Aside from student loans, the most intimidating part of law school is the dreaded grading curve. Many students begin law school and a significant amount of students fail to survive due to the grading curve. Only one exam per class decides your grade, your grades combined together decide your GPA, and your GPA decides whether you stay or go. The catch is that your grade is determined by how you stack up against everyone else in the class. The grading curve for each law school is determined by the administration. The administration determines how many students can get each grade (A, B, C, D, F, etc.). Therefore, the administration determines how many have to fail the class.
The curve has an impact on every aspect of law school. The friends you hang out with during the semester become the competition. The nights before exams begin are things psychology students base case studies on. If you have little to no experience with all night study sessions, be prepared for a learning experience like no other. No matter how much you study, there will always be the doubt in your mind that others will do better than you. There are three basic student mind frames in law school.
The Shark is the person feeling confident in their studies and knowledge while trying to show off their experience and knowledge. These students are the ones who openly intimidate other students during the exam study times.
The Zen is the student who is optimistic in the sense that they know that they are knowledgeable enough to at least get a C in the class. These students study as hard as they can while understanding that it is an unhealthy to dwell on the performance of others…something they cannot control.
The Puker is the student who knows they did not study enough and panic before, during, and after the exam. This student may have a weakness regarding the handling of stress..a bad weakness to have law school.
These mind frames are ever changing. Some students who may have been a puker during Civil Procedure may have be a Zen during criminal procedure. The Shark in Constitutional Law may have be a puker during Evidence along with the majority of the class.
The curve is the true beast in law school. When law schools only admit the “cream of the crop” regarding legal aptitude, the students are used to get a lot of A’s. This level of comfort creates a large hill to fall from when the student is unable to get past the top of the hill with grades greater than C’s.
At the end of the day, all that is left is your own mental demons. Prepare to the best of your ability, be confident in what you know, and wait for the grades to appear. No worries and no dwelling on the past. Hold your head high, smile, and move on to the next semester…constantly being lured by the law.