August 20, 2018

Handling Your Feelings Post Bar Exam

How to handle post-bar exam sadness or depression and what to expect after the bar exam. law school blog. law student blogger |

I said I wouldn't talk about the Bar exam until I got my results back, but I see this blog as a personal diary as well as a resource for other law students so I wanted to write this now while it's still fresh on my mind. I took the Bar almost a month ago and truth is, life ain't fun. Now I don't want to cause you new 3L's any panic thinking that you've dug yourself into a hole, but I do want to be honest for any recent grads so you don't feel alone.

Feeling useless after the Bar

Once you become a law student, the Bar is in the back of your mind for three years (see here, here, and here). Then for about three months straight it's at the front of your mind and all you can think or talk about. Seriously, you go full-on Cady Heron when she couldn't stop word vomiting about Regina George. And then after three days that fly by, it's over. The sole goal for the past three years has been attempted. And then what? 

Admittedly this is probably worse since I didn't end up landing a post-Bar job so I am currently a stay-at-home cat mom (which sounds better than unemployed millennial if you ask me), but still... You've focused so much of your time and attention and energy on one thing and then *poof* it's over. I guess it's kinda like how you hear about brides getting sad after their weddings because they'd just been looking forward to that day for so long that they don't know how to handle it after that day has come and gone. Right now, I just kinda feel like "what do I do with my life until I find out if I'm a lawyer or not??"

Obsessing over the Bar

That brings me to this point. It's better now that I'm a few weeks out, but that first week or two was pretty bad. I know everyone tells you to take the test and then not think about it (just like finals), but if you remember from 1L finals while you waited for those first grades to come back, that's a lot easier said than done. Except this is worse because I'd rather fail a law school class than the Bar any day.

Let me put it to you this way, just two days after I took the Bar my boyfriend's sweet mom set me up with an hour and a half massage. It felt great but the entire time in that quiet room all I could think about was I bet if this guy spent thousands and thousands of dollars on law school and Bar prep he would've remembered the difference between these two concepts that I forgot on test day and worse, OMFG I forgot to mention X in my essay! That would've been at least 1-2 more points I could've gotten! If there's a way to truly turn your brain off from the Bar, I haven't figured it out yet. But again, it's all I've been thinking about 24/7 for 3 months so how is my brain supposed to know to stop now?

Stressing over the Bar

The Bar mind fucks you and then doesn't stop there. The day after the Bar I woke up freaking out convinced that I had accidentally overslept for the Bar. A few days after that I had a too-realistic-for-comfort dream that what I had just taken was actually a simulated Bar exam that Barbri had just been extra about and the real thing was at the end of August so dream me went into freak out mode trying to plan what all I needed to improve and get done before the test. And yet again I had a very realistic dream that I had showed up to the last day of the Bar at lunch and so the proctors were pulling me aside telling me that I could still take the afternoon test but that my morning tests would all be zeros and my Bar prep professor (more on her in a later post) was there asking me if I thought I could still pass it even while failing all the other sections and talking to me about options to take the Bar in February.

But it doesn't stop there. Ryan has literally banned me from talking or thinking about the Bar, and for my own good. I'll sit too long and think of something that I said wrong or forgot to say (like at my massage), and then I'll just stress out. There's been times where I've just cried myself to sleep because I keep thinking about everything that I could've, should've, would've done better. 

Putting the Bar behind you

I don't write all this to say I feel depressed because I definitely don't feel that extreme, but I do feel kinda like the mean reds that Holly Golightly talks about. Like I said, I haven't figured out exactly how to feel all "well if I fail, I fail." Here's what has helped.

Having a friend who understands that they don't understand – This was one of my biggest pet peeves when people would try to relate to my struggle when they haven't taken the Bar because TBH they don't know what it's actually like. One of my friends had to take a licensing exam so she has been so understanding and doesn't try to pretend like she knows exactly how I feel. 

Having a friend who doesn't undermine your stress – This is another big annoyance. It can be really hard when you're sitting there beating yourself up over a test and someone comes up to you and goes "oh it's just a test!" Like hi um excuse me do you have $100,000 in debt and your entire future riding on this test?? Feels like more than just a test to me, feels like my entire future but ya know, NBD. 

Another annoyance is when people tell me "oh you're smart I'm sure you'll pass."  So basically this adds another stress to me because if I do fail, now what you're basically saying is that in addition to that I'm obviously stupid? These things don't help, so please don't say them to your friends.

Having a friend who doesn't try to help – The great thing about Ryan is that I can be honest with him and tell him to try not to help (as seen in my last example). I told him not to try to say anything because nothing will help and instead to just hold me when I cry over it and send me cute kitty videos when I get too sucked in to thinking about it. It's just nice to have someone to vent to without having to have them be like oh yeah I know what's like when clearly they don't. 

Not talking about it – I know like every therapist ever will tell you that talking about your problems makes them seem less, but I don't think that's exactly true with the Bar. See, every time I start to think about it, I just start spiraling down thinking about how I should've prepped more in between the exams or should've wrote something more on that question that I didn't know the answer to. 

It's just easier to remind yourself that thinking about it won't affect the outcome and to think about other things you can control, like how clean your apartment is or how often you work out. My plan is just to try to distract myself for these next three months so I can try to stay calm (which is partly why I'm not blogging about the Bar, except for this post obviously). 

Hopefully all the stress will pay off but until November, don't mind me spending hours watching videos of little kittens being cute. And if you're in the same boat as me, let's just all agree that the Bar exam never happened. Okay? K. 


  1. Nikki, thank you for your transparency. Like you, I recently graduated law school and took the July bar. I've gone through a lot of the same emotions you're feeling. I find comfort in knowing I did the best I could to prepare for it. I love your blog and have been a follower since my 2L year.

    1. I'm glad someone else is feeling what I've been feeling!! Hopefully it'll all be worth it in the end 🤞🏼 and thank you for all the reads!

  2. I've been following your blog since my 0L year and it has been such an inspiration to me and has provided me with SO much guidance. I will be taking the bar in July and wondered if you might post your study tips/schedule/realistic timing etc. and how you made time for yourself during such a hectic time?