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What to do if you didn’t get the midterm grades you wanted

By Eleanor Clerc

Note: Although this post is primarily written for 1Ls, all students can benefit from this guidance.

By now, most of you will have taken your first law school midterms and have hopefully received your grades back. Many of you may not have gotten the grades you were hoping for. Here are some tips on how you can improve.

1. Don’t Panic!

It is really easy for students to panic about their midterm grades. You have been repeatedly told that your 1L grades are very important and you may be used to getting stellar grades in undergrad. Remember: law school is different. You are in a room with other driven and intelligent students, many of whom also may be unhappy with their midterm grades. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you got into law school for a reason. Every 2L/3L will tell you that a bad midterm grade is not the end of the world—it is a place to stop and reflect on what has worked so far and what needs to be improved. You are new to this, and unless you are a savant, you probably won’t be excelling in all your classes your first few months (I definitely didn’t).

2. Review Your Midterm

This step may be a little painful, but it’s really important to go over your midterm if you have access to it to see where your weaknesses are. Maybe there is a rule you didn’t quite understand or a weak spot in your outline you can strengthen. Maybe you need to read the question more carefully or work on performing legal analysis under time pressure—something law school doesn’t typically teach. Maybe you need to get a feel for what your professor is looking for in their answers. Reviewing your midterm is important to identify what you did wrong so you can course correct now, when there is still plenty of time to prepare for finals.

Once you’ve reviewed your midterm, follow up with your professor. Some students may experience a bit of anxiety meeting with their professors, but just remember: most professors want their students to do well and will actively help you if you tell them you are struggling. Professors aren’t mind readers, though, so push through what may make you feel anxious or embarrassed (which it shouldn’t) and talk to them. You will thank yourself in the long run.

3. Be Kind to Yourself and Make a Plan to do Better

It is easy for 1Ls to immediately fall back on negative thought patterns after receiving lower grades than they had hoped, especially if they are used to very high grades. Be kind to yourself. You earned your spot in your law school. You are still smart, still able, and still worthy of that spot. If you’re working hard and not seeing the success you want, it probably means that you haven’t found the right system for studying and taking exams yet. In essence, you’re just “untrained” at the moment. With the right training, you can dramatically improve your performance, like our students have. If you’re unsure where to start, check out our other blog posts or review the training we offer!

Bottom line—this is a great time to course correct! Reach out to your teachers, peers, or us for help. A “bad” midterm grade is not the end of the world, but it is a signal. If you course correct now, you can greatly improve your chances at a successful final!

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