The start of a new semester is always a little bit exciting: you’re rested and refreshed from the break, learning about your new classes and professors, and anxiously awaiting the release of grades. When the big day finally comes and grades are released, some students will be overjoyed, some will be content, and some will be very disappointed. If you are one of those students who were pleasantly surprised with your grades, congratulations! Celebrate this accomplishment and keep up the hard work! But, if you were one of those students who was disappointed in their grades (or maybe even shocked, dismayed, embarrassed), it’s vital that you keep things in perspective.
You should take time to process your grades and come to terms with them, but you should also try to remember that one semester’s worth of grades does not have to dictate your ultimate success or failure in law school. These grades may dictate where you start, but they do not have to dictate where you end up. With some self-reflection and hard work, you can definitely turn things around. But with the Spring semester already in full swing, there’s no time to lose in making positive changes to your study habits. So once you’ve accepted your grades and feel ready to move forward, take these three steps to help get you on the right track.
- Analyze What Went Wrong – Before you can fix the problem, you have to identify what the problem is. Objectively evaluate your study habits, your priorities, and your exam day performance to try to figure out what was lacking. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify our own weaknesses or recognize what went wrong, so don’t hesitate to stop by the Academic Achievement office to get some one-on-one help figuring out what areas you need to work on during the upcoming semester.
- Review the Final Exam with Your Professor – If your professor offers a final exam review session and/or individual final exam reviews, take advantage of that opportunity! Reviewing the test with your professor will help you see precisely what you did well and didn’t do well. Additionally, it’s often difficult to remember exactly what you wrote during the exam. Reviewing your answer after the stress of the final exam period is over makes it easier for you to identify the deficiencies in the answer, which will hopefully prevent you from making those same mistakes again. Lastly, a review session will help you understand what that specific professor likes to see on final exams, which is especially useful if you have that professor in the current semester.
- Start Practicing and Getting Feedback Early in the Semester – Whether you aced your finals or really struggled, there is room for improvement in every law student’s (and even every lawyers) writing and analytical skills. To get better at any skill, you have to practice, and legal writing and analysis is no different. So commit to working through practice problems and hypos on a consistent basis throughout the semester, and seek feedback on your answers from professors or the Academic Achievement staff. This additional practice will not only help you refine your skills; it will also boost your confidence going into the next round of exams.
Receiving disappointing grades can be discouraging, especially if you are used to receiving high marks. I know it’s easier said than done, but instead of feeling defeated by your grades, try to use your feelings as motivation to work harder and more effectively this semester. Start believing that you can bounce back from this disappointment, and then get to work!