have to make your own outline.

Why this advice is bad advice:

  • Having the outline of someone else who did well in a course does not mean that you will do well in the course.  You will only do well if you know the material in-depth and understand it and can apply it.  Having an outline from an anonymous source is even less positive because you do not even know if the student who created it did well in the course.
  • An outline matches someone else’s learning styles and may not match how you learn material.  It also does not tell you how to apply the material to new fact scenarios – the very essence of law school exams.
  • Outlines of other students are shortcuts that avoid your having to process the information yourself.  Processing the information through your own outlines increases understanding and retention of material.
  • Outlines from prior years may not include changes in the law, changes in the professor’s approach to a subject, and changes in textbooks.  Unless you are carefully taking notes and outlining, you may miss important changes since the last time the professor taught the course.
  • When each member of a study group outlines one course and then gives her/his outline to the other study group members, the same type of problems can result.  Each study group member will know the course s/he outlined very well.  Each study group member will only have a partial understanding of the other two or three courses.

Alternatives:

  • If you have not already done so, begin NOW to process material and make your own outlines.  Use any outlines you have depended upon up to now only as comparisons.
  • Consider whether you can condense material before you put it in your own outlines so that you will not have to condense your outlines later.
  • Be efficient and effective in making your own outlines: do not include everything – include the important things that give you the bigger picture and inter-relationships.
  • Consider whether flowcharts and other visuals will be helpful for you as a way to condense the material and understand the “big picture” of the course.