Wednesday, February 4, 2009
If there is one complaint I hear everyday, it is second-semester exhaustion amongst 1L's.
It doesn't matter where they fell on the curve at their school, or where they are ranked, second semester exhaustion happens across the spectrum. Students who did well are scared that they can't keep up their grades and any drop in their GPA will reflect on them poorly during summer OCI; students who did not do well are exhausted because they worked very hard during the fall, and they are demoralized by their performance; and students in the middle of the curve are still mystified by the process and don't know what they can do to bring up their grades. 1L's spend their very brief (sometimes just two-week) break between fall and spring semester rushing through the holidays and fretting over their grades, so they don't really get a chance to unwind and regroup. The start of the semester at the same time grades are coming out packs another punch to 1L's; they don't have a chance to digest and evaluate their performance because they are already overwhelmed with the work they need to complete. To add to the stress, many law schools have a more rigorous second-semester legal writing course that requires 15 credit hours worth of work for a 3 credit class, and are looking for jobs for the summer. When you think about all that 1L's are trying to carry during the start of the semester, it's really not a surprise they are exhausted and many feel unmotivated.
I try to reassure the students that they will be fine, that it is okay to feel less excited and more tired during the second semester than they felt during the first. As long as they are doing the reading, briefing and outlining, as well as turning in their legal writing assignments on time, they will be fine. I only start to worry when the exhaustion overwhelms them and the basic law school necessities (reading, studying) start to slide. Those students need immediate intervention; it's very difficult to catch back up once a student falls behind.
But most students do stick to the minimum, and start to feel better by spring break. They have had a chance to regroup and digest their grades, and they feel they are on more solid ground. (RCF)