Friday, February 10, 2017

Receiving Final Grades in Law School


So my last post was a little bit heavier, and I want to thank you all for the outpouring of support I received. The law school blogging community is amazing and it reminds me why I enjoy writing so much. However, to lighten the mood a little bit, I thought I would talk about something a little bit more positive - first semester grades. Now, some of you may be thinking "Well I don't know if grades are a positive thing..." and that is a very valid point. Receiving your law school grades back will likely incite one of three reactions: (1) YAY!, (2) Oh no..., or (3) *shrugs* eh. For many people, it might be a mix of a few. Whichever way you have felt about your grades, hopefully we can digest the meaning of them together.

First, the process of getting grades back is agonizing. In most of your law school classes, your entire grade will be contingent on a final exam, give or take a little bit of consideration for participation throughout the semester. So pretty much as soon as you walk out of the final, you'll check online for your grades to be posted approximately once per hour, every single day. Every 2L and 3L told me not to expect my grades back until right before I returned to school for the second semester, but that didn't stop me from checking. The waiting didn't really get too difficult until that last week, but the weight was agonizing nonetheless. Luckily, the law school was closed the week of Christmas, meaning that no final grades would be posted. This was nice because I had a week where I knew I should just relax because it's not like my grades would post anyway. However, the Monday that the school opened again I was back to checking every hour.

My torts grade was the first to post, shortly followed by civil procedure and legal research. Those all came on the first Monday. My writing grade came at the end of the week, the night before the start of the second semester. And my criminal law grade didn't post until two days after the second semester started. For those of you who aren't in law school yet, I am sure you are surprised at how late grades come back. I was too - several of us made the joke that they should really tell us our grades before, so we know whether it's worth it to come back to school. Luckily, that wasn't an issue.

Now, I don't want to publish my exact grade breakdown here, for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I think, to an extent, grades are private. I am not ashamed of my grades, and if people ask me I am usually willing to share. However, I don't know that posting every score I got on the internet is appropriate. Secondly, grades mean different things at different schools. Some schools curve at a B, some schools at a C. So if one of my grades is a B+ here, it could be in a totally different place in my school curve than at another school. And lastly, I don't want to put all of my grades out here because I don't want anyone to compare themselves to me - every person performs differently. For a point of reference though, because I know several of you are probably curious, I ended up in the top 10% of my class and am very satisfied with the grades I received.

So, after I get my grades back, now what?

It's a question a lot of students ask, and might be hard to answer. Some people just want to move on from the semester as quickly as possible and forget it ever happened. Others continuously dwell on every mistake. Another group might get caught up in either celebrating, or feeling sorry for themselves. It can be a mix depending on where you fall on the curve, how you personally feel about your grades, and what you want to get out of your grades.

The best piece of advice I can offer you is to make an attempt to actually learn something from your grades. If you're unhappy with your grades, consider the reasons why. Do you feel like you performed worse than you expected? Are you unsurprised by your low grade? Do you know what mistakes you made? You can use these low grades to change for next semester. Maybe a grade you are unhappy with is a sign you need to change your study schedule, or study more. If you aren't surprised by your low grade, it means that you know you can do better and you should use your grade as motivation to do better next time.

If you are happy with your grades, you also should try to learn from them. For example, it can show you that the way you study is working for you, so continue that. Don't let yourself get complacent because you've already done well. Remember how hard you worked for your grade the first time, and work that hard again. Hell, work even harder and show the world that you can do even better than before.

No matter how you performed, I reccomend you use your grades to set a goal for yourself. For me, it was hard to know what to expect in regards to grades in law school. In undergrad, I was a straight-A student - so I always wondered how that would change when a curve was introduced. Now I kind of know what to expect of myself and what type of grades I can anticipate if I work hard. Personally, I'm using this to set goals of how to improve. Maybe you want to increase your GPA, maybe you want to get one letter grade higher in a specific class, maybe you have a specific class rank you want to reach. 

For me, I want to get one more A this semester than I did last semester. It's attainable, but not easy and I will have to work for it. But my grades this semester prove that it's possible. I've also set a long-term goal. Right now, I'm in the top 10% of my class, but by graduation I would like to be in the top 10 people. I don't know how attainable that is, but as of right now it feels reachable and I am going to use that goal to motivate me.

So remember, your grades aren't everything - but you should learn from them because they are important. What is your goal for this semester?

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