The First Year Experience
Why am I here?
What happens if I fail?
How do I do well?
How do I make friends here?
Why does it seem like everyone knows what they’re doing?
…the mind of a first year law student in five questions. Everyone tells you it’ll be hard. We’re warned of the essays, the reading, the unspoken AGLC4. Yet, nothing really prepares you for the year ahead.
From how to trust in your abilities to how to not simply spiral into a panic, I’ll be unpacking the first year experiences every law student remembers fondly…
Imposter syndrome. That nagging voice in your head questioning who let you into this course. The daunting feeling that you’ve made the wrong decision and don’t deserve to be studying law.
It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t know why you’re doing something in the first place. The reality is, no one really knows what they’re doing in the first year. You’re not meant to. Law is a whole new way of learning, thinking and viewing things. As ridiculous as it may sound, being confused and curious is what helps you find your way around this new course. The most important thing is to be patient with yourself. Manoeuvring through law is not as straight-forward as learning was in high school. Remind yourself that it takes time. Every lecture you watch, every tutorial you attend and every footnote you type is you adapting to being a law student.
Starting university seems a lot scarier when you’re doing it on your own. All of a sudden, those people you grew up with and saw five days a week aren’t there. Again, we were all in the same boat. A few of us were lucky enough to have a few familiar faces from high school, but the majority of us walked in alone. Although starting alone seems scary, it really was a blessing in disguise. When everyone is new and confused, these are really the best times to form bonds that can guide you through this turbulent first year.
Introduce yourself to your table in that tutorial, go to that LSS event and connect to that friendly face in your workshop on social media. I can tell you that those friendships you make in your first year are the ones that get you through it. To have people to complain with about that assignment, laugh with about how confused you are and bond with over lunch between classes is what makes your university experience. The daunting first year always seems so much easier when you’re doing it with friends who are in the same boat.
However, don’t put pressure on yourself to make all your friendships in the first few weeks or even first semester. There are so many opportunities to meet people throughout your first year and the whole course, so enjoy the whole process!
Exam experience and assessments
The greatest shock to the system is probably being left on your own for assessments. There’s no longer any teacher holding your hand and walking you through a step-by-step study design. There is no longer a “right way” to write notes and learn content.
I truly could not fathom having to learn to study on my own.
First times are scary. The first multiple choice quiz you do, the first essay you write, the first exam you sit, there is an absolute cluelessness that accompanies them. Again, that’s how it is going to be. But find comfort in the fact that every assessment you do after the first, will most certainly get easier.
Here are some key tips that myself and fellow first year students endorse:
Try constructing an exam script with your notes earlier on, so that you can start practising scenario answers in an exam format
Form study groups with a few classmates to discuss content - collaborating with others through conversation really aids your understanding of the content
Take the time to thoroughly understand the AGLC4 the first time you reference; it’ll be a massive help for your future essays
Overall, the main message through these bits of advice is to be kind to yourself. Remember that it’s okay to feel lost at the start, not form strong friendships immediately or know how to write a legal essay. Making mistakes and getting through your first law experiences is the learning curve that will help you grow into being a law student.
Written by Jess Jiang