Law Students

Hopeful Law Students Got Better Grades, Study Finds


New law students who are realistically hopeful get better grades, according to a recent study.

Researchers reached their conclusions based on a study of 86 incoming law students in 2007 at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, the National Law Journal reports. The study found that hope is a better predictor of first semester grades than LSAT scores. There was no significant relationship, however, between optimism and grades.

Researchers say hope is different from optimism, which helps law students’ life satisfaction but is not associated with higher grades. A prior study of law students at the University of Virginia found that pessimists got better grades, were more likely to make law review and got better job offers.

A researcher involved in the new study, Indiana University-Purdue University psychology professor Kevin Rand, explains the difference between hope and optimism. “Optimism is the expectation that the future will be good, regardless of how this happens,” Rand told the NLJ. “Hope is the expectation about things you have actual control over.”

The researchers measured hope with statements such as “I energetically pursue my goals” and “I can think of many ways to get out of a jam.” Optimism, on the other hand, was measured by statements such as, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.” The research is summarized in a paper by Rand and another researcher available online (PDF). The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, is available for purchase.

The study found that the best predictor of first-semester law school grades was undergraduate grade point average, and hope was the second strongest predictor. Optimism was not a significant predictor, although hope and optimism were significant predictors of life satisfaction.

Rand and his co-researchers are conducting similar research at five other law schools, according to the NLJ.

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