You study hard and spend months preparing for exams. Then, you go through the stress of actually taking the exams. After you finally taste freedom, you begin stressing yourself more about the points you did not make and topics you glossed over. Then, you wait (and wait) for your grades to be returned so you can finally stop obsessing over your exam. This is what I like to call the “waiting game.” Since law school exams are graded differently than other exams, grades take forever to come back to students. Thus, law students go through the five stages of “grief” after a law school exam:
When you first begin law school, people are eager to tell you how hard exams are and how terrible the wait is for getting back your grades. Enter the denial stage. You think to yourself there is no way that exams will take that long to get back. You assure yourself that the professor will diligently grade your exams, and you will get it back in no time. Believe me, I was this naive too as a young 1L. DO NOT BE FOOLED. The grading process of exams takes a long time. Normally, law school exams are taken under an exam number so they are graded anonymously. The professor has to go through 50+ exams which are normally essays (Mine, for contracts, was at least two exam books!) Since each answer is unique, the professor has to go through and devise points for accurate answers. This takes more time than students typically think.
Okay… It’s been 3 weeks now. Where is my grade?? The worst stage (in my opinion) is the anger stage. You have already been waiting awhile, and your friends in undergraduate have received their grades. You are frustrated because you want to make sure you are on the right path. You may even question if law school is right for you. Do not let this stage get the better of you! Regardless of what specific grade you receive, there will always be room for improvement. However, a grade is merely a measure of how you did on a specific day in a specific scenario. If you get mad and stress about receiving your grade, you are only going to increase your anxiety. Focus on your goals and being successful.
You begin thinking to yourself, “Maybe if I go to the gym today, I will get my Constitutional Law grade.” You start to ask the law school gods (the Records Office) to look favorably upon you. Overall this is the stage where you are questioning everything while still trying to focus on everyday life. This stage is really frustrating. You want your grades back so that exams stop controlling every portion of your life. Ultimately, you need to just focus on you and not on when you will get your grades. There is next to nothing you can do to get your grades back sooner. Unfortunately, it is just a waiting game.
As the new semester begins, so does the next stage. You get upset, you just want to know whether or not your study tactics are working. You’re stressed, you’re frustrated, you’re sad. You lose hope that you will ever get your grades back.
You realize that it does not matter if you get your grade back or not. Now you don’t even care what your grade is. You just accept that whatever the grade may be, it will be just that. You are a smart cookie, you’ll be able to work harder next semester (if the grade is lower than expected) or continue your excellent study habits (if the grade is above average). Ultimately, this stage is the blissful state that you should feel right before you get your grade back.
And Then, You Get Your Grades!
After all of the waiting and anxiety, you finally get your grades. Whether you are upset or thrilled, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses in law school. Maybe the curve got the better of you. Maybe the day of the exam, you had a life crisis. Do not get discouraged. Sometimes it is hard to hear your friends doing better than you in a class you thought you really understood. Unfortunately, law school is competitive. However, that does not mean you cannot be happy for your friends while also wanting to do better. Being successful in law school is a challenge, and everyone has to find study techniques that work for them.
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