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10 things I wish I’d known in first year

By Alexandra Baker, illustrations by Leonie Leclerc 

Starting university and beginning to study law can be a pretty overwhelming experience.  We asked some students who survived their first year to tell us their tips and advice, by asking them what they wish they’d known in first year.

1. You’re probably not going to be a pro right off the bat

“I wish I’d put less pressure on myself to get things straight away. The work load is full on and sometimes the writing style is a little hard to master.  I wish I could have told myself ‘don’t worry, you’ll eventually get it!” – Elyse, 2nd year Law/Psychological Sciences

“First year assignments are aimed at nailing down your basic writing and analysis skills. They’re not asking you to reinvent the wheel and they’re not trying to trick you. It can really feel like you’re missing something because it just seems so simple after you’ve been told that law school is hard and complicated.” – Dora, graduate 2016

2. Be confident in yourself

“If I could go back I’d give myself confidence and a sense of self-adequacy. I’d stop being intimidated by everyone else, because they were all just as clueless and nervous as I was” – Peter, 3rd year, Law/International Studies

“The sooner you realise that nobody else has any idea what they’re doing and what they want to do, the more you’ll enjoy first year” – Erol, 2nd year, Law/International Studies

3. Get your CP

“Participate as much as possible in class and don’t be afraid to ask questions, half of the class probably hasn’t even done the readings!” – Michael, 3rd year, Arts/Law

4.  Study in a way that works for you 

“Write in words that make sense to you and will make sense to you again in the future, or use diagrams because they can explain concepts in more time-efficient ways.” – Lizzie, 4th year, Arts/Law

5. It’s up to you to make friends

“It’s up to you to cement friendships, like after class, say ‘let’s grab coffee or lunch’ and then actually confirm a time, rather than leaving it hanging. It might seem awkward, but everyone is just as keen to make friends as you are!” – Henry, 2nd year, Law/Actuarial Studies

6. Mess up your textbook

“Write in and highlight your textbooks. There’s no point having a learning tool if you’re not going to use it. Tools are not meant to be kept in perfect condition, they’re made to be used!” – Simran, 2nd year

7. Go to law camp, sign up for law plus, get involved!

“Friendships, experience and opportunity. They all start with two words. Get involved” – Khush, Law Soc President 2017

“A lot of people get scared off by the rumours that law camp is just for people who want to get drunk and party hard. I was a non-drinker when I went to law camp, and I still made most of my law school friends there.” – Dora, graduate 2016

“One thing I discovered is that it’s so important to immerse yourself in all aspects of university life. Whether this is by joining a club or society, playing social sport, joining the university band or even just going to a Roundhouse party. The best thing about getting involved is that you make great friends who share similar interests to you” – Samuel, 2nd year, Music/Law

8. Nothing is as important as your physical and mental wellbeing

“Get into a healthy routine and stick to it. Make sure you strike the right balance between work, health and social life. I found I was so much more productive and happy once I realised this” – Zack, 3rd year Law/International Studies

9. Befriend the older students

“Definitely befriend the older students, not just because they’re great people, but also because they’ve survived what you’re going through. Plus, they can give you notes, tips about tutors and other general advice. They’re the real MVPs” – Harry, 2nd year, Law/Media and Communications

10. Get involved in societies on campus that give back 

“One thing that really gives context to your legal studies is participating and getting involved in societies that focus on giving back to the community. For me, this was being heavily involved in the UN society, Vinnies, Amnesty International and working with the Brien Holden Vision Institute” – Aggie, 3rd year, International Studies/Law

In a nutshell, your time here is limited and it’s important to embrace the journey, relish the challenges along the way and enjoy your time here. UNSW Law can offer you a million different opportunities if you are willing to take them.

So what are you waiting for?

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