What I Did Differently my 2L Year and How I Raised my GPA by .5 – A Rising 3L Perspective

Rising 3L Perspective: What I did differently my 2L year and how it raised my GPA by .5Please welcome back 3L Shirlene Armstrong to discuss how she improved her GPA between 1L and 2L years and the lessons she learned.

At the end of my 1L year, I was a bit disappointed in myself. I had always been an overachiever and school came naturally to me. I enjoyed learning and studying, for which I was rewarded with excellent grades. Law school was a little different. In my first year I felt like no matter what I did, I was not capable of achieving all As or even one solid A. I was so overwhelmed. I am a first generation law student, so I felt completely lost and was trying to figure out the whole law school thing. However, my 2L year felt like a flip of a coin. I was enjoying classes, understanding the material, and despite being extremely busy, managed to increase my GPA by .5 by the end of the year. Here are my reflections on what I did during my 2L year in order to boost my GPA.

2L vs 1L Year

In retrospect, it may seem like it was a no-brainer that my GPA rose in my 2L year. I was more familiar with law school, right? And 1L year is the hardest year, right? Although that may be true in a general sense, my 2L year was not easy. My 2L year presented me with new challenges, new stress, and an extremely hectic schedule. I was constantly bouncing from one activity, job, class, or meeting to the next one. In addition to taking a full load of upperclassmen classes both semesters, I worked for Lexis as a student representative, was the head student rep for another company, the treasurer with the Women’s Law Caucus, on the mock trial team, worked part-time as a law clerk, was a Ms JD Writer in Residence, and participated in numerous clubs and activities. My 1L year was also busy and filled with activities, but it was significantly different than my 2L year. Although I was stressed during both years, I was more worried about whether I would be successful, if I was fit for law school, and why I felt average during 1L year. I was so overwhelmed by the entire process. So in my 2L year, I buckled down and tried my best to right the potential wrongs of my first year.

Don’t Reinvent The Wheel

One of my biggest mistakes 1L year was completely changing how I studied. I felt like since law school was unlike anything I ever experienced before, I needed to alter my strategies from undergrad. So I took the advice from upperclassmen and studied how they suggested. Unfortunately for me, the tactics may have worked for them but were pretty ineffective for my purposes. In my 2L year I decided to go back to how I studied in undergraduate and think about classes like I did previously. Even though law school and undergraduate are very different, you are still a student. What worked for you previously may work in law school as well. Yes, you will likely have to alter your strategy and work harder, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel just because you are in law school. Stay true to yourself and understand what is best for you.

Pass/No Credit

Many law schools have the option that upperclassmen law students can choose one class per semester to be deemed as a “pass/no credit” course. This means that in lieu of receiving a grade and have it affect your GPA, you receive a “pass” or “no credit.” Typically in order to receive credit, you have to get at least a “C” in the class. At my law school, you can elect to take a course pass/no credit within the first 6 weeks of classes. When final grades are posted, you can either accept the grade you got or you can keep the “pass” grade. Although I am not an advocate of taking shortcuts, it was still nice to have one class that you didn’t need to stress over. I would still participate in class and do the work, but when it came down to prioritizing the work or studying for exams, I was able to focus on my other courses and not worry as much about one class. In the end, I was able to get great grades in my other classes and still earned excellent marks in the class I took “pass/no credit” and ended up taking the grade.

Remember it is Okay!

Law school is stressful and challenging. Putting yourself down and being disappointed in yourself only adds to that stress. You have to remember that at the end of the day, a grade is just a letter. You can still be an excellent attorney even if you get a C in a class. And your GPA doesn’t have to be a 4.0 in order to land a summer associate position. At the end of the day, you need to remember that it will be okay and you can still be successful. You just need to work hard and be confident in yourself!


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About Shirlene Brown

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-generation student in her last year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne, Shirlene has been involved with numerous organizations and clubs, including mock trial, LexisNexis, the Women's Law Caucus, and the Journal of Law and Society. Shirlene enjoys mentoring others and sharing what she has learned on her legal journey and continues to work hard in accomplishing her dreams.

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