1) Fail a Practice Exam. You will take a practice exam—whether it’s a set of MBE’s, an essay, or a performance test—and find that you are clearly below the passing range. Such performance is to be expected in the first week, as you are in the process of learning. The unsettling thing is that the failures keep happening, and eventually they will come frighteningly close to the date of the exam, and the fear of impending doom will start to mess with your brain. Some people who pass the bar never “pass” a practice exam.
2) Resent Anyone Who Says You Will Pass. You have always been “successful,” “smart,” and “a great test taker.” Family and friends who are non-lawyers know this about you, and they choose to remind you anytime you mention that you think you are about to fail big time. You understand that they are generally correct, but you know for a fact that your loved ones don’t know what they are talking about this time. Being told that “of course you will pass” only results in a blood-boiling rage. You already aren’t seeing non-lawyer friends often because of your busy schedule, but their attempts at understanding and encouragement will make you more and more removed as the test date approaches.
3) Abandon Something You Normally Do. Some aspect of your life, something that you were able to maintain throughout even law school, will fall by the wayside. If you were a cool, work-life balance kind of law student, that might mean you stop playing guitar or surfing or making cool jewelry holders for a few months while studying. If you don’t have a fun thing to let go of, then the things that do go will be disturbing. You might start showering at alarmingly low rates, eating erratically, and talking to friends and family basically never. You will amaze even yourself.
4) Buy Something Ridiculous. At some point, you will make a stress purchase that makes no real sense at all. If you need socks, maybe you’ll buy five dozen because that seems reasonable at the time. You might decide that now is the time to restart your POG collection, just so you can remember what it felt like to be a child again. Perhaps most bar trips are booked while the recent grad is in the midst of studying, because stress combined with wanderlust can be an expensive combination.
5) Have Some Kind of Sleep Issue. Whether you are awake at three in the morning anxiously criticizing yourself and what you did for the day, or randomly taking a three hour nap in the middle of the day because you can’t focus on the assignment at hand, your sleep will be more irregular than it was during finals.
6) Gain or Lose Weight. The stress of studying for the bar exam will affect your eating habits in one way or another. Maybe you’re the type that enjoys a good stress eat and can’t work out until you have finished all the work for the day (spoiler alert: that never happens). Or maybe you’re the type that likes to control that which you can control, so your diet and exercise routine turns into the embodiment of perfection. Either way, you won’t be the same person you were when you started the summer.
7) Pick Up a Weird Habit. You will do something that surprises you. Maybe you will start eating fast food or frozen pizzas or Werther’s Originals. Maybe you’ll start watching “America’s Next Top Model” or listening to disco music or spend hours on YouTube watching Broadway musical performances. Or, you might start biting your nails, over-plucking your eyebrows, or grinding your teeth.
8) Drink Alone. There will come a day when the anxiety of the day will result in you drinking a beer in your underwear at three in the afternoon. Or, you may use alcohol as a study tool, to ease the stress and allow yourself to focus on that outline you can’t seem to get through. Or, you may just find it too hard to schedule hanging out with people, so any drinking you do ends up happening in your apartment, solo.
9) Have a Weird Run-in with a Stranger. You will live in a bubble, and everything you do within that bubble will make sense. You will dress terribly, shower rarely, and be either too thin or too fat for your current clothes. You will only discuss the law for so long that you will be unable to have any other kind of discussion. The stressed, frazzled person you are will at some point confuse or insult someone who simply does not understand you. Maybe you will call something arbitrary and capricious and then laugh hysterically and, arguably, manically. Maybe you will explain that you filled out the wrong form, but you will do so in a way that no working professional will understand. Or maybe some customer service representative will waste your valuable time, and you will become the kind of jerk that yells at someone trying their best to do their job.
10) Cry. You will cry at some point. You might cry in response to studying for the bar – after failing a practice exam, feeling overwhelmed, or being afraid of failure. Or you’ll break down about something wholly unrelated to but still caused by bar study – when the hotel you want to book is all full, when watching an episode of “The Bachelorette“, or when you run out of shampoo a week before the exam.
Post image from Shutterstock
Originally posted on June 6th, 2012