My exams are all over and I have officially finished my first year at the University of Sheffield. I came from doing Open University study, so I had some idea of what to expect when it came to a law degree and in terms of first-year career advice. While my experience at a brick university has been vastly different from distance learning, I am positive that the move has been a good one.
This blog is a reflective account of my first year and some tips on how to make the most of the year. I also provide some advice on the things I might do more of or differently going forward.
I was relatively good at time management before I came to university. However, I think I underappreciated just how easy it is to get distracted by the multitude of other things on offer. It’s far too easy to forget the reason why you’re here. I would have been better at complying solid notes all the way through, as this would have given me a lot more time to read further into topics during revision periods.
I found that every lecturer was willing to discuss topic areas, and I gained more clarity on subjects in my second semester when I actually booked time to see them.
University is not just about learning your degree topic. In law, learning to research and critically evaluate is vital. I found that taking the time and using careers services to learn different methods of doing these things has helped me massively, and these are now skills that I have for next year when I am busier.
I heard ‘the first year doesn’t count’ so many times from other students. This may be more of the case with other careers, but first-year grades are looked at when applying for vacation schemes. Also, bear in mind that it will be a steep learning curve to go from barely getting by in your first year to having to push yourself to get good grades in the second year.
The time flies by, and you will regret not learning that new sport or joining a particular society sooner. Don’t let initial apprehension put you off getting stuck in. Almost every other first-year student is probably feeling the same way, but it fades fast!
There are a wealth of first-year schemes, open days and insights that you can go along to. These are mostly easy-going days where there are no wrong questions, and even if you know nothing about a commercial law environment, you can ask questions and learn. This will give you a fantastic advantage going into vacation scheme applications in your second year. It will also help you to determine the types of firm that you want to apply to and apply more selectively.
There are so many opportunities throughout the year in the form of law fairs, careers events and guest lecturers. A lot of these happen at the start of the year to help students applying for vacation schemes and training contracts. This may seem overwhelming in your first few months at university, but even attending a few events will help you to gain knowledge and experience of different law firms. Guest lectures may cover topics outside of your degree, but you can learn a lot of interesting things by going along, and this can help you at interviews.
Law degrees are hard. If you feel like you hate studying law and it isn’t at all what you thought it would be by the end of your first year, the chances are you are not going to be able to force yourself to love it. There are so many other degree subjects that can eventually funnel into a career in law. It may be better to look at other areas that you think you might enjoy because the chances are if you enjoy studying it, you will do better. Seek careers advice and talk to students on other courses if you are thinking that you have made the wrong choice – and remember that it is okay! It is difficult to know what to expect; ultimately, it’s better to do something you enjoy than resent studying.