Monday, January 25, 2010

Stress and Grades: What we can do for students now

This is the point at which most students have received most, if not all, of their first semester grades. So this is also the point in the semester when they start to meltdown. They never received anything lower than an A- in their life, their parents will think they didn't work if they see these grades, they feel--especially in this climate--that they will never get a job because first semester was not what they hoped it would be.  Outside of the concrete steps we can take to help them pull up their grades, there are things we can suggest to take the edge off the stress.

1) Provide a list of spas or other places where students can go for a massage. Because "massage" services can be shady if one just looks them up in the phone book, providing a list of reputable massage therapists can help students find what they need. If you live near a major metropolitan area, see if their are any massage schools in the area that provide no-charge or discount massages on weekends as training for their students.

2) Remind them to keep up their appearance. Sloppy clothing, unkempt hair and nails, and for men, remaining unshaven can be the start of a slippery slope. They feel bad about themselves so their grooming habits decline, people see their outward appearance and respond to it negatively, which makes them feel worse about themselves, and a shame spiral sets in. It's much harder to get a job if one looks like they don't care about themselves.

3) If you are a part of a university with mental health services, ask a counselor to come in for a lunchtime chat with students about the signs and signals someone may be at risk. Presenting mental health services as something for everyone instead of a service for only "crazy" people helps take away the stigma of seeking help. As long as they don't feel like they are the ones on the spot, students will be more likely to seek out the help they need.

4) Tell them to get back in touch with someone who encouraged them to go to law school but is not invested in their success. A college professor or a pre-law advisor who helped them through the application process would love to hear from them, even if they are struggling. These are people who don't have a personal stake (unlike parents, siblings, or spouses) in a student's law school career, and they can remind students of why they wanted to attend law school in the first place. I am the director of the Pre-Law Center as well as an ASPer, and I would love to hear from former students, even if they are struggling.  A fresh perspective from someone outside of their normal circle of support can be enlightening.

5) If extracurricularswere not the source of student struggles during their first semester, suggest they take up a sport or play on an intramural team. Having something in their life they can feel good about, somewhere were they can achieve their goals and receive instant gratification for their effort, can go a long way towards lessening law school stress. While it is helpful for law students to exercise, the goal of playing a sport or joining a team is different.  Feeling like they have something to celebrate when they win a game or score a goal can remind them that their are things in life to feel good about. 

(RCF)

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