I Don’t Know How She Does it: Q&A

Natalie Hodgson (Arts/Law V) boasts an impressive academic record: with her numerous HDs for Law, we find out how she does it!

How do you do it? (In a transparent attempt for you to lend us tips on how to score those HDs like you)

Hard work! I have never been the sort of person who could write an essay the night before and get a HD in it, or ace a test without studying. Every good mark I have received I studied hard for. There’s no secret or trick to it – the more effort you put in, the better the reward you get back.

Having said that, not only do you need to work hard, but you also need to work smart. Figure out what your learning style is and study the way that is most effective for you. I find mindmaps really helpful before exams, because they enable me to see how everything I’ve learnt fits together. A friend of mine uses law memes to help her remember cases. Whatever works for you – do it.

I’ve also found my friends to be a great source of knowledge and support. Over the years friends have helped me with notes if I’ve missed a class, they’ve explained difficult concepts to me, and we’ve formed study groups before exams. Group study is a great way for everyone to improve, and it’s also a lot more fun than studying alone!

If you could have a time turner and could meet your first year self, what would you tell her?

I’d tell her not to worry so much. I think first year is particularly hard. People come from a high school where they’re used to getting scores of 90+, and suddenly have to contend with a bell curve. Not getting a high distinction doesn’t mean you’re not smart. A credit isn’t the worst thing in the world. You might have come first in your subjects at high school, but you don’t have to come first in your subjects at university.

Be nice to yourself. Take care of yourself. You are a person. You are not your marks.

Do you always do your readings? Do you ever procrastinate? (Tell us things to make us average law students feel better about ourselves).

I try and do my readings as often as possible. If there are occasions when you can’t do your readings, that’s fine. But it’s important to know that anything you don’t do now, you’ll have to catch up on before exams. I try to avoid the trap I fell into in my younger years, where I’d be catching up on notes for half the semester’s content the week before exams. Do the readings as you go; do the notes as you go. This is how you minimise exam stress.

When I’m studying, I schedule study breaks into my day. For every 50 minutes of work I give myself a 10 minute break. I use those 10 minute breaks to do all my procrastinating (check facebook, read buzzfeed, make myself a cup of tea). But once the ten minutes are up, I make myself focus on work.

I avoid leaving my assignments to the last minute. I know some people work really well under the pressure of a deadline, but I don’t. Accordingly, I start my assignments early. I schedule time throughout the week to work on the assignment. I try to be as organised as possible, because I know I won’t do a good job if I leave my assignment to the last minute.

How do you stay motivated?

I try to choose subjects I enjoy. I know this is hard in the early years of the degree when you don’t have a great deal of flexibility with electives. However, if possible, I suggest structuring your degree so that you have at least one or two subjects each semester that you find really interesting. Doing your readings is a lot easier if you actually care about what you’re reading.

It’s also really important to have things outside of university to keep you going. Sports, clubs and social activities are all a great distraction from university work. It’s easy to say “I don’t have time to do X”, but the truth is you don’t have time NOT to do it. These are the things that will keep you sane. They will keep you going when you have Admin Law readings a mile high and an Equity exam tomorrow. You need to have something other than university in your life.

Finally, whenever I find things really tough, I think about the light at the end of the tunnel. One day I’m going to be saving the world with my legal super powers! Until then, I just need to get through those Fed Con readings…

Any final words of wisdom?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Law school is hard. It’s okay to ask your friends to help you out if you don’t understand a subject. It’s okay to ask a lecturer for feedback on an assignment if you didn’t do well. If you feel like you need help, there’s nothing wrong with going ahead and asking for it.

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