Thursday, November 16, 2006

E-mailing Our Students

Over time, I have learned that late November can be the most difficult month for first-year law students. I know this because students begin stopping by in ever increasing numbers to talk about their emotional state as opposed to their studies. Typically, I have to replenish my supply of tissues at least once during the month, and it is not uncommon for me average at least one “crier” in my office per day. 

The reasons? To some extent they vary as much of our students, but the main culprit seems to be their impending examinations. Other factors include homesickness, increased faculty expectations (by November, every professor has picked up the pace), and even the worsening weather and decrease in the number of daylight hours.

Two years ago, I decided to send an e-mail to the entire first year class addressing this phenomenon. I viewed it as an electronic version of the kind of pep talk that I regularly give students who stop by office, and didn’t think it was all that big a deal. Student response to my e-mail, however, was overwhelmingly positive. Many students who I had never seen before stopped by my office to learn how I had been able to read their minds! 

Below you will find the text of the letter that I sent out to this year’s class. The letter varies somewhat from year to year, but the actual language in the letter seems to be much less important than the sentiment expressed therein. Please feel free to borrow liberally, but beware that you may me generating a lot of new business. (hnr)

I want to discuss briefly is the stress (and sometimes even depression) that most law students seem to feel at this point in the fall semester. As the fall semester slowly grinds to an end, it is quite common for me to begin meeting with students who are stressed, feel that they can’t keep up with their studies, wonder about whether they made the correct choice in coming to law school, and in general feel that there lives are starting to spin out of control. When I say that feelings of this sort are quite common at this point in the year, I am not trying to minimize what anyone may be going through. Instead, I want to emphasize that feelings of this sort are quite normal. 

At this point in the year, your professors have begun to expect much more from you, and you may be struggling to match their expectations. Just know that, eventually, your analytical abilities will improve so that you can meet those expectations. In addition, many students are starting to feel the angst generated by the fact that fall exams are just around the corner and folks may be worried about their ability to succeed. Keep in mind that we admitted you to this law school because we knew that you could succeed here. On that score, nothing has changed over the course of the past few months – you still have what it takes to succeed here. 

I look forward to seeing you in class this week, and as always, feel free to contact me to set up an individual appointment.

 

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