Say it with me, “bad grades do not equate to a bad student.” More future looking, bad grades don’t equate to a bad lawyer either. However, grades do matter to most employers, and I’m sure they matter to you. So if your grades aren’t falling into the category that you want them to, you can still bounce back. No GPA is set in stone.
Sharing is Not Caring
One way to bounce back from a bad grade, or grades, is eliminating the opportunity to feel inferior to those around you. I’m talking about not sharing your grades, and honestly walk away if someone starts sharing their own (in a non-rude way!). There is nothing that can dishearten you quicker than finding out someone who seemingly studied less, or studied more, performed better. Although those are correlated, it’s not always the cause and effect outcome that we think it should be, especially if you are in classes that have the dreaded curve. I will say again, please do not share your grades with anyone! One way you can bounce back from a bad grade is by getting your confidence up. As we all know, law school can be a wet blanket on confidence, even if you came in with the best self-love to date.
Ask the Tough Question
Although I did say don’t share your grades, you can share your concerns with the professor. One of the best ways to bounce back from a bad grade is to understand what went wrong so that you can sit in the comfort that it won’t happen again. The only way to truly understand what went wrong is to go back to ground zero and look at the exam you did poorly on. Is that what you want to do? Absolutely not. Is that what you should do? Yes. In my experience, professors encourage such analysis and in some cases will even help you go over the exam so you can understand their process as well.
A small note: sometimes, you can do everything correctly and still the curve doesn’t fall in your favor. This is part of the travesty that is a curved law school class. It has absolutely no reflection on your ability to learn contracts and everything to do with whether the student next to you had a more appealing writing style to the professor and they received more points or it. The fact is, if there isn’t a reason to pinpoint as to why you received the grade you did, then it is best just to leave it in the past.
Self-Reflection is Key
Did you do everything you could in preparation? Did you start early enough on outlining and synthesizing the information? Did you study in a group? Did you study alone? Did you study at home? At school?
All of these are questions will spark a self-reflection session and can truly help you get to the bottom of your performance. At the end of the day, we can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. And we don’t know if something is broken until we examine it. So, sit back and examine your semester in a specific class, or classes. Are any of the answers to the above question alarming? Do they spark a different thought which may lead you to figuring out what went wrong? For example, I studied with a study group for a final in a class I bombed. I can guarantee you that is the last time I studied with a group. And look at me now, I’m typing from my desk at my law job.
Perfect Your Approach
Now that you have met with professors and done your own reflecting, you can begin to think about how you will prepare for exams in the future. Although it may seem tedious and daunting, reading the cases assigned will help you immensely. In fact, most times law professors will pull from a few cases assigned as inspiration for facts and law analysis for their exam. So, the more fact cases you read and the more you see an analysis of those facts, the more prepared you will be to do the same on an exam.
When they say work smarter, you should work smarter. Get example outlines from upperclassmen that have taken that specific professor and while you’re at it bend their ear on what they like to see on the exam. Do they want you to cite cases? Do they keep mentioning a favorite position or case that you should write on your exam? Do they like you to argue both sides or simply follow the call of the question? All of these small things can pay off dividends if other students didn’t do the work to find this information, and you did.
Finally, just like you should do practice problems throughout the semester, you should also think about starting a running outline during the semester. This helps the time-consuming task later so that you can focus on retention and not getting all the information in one place.
All in all, stop doing what isn’t working, and make room for improvement!
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