Every student who enters the Ateneo Law School dreams of one thing: graduating with that J.D. attached to their name. Imagine all those four years of bloody recitations, all those sleepless nights you spend trying to squeeze information to your overworked brain, and all those mornings where you wake up and wonder why you let yourself go through another day of stress (and then realize that you do because it will be worth it). All those four years just to get that juris doctor degree. While most just wish to survive, it’s otherworldly to hear of those who thrive — Zarah Rovero, Ateneo Law School Batch 2017’s Valedictorian, is an embodiment of one who defies the odds.
Zarah graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accountancy. She is a Certified Public Accountant who seeks to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. Growing up in the province, coupled with the attention brought about by the media, Zarah would always hear about the prestige that comes with becoming an Atenean lawyer which bolstered her, for the years to come, to strive to achieve that dream.
While most who hear of her credentials nonchalantly believe that law school valedictorians are always made of similar academic markings, Zarah reminds them otherwise. One would be shocked to believe that this girl who graduated with honors in college and at the top of her batch in law school initially did not pass the Ateneo Law entrance exam. Considering becoming an Atenean lawyer has always been her dream, this did not stop her from reaching for it. She spent her whole stay in the law school proving that first — an entrance exam result does not dictate your academic performance in your residency, and that second – surviving, and even thriving, in law school is a product of a vast number of factors which you personally have to find as fit for yourself.
How did Zarah do it? When asked about her daily grind, she said that she didn’t have a specific fixed schedule nor did she have a uniformed study habit. Zarah shaped her daily grind in accordance with her subjects’ schedule and specific demands.
Zarah says that the formula to dealing with law school is to find a study-life balance. While most of the day is spent studying, preparing for class, and actually being in class, she reminds everyone to find an outlet to release all the school stress and tension. Zarah regularly exercises by going to the gym and doing yoga. Every single day, she squeezes in a break for relaxing. On weekends and on those extremely rare nights where she can spare some time, she spends them having dinner with friends.
Her techniques for studying include – as everyone should be doing – reading originals for cases and making her personal digests for them. Before classes start, Zarah would recite the cases to herself. When she reads the books and commentaries, she would also type her own notes as reference. Those daily, self-made reviewers made studying for midterm and final exams less exhausting for her. She also reiterates the importance of digging through the essence of the law itself. Familiarizing yourself with the law and understanding it by heart is the very first thing you should do. It builds the foundation for tackling everything else.
Zarah has an advice for students in each year level. Freshmen should make sure to develop discipline as early as now. Develop habit, consistency, and discipline. It will be difficult if one starts on the wrong track. Sophomore year is all about time management. This is the year with the most subjects. It’s very overwhelming but managing one’s time with precision and care will help ease the burden. For juniors, choose electives wisely and take thesis seriously. Appreciate the process. Everything will be helpful in general and in the long run. It’s easy to feel less inspired and demotivated, but keep going. “Never be too complacent nor over confident; you are not invincible.” Lastly, for seniors, take review classes seriously. Be magis in dealing with review classes and she says that this cannot be overemphasized enough.
“Law school is difficult. There’s no denying that. It’s really, really difficult.” Zarah says that you will stumble along the way, failures are inevitable, and the road is constantly rocky. In other words, it never gets easier. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Law school is really like that. Move on and keep moving forward.”
Law school is all about finding the right balance and finding enough motivation to keep you going: from doing what comforts you to being with people who inspire you. Always remember the reason why you decided to pursue this in the first place and keep in mind that you are never alone. If you find that study-life balance, you can survive and even thrive just like Zarah.P