02/10/2017 First-year law student? Here’s my guide on how to make the most of your first year of law school - part one

First-year law student? Here’s my guide on how to make the most of your first year of law school - part one

It’s October. Freshers’ Week has come and gone, lectures have started and Freshers’ Flu is spreading faster than a catchy 'Elf on the Shelf' meme. It’s easy to become overwhelmed – I know I certainly was. If it wasn’t a lecturer sending their seminar slides ahead of time or the university demanding more money for something or another, it was one of the hundred university societies I’d signed up to at Freshers’ Fair filling up my inbox with endless invites and adding to my ever-growing to-do list. Most students who’ve been there and done it will tell your phase as a rabbit in the headlights will end – it takes a few weeks to acclimatise, but you’ll get there eventually.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend the majority of your first term finding your feet. You have, after all, just been dropped into a town or city that in all likelihood you’re completely unfamiliar with. It’s probably the first time you’ve lived away from home and so juggling shopping, cleaning, paying bills and cooking three meals a day for yourself is probably enough to get used to before even thinking about the 40 hours of lectures, seminars, essays and reading a week you’ve got to do. That brings me to my first set of tips:

Settle in

If you haven’t already, unpack all those boxes you brought with you and make your room feel like home. This is the only space on campus that’s truly yours, so make it feel that way. If your university hasn’t already organised one, take some flatmates or coursemates and take a tour around the campus and city. Familiarise yourself – after all, you’re there for the next three or four years. You’d be surprised how many students get to the end of their degree and still find places they’ve never been to before. You’ll be glad you did when you find that pub, shop or workspace that you couldn’t end up doing without.

Societies, sports and socialising

Here there are endless possibilities. Take a look first at whether your university has a law society. Nearly all have one and, if you’re lucky, there might also be a mooting society, law journal or Bar society. Give ‘em your money, don’t hesitate. That fiver in membership will pay off 10 times over during the course of the year when you attend free dinners, drinks parties, guest lectures and the like. However, don’t stop there…

One of the most worthwhile parts of university, in my opinion, is the vast number of extracurricular activities you can get involved in. My advice is to try anything and everything, and get involved in as much as you physically can. If your university is anything like mine there will be hundreds for you to choose from, with new ones popping up all of the time. My only rule of thumb here  (and I do wish I’d listened to my own advice a few years ago) is not to over-commit. These societies and sports clubs will be fun and you’ll make some great memories and friends, but remember why you’re there – for a degree. Employers want to employ well-rounded individuals, but part of that is having great academic results.

Organisation, organisation, organisation

Unless you enjoy all-nighters cramming for exams and caffeine-fuelled days rushing coursework, you need to get your head around your workload. It may seem simplistic, but drawing yourself up a timetable around your teaching, with one and two-hourly slots like you had at college will make managing your work much easier. Try as best you can to treat each weekday like a working day, filling those slots with reading, seminar preparation and essay planning. I’m not necessarily saying that means 9:00am to 5:00pm everyday, but having a routine will make you much more productive and, in fact, should allow you more time for those extra activities. This kind of organisation helps prevent those dreaded Sunday nights rushing to prepare for the week ahead. Remember, if this is how you ‘plan’ your time, it’s only likely to lead to more work later down the line when final exams and essays come around. 

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