By Professor Herbert N. Ramy
Director, Academic Support Program, Suffolk University Law School

In law school, most everyone’s examination experience is the same on one important level.  The grades on the transcript rarely match up with the expectations students had when they entered law school.  If your grades did not match up with your expectations, you still have time to improve your performance so that it matches up with your abilities.  If you are not careful, however, it is very easy to fall back into the same practices and patterns that produced the results you are trying to change.

During the coming weeks, I will be writing about a few things that you should do (or not do) in order refocus for the spring semester.  Today, I will be focusing on some of the more psychological aspects of improving your academic performance.

You Are Not Your Grades – While this may seem obvious, students can become quite depressed after even a single sub-par grade.  For these students, it creates thoughts like:

  • “I’m not smart enough for law school!”
  • “No one will ever hire me!”
  • “I just don’t belong here!”

In addition to being untrue, negative thoughts like these can create a spiral downward where studying and attending class can seem like a meaningless exercise.  As a result, these thoughts become a form of self-fulfilling prophecy where a student performs even more poorly in the spring semester than in the fall.  You are far more than a single set of grades, and do not let any setback establish your self-worth.

Instead of focusing on grades, focus on doing your personal best.  I know, “do your best” sound like the fairytale version of law school.  In reality, setting a goal of doing your best is the highest bar one can set.  Think of it this way – how often during your life have you actually worked hard enough so that you can do the best work you are capable of doing?  I bet that the answer is “not that often.”  So, do your best, and you can walk into each exam knowing that you had nothing left to give and you won’t be haunted by what might have been.