An Imposter’s Guide to Dealing with Bad Grades!
Author Samara Wendt
Grades- something you spend a lot of time thinking about at school and then at University but something I must say I have not had to consider for almost 20 years now! And that I think sums up just how unimportant grades will ultimately become in your law life, however we can’t overlook the fact that achieving a certain grade will be necessary to land that degree and possibly that job!
In this week’s Happy Lawyer Happy Life Blog ‘The Student Edition’ Samara Wendt shares her tips on managing some of the challenges we all have to face when our grades are not perhaps what we hoped.
(And just for the record- no-one ever looked at my GPA once I had my first job, and I must say I can’t remember the last time I asked a job applicant in my firm for theirs either…. )
The worst thing about ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is that there is no time of the year where it stops. During the academic semester, mid-semester breaks, waiting for grade release, and possibly the most crippling – grade release. During the semester the hard work you put in to try and prove to yourself that you belong is almost bearable by hoping that you might be alright in the end. But, once those grades are released and it’s not what you had hoped, the imposter thoughts are loud. Very loud. I will be the first to admit that I am no honours student. I thoroughly enjoy studying law and, frankly, I would not change it for the world. So, this is what I do and how I move forward when I don’t get the grades I had truly hoped for.
1. Chill Out!
Yes, I did just tell you to chill out. Yes, I know it’s really hard to do at a time like this but remember you have completed your assessments and there isn’t a lot you can do now. Every semester my stress release after all assessment is handed in is to cry. I just cry. It is not necessarily because I am sad, it is just built up stress being released and afterwards I feel great! If you need to do this, then do it! But, do not sweat on the issue of your grades. Do not work yourself up so much that you go through every emotion either trying to blame yourself or blame someone else for the end results. You will not win. Just chill out.
2. Reflect on the Semester
While I did say not to work yourself up blaming anything for your bad grades, it is okay to reflect and consider events in your life that may have impacted your grades. Life does not stop just because you have a 2000 word research assignment due on Thursday, AND THEN a mid-semester multiple choice quiz 8:30am the following morning. Last year, I was in a job that was not working for me. While I wanted so badly to overcome the difficulties and do well, I needed to realise I had done all I could to make the job work and needed to just move on. This was an incredibly stressful and emotional time for me while trying to succeed in 4 university subjects with 3 group assignments. Needless to say, I did not get the high distinctions I wanted. I took time to consider the self-growth and character building I made during that time. Because there was a significant amount of both, and they are both achievements in themselves! I looked at the bigger picture as well, having character and life experience will also make me a better lawyer, not just having high distinctions.
I am a firm believer there is also something to learn from every situation. Maybe you took on more hours in your job and it reflected in having less study time. You either learnt to make more hours in your day by sacrificing other activities, or you learnt that you need to either sacrifice some work hours or cut back on units next semester to manage the load. It is no loss either way because you learnt something.
Also, reflect on what you have learnt in the unit; I guarantee you did learn something. Not all topics within a unit are equally assessed, so you need to acknowledge what you have learnt in the unit not just what was assessed.
3. Consider Your Options
As far as I am aware, most universities allow grade reviews. If you truly feel that your grades could be looked over again, you can choose to do this. But, remember that in a grade review it is possible your grade could go down further. This is usually reiterated by unit coordinators in emails throughout the semester, as they continuously advise students to sit on their grades for a few days before applying for a review. Pretty much – chill out and come back to it. Allow time for your emotions to settle and your mind to level, before re-reading your assessment or viewing your exam, and the feedback provided. Try to do this as open minded and un-bias as possible.
What if you failed the entire unit? Despite how you may be feeling, the sky will not fall down, and the sun will rise tomorrow. You do not have to believe me, but I have a feeling I am right about those things. It is not ideal and was not in your course study plan to fail a unit, but it has happened, and you cannot ignore it. Follow the steps above and take some time to process your result. Depending on your university/institution policies, your options moving forward may include re-sitting an exam, or you may need to re-sit the entire unit. Either way you are not the first person in that position and you will not be the last. Use the extra time on the unit to focus on the topics you fell down in, while also, revising and growing the knowledge you retained. Think of the character building and life experience!
End of semester grade release is a rough time for everyone not only ‘Imposter Syndrome’ sufferers. When you do not receive the grades you had hoped, take the steps above. But most importantly remember your unit grades are not a reflection of you personally and you should not let them define you personally.
Blogger and Happy Law Student
Hi! My name is Samara and I am an over opinionated, awkward and Imposter Syndrome suffering Law and Psychology student at the Queensland University of Technology. I never had that light-bulb moment when choosing to study law. I am not sure if many people so. But after witnessing injustice and suffering of those vulnerable in our world, I became determined to help. This is where going into law made sense for me.
Despite believing in my purpose, I openly feel the dreaded law school Imposter Syndrome. You know, when you feel like everyone else has got ‘it’ together and you don’t even know what day it is. This year I became determined to embrace this clueless feeling by moving out of comfort zone. This included entering an Instagram competition with The Happy Family Lawyer which led me here!
Here I am blogging about all things law school, student life and comfort zones in hopes to find fellow Imposter Syndrome suffers.