You Are Not a Failure

I came to law school thinking that if I worked hard, I would get good grades. I wasn't prepared for the anxiety, the panic attacks, or the overwhelming struggle with Imposter Syndrome. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be successful. Partly because I'm a first-generation law student and because good getting grades were never hard for me. Needless to say, when my first semester grades turned out to be less than stellar, I felt like a failure.

Bad grades were something I always associated with not working hard but I knew that I gave my first semester my all. I did all the reading, tuned out all of the doubt and frustration when I didn't understand something right away, and pushed through. I thought that all of that would be enough to succeed but I soon learned that it wasn't. This realization led to me approaching the second semester differently. I sought out help from academic affairs which included going to a tutoring session every week and meeting with professors more frequently than I did the previous semester. I participated more in class and read everything I could find about writing better exams. I was certain that all of this would be enough but then something happened in the middle of the semester that threw me off my game mentally. Instead of talking about it with someone, I checked out completely. 

When I was finally in a space to engage with my classes again, it was too late. My grades were a little better than they were the first semester but it wasn't the improvement that I wanted nor the one that I worked the entire first part of the second semester for. So while my friends were getting CALI awards and being offered Teaching/Research Assistant positions, I was telling myself that I was a failure and that I wasn't going to be successful because of the way my first year of law school turned out.

It took some time but I no longer tell myself that I'm a failure.

And neither should you.

I know that dealing with bad grades is hard. You feel like there is no way to recover from it and that every door/opportunity is closed to you. I'm here to tell you that that is not the case. I recently applied for a few scholarships even though I didn't meet the GPA requirement and was awarded one based on other qualifications that I met. I'm currently working at my dream summer internship and I will be the Vice President of my law school's chapter of the Black Law Student Association this upcoming school year, just to name a few of the opportunities that I'm excited about.

I say all this to say that there is still time to set yourself apart in other ways and to come back from a bad first year. I know that there are a lot of people who will say otherwise but I have spoken with older law students who were in my position and they are doing extremely well in their classes now. Seek out those people. Learn what you can from them and know that there is still time to turn your law school experience around. 

If you're a first-generation law student, remember that you belong in law school and are there for a reason. The learning curve might be harder for you but there are ways to overcome it. Change the way you approach your classes. Work smarter, not harder, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Most importantly, be proud that you made it through the first year of law school because it is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. 

2L year is your clean slate, another chance to prove to yourself what you are made of. 


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