Monday, October 6, 2008

High Anxiety

If I were to put a label  on this semester, it would be high anxiety.

As an Academic Success professional, I feel fairly insulated from the turbulence of the outside (corporate) world. After all, we have all heard (or seen) that students go to graduate school when the economy takes a downward turn. But in the past few weeks, a palpable sense of worry and anxiety over the economy has invaded the relatively safe harbor of law school.  I am not talking about the 3L's that are looking for employment. They are worried and anxious even in the best of economies. I am feeling anxiety about the economy gripping 1L's who never intended to get a paying job between their 1L and 2L year, but who are now worried they won't find any positions for the summer.  I am seeing an unusual type of anxiety among the 1L's that both encourages and dismays me: anxiety that if they don't do well in law school, they are looking into an abyss.  I am normally excited whenever I see a trend within 1L's that encourages them to do the things they need to succeed.  But this anxiety dismays me because it is not motivated by a desire to succeed, but by a fear of failure that risks overwhelming students as the prepare for exams.  There is a very real risk for most law students at most schools that they may not be able to continue their law school career if they do not complete their course work in satisfactory manner.  The anxiety I am seeing among students is the type that can paralyze students if they receive even modest constructive criticism. This is a dangerous condition that can sink well-prepared students unless it is managed before midterm exam grades come out. 

I don't have any suggestions for students struggling with the impact of the economy on their finances or their future, but I do have advice regarding how to cope with stress and anxiety when outside forces threaten to overwhelm them emotionally.  If students are doing everything they can to succeed, which includes going to class, reviewing their notes or "purble blurb-ing", outlining, seeing their professors when they have questions about the material, and doing practice questions, then they should take a deep breath.   By telling students to take a deep breath, I do not mean to minimize the gravity of  recent events.   There are things we can control in this world, like our own effort towards reaching a goal, and things we can not control in this world, like the economy.  Taking a deep breath should remind students that they are doing everything in their power to succeed.  And if students are doing everything they can to succeed and it does not show on midterms or exams, then there are bigger problems that need to be addressed, problems that would cause great stress and anxiety regardless of the economy.  (RCF)

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