Alas Grades Have Been Distributed

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

              Remember that we’re graded on a curve, so logistically speaking someone has to get the lower grades…

You thought waiting two weeks for college grades to be released was bad … try waiting over a month for law school grades!

Aside from the sheer annoyance of waiting a month to find out how you did, it’s also beyond nerve-racking. Spring semester begins the journey into the ‘job hunt’ and yet you’re left applying to jobs without a transcript to supplement your cover letter statements, or any real idea of how far-fetched your summer career goals may, or may not be. With that said, my grades are FINALLY here!

There was a lot of talk the days (ahem weeks) before grade distribution. Teachers, upper-level classmen and guest speakers all gave their two-cents on how to handle the looming grades, and your potential dissatisfaction with your placement. From those individuals, I got some great advice that I will now share with you all!

  1. If you know you’ll be emotional if you get below a certain grade then do not open your grades while at school, even if you strongly believe you did well on the exam. You likely don’t want to risk being emotional in a professional/public setting or risk it impacting your performance in class. That being said, if you have a good poker face, or simply are confident that you will be fine with whatever grade you’re given, then save yourself some stress and open your grades as soon as they become available – which is what I did.
  2. If you’re disappointed in yourself after getting your grades call your mom, best friend, or someone along those lines to put the grade into perspective. Not only is their love for you separate from your performance in law school, they also have a keen understanding of the struggles you faced both academically, personally, and emotionally throughout the first semester, so they can remind you of how far you’ve really come!
  3. Remember that we’re graded on a curve, so logistically speaking someone has to get the lower grades – it is not a reflection of your intelligence or your self-worth. In fact, when you look at the breakdown of the curve, the difference between the grade assignments can be a fraction of a point (a professor even confirmed this theory).
  4. Finally, remember to be humble no matter what your grade is. If you were lucky and got all A+’s that’s wonderful and give yourself a round of applause but do not rub it in your colleagues faces. Similarly, if you did worse then you expected don’t take it out on those around you, instead meet with your professors, review your exam and figure out how you can do better this time around.

In summary, while grades are a huge part of law school, they do not define who you are as a person. While it sucks to wait to get your grades back, and while it may seem like the world is coming to an end if you didn’t get the grade you wanted, in reality you have five more semesters of law school to perfect your exam skills. Furthermore, at the end of the day grades only take you so far, the other skills you learn through writing, pro bono hours, and interviewing can secure you a job regardless of where you placed in your law school’s ranking.