By Surabhi Bhandari, Cardiff University Law Student
When Cardiff Law School offered me a place in their 3-year undergraduate course, my friends and family, all self acclaimed academic gurus, started warning me about life at law school. Amongst many other things, they mentioned sleepless nights, no social life, and acceptance of library as my primary home. Terrified, as I already was, of going 43856923 miles away from my home to a new country, the fear of studying something as difficult as law, added to my apprehension.
But I decided not to be defeated. Initial orientations and workshops provided me with a well-developed structure of lectures and tutorials along with contact details of all my tutors and professors, something I hadn’t always had access to in my school in New Delhi, India. Happy that I had everything organised, I went through 6 months of last-minute tutorial preparations and sleepy lectures. Yes – that was my first year.
I always thought tutorials were a piece of cake and lectures could just be heard right before the exam until I actually got to the month of March. And BAM! I was absolutely clueless about how to prepare for a month full of fear and torture. I spoke to many peers and got many tips but I was always so unsatisfied. My tutors pointed out that they’d gone through my questions several times in tutorials and that I should refer to my notes. Little did they know that I hadn’t taken tutorials too seriously. I kept freaking out for an entire month. After all, I was a scholarship student, how could I not worry about scoring well (should’ve thought about that before).
I went to all revision lectures and workshops, tried filling up flashcards, re-listened to all the recorded lectures, spent hours in the library, spent a LOT of money on take-out food! I gave up vast amounts of my sleep, switched my phone off for the better part of the day, cribbed endlessly on social media about how law school didn’t let me have a life, and spent hours crying and fretting.
All I wanted was to pack my bags up and run back home. But giving up has never been my thing and I kept working. 3 of my exams were pretty okay while Contract gave me terrible dreams of re-sits.
But hey guess what? I passed ALL and got a low 2:1, overall. I was so happy that I went around jumping all over my house. However, a lot of thoughts hit me after my result. All the warning about sleepless nights and no social life did prove to be true. But had I studied the entire year, I would’ve actually scored a LOT better without days of anxiety.
Well, this is my account of first year, but those of you entering law school I have a few tips:
- BE CONSISTENT
Now this is really important. Don’t procrastinate in law school. Go to all your lectures and if you miss them, make sure you listen to the recorded one THAT DAY ITSELF if this is possible. Never miss any tutorial. Your tutor will indirectly give you some amazing tips for exams, note down everything he/she says!
Always listen to your lecturers and tutors. They will always want you to know what to expect in the exam beforehand. Make sure you’re all eyes and ears when you attend your sessions. During lectures, listen more than you write, don’t make notes on everything your lecturer says! It’s important to properly understand your subject before you start preparing for an exam.
- MAKE A TIMETABLE
And not just for revision, but throughout the year. Make a study schedule before you reach the revision schedule months! Allot a set of hours for tutorial prep and readings in your whole day and the rest for other activities. And follow it!
- KNOW YOUR REVISION STYLE
Again, this isn’t a revision tip. It’s a year-round study tip. Plan out how to study or revise. Know which way suits you best – whether it’s making notes, flashcards or mind-maps. Plan it all out and EXPERIMENT so that you know the best learning style before revision for exam begins.
- PAST PAPERS
They are lifesavers – trust me. Make sure you start looking at past papers from at least second semester. Plan model answers and get them approved by your tutors. This will give you a first-hand experience on writing your answers during exams.
- TAKE BREAKS
Take out time to relax, be with friends, watch a movie etc. Don’t spend hours in your room or library without taking out sometime for your friends or yourself. Relax and rejuvenate, but DON’T get too carried away.
- KEEP IN TOUCH
Last but not the least; keep in touch with people who you think are important. For e.g. your tutors or peers and second/final year students. Take revision tips from dependable peers but don’t follow them blindly. E-mail your professors or tutors even for the slightest doubt; take NO chances with your results. Don’t pester them, but show them that you’re serious about your degree.
I hope I’ve made first year a little less terrifying for some of you. Law school is difficult, but as long as you know what you’re in for, you’ll be on your way to becoming prospective Harvey Spector’s!
© Surabhi Bhandari, 2013
Surabhi blogs at the Cardiff University’s Employability Website