Transition from non-honours to honours

21 / 10 / 18

Worried about starting third year? Unsure what to expect? Hopefully this will clarify some questions many of our students have.

Undertaking your Law degree was never going to be easy, there was always going to be loads of reading, researching, deadlines, late nights and lots of coffee – we have ALL been there (and survived)

First and Second year

First and second year are tough as there is already so much going on, socially and academically, and you have to adapt to a completely new learning style. Coming straight from school, and moving to a new city, it can be hard to adjust but you do get used to it very quickly. In my first year I felt totally overwhelmed – I was hearing words such as Westlaw, dicta, journal, statutes and I had no idea what all of this meant as these were all new concepts to me. However, as first year went on, it became much clearer. During first and second year, I did apply myself, but would still use the phrase “this is first and second year, it doesn’t matter” or “it doesn’t go towards my degree” WELL, IT DOES MATTER!!!!  First and second year are vital as recruiters do look at your grades and start to ask questions if your grades aren’t great – My advice to anyone reading this, is apply yourself from day 1, treat the course 9-5 even where you do not have class and you will find the transition to honours level a lot easier.  The first two years at university are important as you learn a lot of the basics which you are expected to know by the time you reach third and fourth year. Don’t worry, there’s still time to find your groove if you still unsure what your courses are all about…remember we have all been there)


Third and Fourth year (honours years)

Firstly, DONT WORRY – you’ve got this far and are halfway through your degree – well done! 

I won’t lie, it is hard, and there is a huge step up from first and second year. You are now studying for exams which will have an impact on your degree classification.  Firstly, you get to choose your modules, so you now have the chance to study subjects that you are interested in, which makes a huge difference. Secondly, you have two modules, so you can divide your time more evenly and you have less textbooks to carry about (which for law students is a huge bonus!). For second years reading this, don’t be scared or nervous, just be prepared and aware that there will be a step up from first and second year. It is not the actual substance of the work which is harder, it is the fact that you have less class time and you have to teach yourself a large proportion of your modules. SO, be very disciplined, attend all your seminars and keep up to date with all your work.


My advice for those going into third year –

  • Be prepared – It is hard, there is much more expectation on you with regards to the standard of work and the amount of preparation you have to do for classes. This will ensure you can follow what is going on in class and take notes during each seminar.
  • Use your time effectively – you are only in for four hours a week (two hours for each module) so you do have a lot of free time but in this free time you HAVE to work and prepare for the next seminar/assignment – I treat the course as its 9-5 as you can get a lot of work done in this time and it means you can have evenings and most weekends off
  • Join a club/society – joining a sports club is great and it really helped me in my third year – you cannot spend every day in the library so it’s good to take a break, get some fresh air, do some exercise and not have to think about law – sport also is a great way to relax, de-stress and have a good mindset. Where you feel relaxed the quality of your work will be much higher.
  • DO NOT WORRY – I am sorry if this has made you more scared (it was not my intention) and honestly, third and fourth year are not as bad as it is made out to be. It is crunch time, and it is when you have to step back and remember that if you want to succeed, you may have to give up a few nights out but in the end it will be worth it. Yes, there is more work, and the standard is much higher but by the time you get to third year you ARE ready to start your honours years – you are more clued in to everything law related – judges, court system, journals, how to interpret judgments etc. If you apply yourself and are driven to complete your degree YOU WILL.
  • Use your lecturers – The lecturers at Dundee Law School are great, they want to help, and they want you to do well so USE THEM. Ask them questions, email them if you are worried and they will be able to offer you advice – remember they have also undertaken a law degree, so they know the struggles.
  • Stay positive – believe in yourself because you CAN do it.

Lastly, it is a hard degree, but it will be worth it in the end, so just keep your head up, stay positive and enjoy your time at University!


This blog was written by our Social Media Convener, Lucy Douglas.