Rachael Purvis is currently studying the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow and supplements her Diploma studies by working at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Here, she offers her top tips on how to maintain your mental wellbeing as a student.
Your legal studies can be a stressful time. Add in applying for opportunities with firms, part-time work and/or volunteering obligations, and a social life, and it is no wonder that many students' mental health is affected.
Lockdown restrictions have certainly exacerbated this and we’re now coming up to another exam season in lockdown. So, I’ve put together some of my own personal tips that I've found, through trial and error, have worked for me in managing my mental health at university. I hope they can be of help to others!
1. Little, but often
I’ve found that the longer I put university work off, the more daunting a task it seems to begin. In the early days of my LLB, I felt I had to complete every tutorial task at once. I’d find this overwhelming and put off doing any work. To prevent this, I now make sure to at least write 100 words per assessment every day.
On the Diploma, we have several assessments to manage at a time and this approach ensures I can stay on top of work and not become overwhelmed. On the LLB, this approach helped me to prevent putting essay and tutorial work off to the last second. By writing a little bit every day, I don’t lose my momentum during any difficult days and proactively prevent any anxiety.
To keep on top of deadlines and any extracurricular activities / work / law firm deadlines, I use Outlook to note deadlines and sync them onto my phone and laptop, as well as setting two-week warnings to remind me of upcoming deadlines. On the Diploma, assessment material is provided two weeks in advance of the deadline. This reminder prompts me to download assessment materials and, as above, write at least 100 words per day. This gives me plenty of time to think about the materials, the marking criteria, etc.
3. Work smart, not hard
I also learned the hard way that you don’t need to know the background of every single case ever mentioned in lectures or textbooks. Whilst it’s sometimes important (and even interesting) to understand the background in cases, for the majority, you are only going to be examined on the impact or legal framework from the case, and applying it to the given facts.
4. Don’t sacrifice your mental health for university work or applications – no exam or law firm is worth it.
Living, studying, and working at the same desk for a year has taught me the importance of this. Your mental health is as important as physical health; if your mental health is suffering, you won’t be able to perform your best.
I hope some of these tips can be of help, but please let your guidance tutor know if things get worse and don’t be afraid to see your doctor and speak to those around you. My messages on LinkedIn are always open!
If your mental wellbeing in relation to your studies has been impacted by the pandemic and you want to share your experiences or hear from others in the same position, come along to the Law Society of Scotland’s roundtable discussion for students on Wednesday, 22 April. Sign up here and have your say.