Balancing an internship, course work and graduate school exam prep isn't easy, but it is do-able. Use these tips to manage your time.
Many interns here at The Washington Center, myself included, are dedicating time to exam prep (just as we would on campus) to apply for grad school after our internships.
I’m currently preparing for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). It is but one exam required for various graduate schools. From professional licensing exams to the Graduate Readiness Exam (GRE), there is a wide list of standardized tests to add further stress to your time here. Here are some general tips for managing your test prep while interning throughout the week.
Be realistic about your time
You need to have a realistic expectation of your own time management before you even open a book or take a practice test. The “standard” study schedule thrown around test preparation programs for the LSAT is 20-25 hours a week for three months. A quick Google search tells me that students preparing for the GRE should expect to study somewhere between two and 10 hours each week.
You might not be able to hit those numbers every week. And that’s okay. Part of your D.C. experience is exploring the city. If your two hour scheduled study session has to become a half hour because of a networking event or trip to the monuments, that's perfectly fine. Giving those up just to study is squandering one of the bigger benefits of living in D.C. Make up the time later, by studying more one day or the next week instead.
Find your “best hour”
A common mistake that I’ve heard from fellow pre-law students, including those at TWC, is when prospective test takers simply study only to meet their hourly quotas. It's not productive to study for the sake of studying. You can pull all nighters every night while you are in D.C., but you’re wasting your time if you don’t absorb the content you are studying.
Someone once told me that the best way to prepare is to find my “best hour” every day and study during that hour. Your best hour is the hour (or two) of the day when you are most productive. Unfortunately, the only way to really figure this out is to experiment. Try a few different schedules and see what works best for you.
Part of your D.C. experience is exploring the city. If your two hour scheduled study session has to become a half hour because of a networking event or trip to the monuments, that's perfectly fine. Make up the time later, by studying more one day or the next week instead.Matthew Murphy
How do I do it?
Rather than just list more general tips, I want to provide a snapshot as to what my D.C. experience looks like while studying for the LSAT.
On work days, I generally wake up between five and six in the morning. I eat breakfast, make a cup of coffee, and start studying. This isn’t my “best hour” per se, but I’m usually awake enough to be productive. Around 7:30, I’ll get ready for work, then begin my commute. Along the way, I’ll glance over the notes I took or the questions I practiced to help reinforce what I’ve studied.
Around 1:30, I take my lunch break. I have an hour. I allocate half of it for eating and half of it for studying. This gives me the perfect amount of time for a practice section, or to take a few extra notes on my current lesson.
When I get home, I don’t go back to the books right away. Instead, I take time to make (or order) dinner, and unwind a bit after work. Breaks are important from time-to-time! From 7:00 to 8:30, I study. This is my best hour and it’s when I get the most done. This does conflict with my evening course one day of the week, but I’m able to make that time up by studying a little extra on the weekends.
For non-work days, I have a more fluid schedule. I still try and plan things so that I can hit the books for at least some time between seven and nine at night to hit my “best hour”. On Fridays, I also like to wake up early and study briefly before going to LEAD. However, I always have a hard limit of no more than four hours per day. Even if I space my study sessions, any more than that is unproductive for me.
An easy trap to fall into while studying is to overload your weekends and try to cram in eight or more hours of studying. If you can be productive for a full eight hours, more power to you, but remember that studying just to study isn’t going to improve your score.
The career center TWC has at ULINE has some prep materials available to you at no extra cost. I haven’t used these myself, but they are certainly worth checking out and considering if you don’t already have a study plan or prep course. ULINE also offers another place to study and prepare if you can’t focus in your apartment.
Preparing for the LSAT while interning full time, participating in LEAD, studying for an evening course and trying to make the most of your time in D.C. can seem overwhelming. At times, it certainly is. But it is doable. Find your best hour, remember to take breaks when needed and you’ll be on your way to preparing for your exam!
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