Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Friday, July 18, 2003

The last 800 words about grades (for now)

With a year of grades in hand (not literally in hand – I’m working from memory here), the sample size is clearly large enough that I can draw some conclusions:

1. I do better in classes with the smaller red casebooks than the bigger brown casebooks. Next step is to check which casebooks my scheduled 2L classes are using and add/drop accordingly.

2. I do about the same in classes where the professor wrote the casebook as in classes where the professor did not read the casebook.

3. My pass/fail “first-year lawyering” grades have no correlation with any other grades, except that the letter ‘P’ sort of looks like the letter ‘B’ if you hide one of the lumps of the ‘B.’

4. To best maximize the trends I have discovered, I should probably take classes from female professors who are losing their hair.

5. I do either better or worse in classes where I make my own outline versus classes where I don’t.

6. I may or may not do best in classes where we have a paper option, but since I haven’t had any of those yet, I have no way of drawing any conclusions.

7. At first I thought that the “plus” and “minus” signs next to the letters meant something about the grades, but a careful regiment of yoga and hypnosis have convinced me otherwise. Also, ‘D’ looks like ‘A’ if you have cataracts.

8. Not showing up to an exam, although not yet accounted for in the sample, would seem to be a poor strategy, given that for the exams I did okay on, I showed up 100% of the time.

9. I also showed up 100% of the time to the exams I did less okay on, so it is unclear whether showing up is indeed a grade-maximizing strategy.

10. Lists always look better when there are ten items than nine, but I’ve run out of things to say.

11. Lists look even better with eleven items.

12. But not twelve.

The real challenge that getting grades provided was calculating my GPA. Since my one spring elective was only 3 credits, and the 1L required courses were all 5 credits, it took some work. Also complicated by Harvard’s odd GPA calculation system. In two ways:

First, contrary to expectations, a three-credit class isn’t worth three-fifths of a five-credit class. It’s worth half. And a four-credit class is worth three-quarters. I don’t think I’m making this up. Unless someone was lying to me when they told me. A two-credit class is worth seven times what a five-credit class is worth, and for a one-credit class, you raise “e” to the power of your grade, divide by pi, and take the square root of an imaginary number. Then you go to math graduate school for 7 years, earn a PhD, and then, finally, you can maybe calculate your GPA. But then you need to convert it from Metric to Fahrenheit using a microwave.

Second, Harvard uses an 8-point scale. A+ is 8, A is 7, A- is 6, B+ is 5, B is 4, B- is 3… wait, I’m running out of numbers… C is 2, D is 1, F is 0? Maybe? D- is 0.5. F+ is 0.0001. B++ is about 5.42. A++ is infinity, which, even in a three-credit class, can radically change the overall GPA.

I can only think of one reason to use an 8 point GPA, besides to confuse people (okay, that makes two reasons). It’s all part of Harvard’s sinister plan to take over the world. You see, even if people aren’t swayed by the prestige of a Harvard degree, surely a 5.3 GPA is enough to make them swoon. A 6.25? The job is yours. Even straight Bs – a 4.0! – you’re top of the class. We all are. Those extra numbers on the GPA scale are part of what our tuition dollars pay for.

I wonder if people actually do list these 8-point-scale GPA numbers on resumes. “Quite a leap between undergrad and law school, you pretty young future trophy wife,” an interviewer treading awfully close to sexual harassment might say to a female candidate. “From a 3.9 to a 5.8. That’s quite remarkable. Especially for a woman with your – shall we say – attributes,” that same interviewer might say as they dragged him off to white-collar prison for sexually assaulting that other law student last interview season.

But regardless of whether someone's GPA is a 7.2, a 3.6, or a 1.2, my classmates and I finally have our grades. So we all can sleep easy now, worried only about where the heck we’re going to work for the rest of our lives. Yep, getting grades solved all of our problems. But at least I know not to take any classes taught by Swedish toddlers. I’ve never done well in any of them.