Breaking the myth: Excelling academically and the hard work required

Most of us follow a notion that any student who tops academically is all about studying and being a book-worm. But in reality what kind of hard work does it take to excel academically and maintain that position?

in conversation with:

Ayushi Agarwal

She obtained a B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) degree from National Law School of India University, Bangalore in 2018, where she was a gold-medalist.

While at NLSIU, she founded the University’s Feminist Alliance, served as the Editor of Socio-Legal Review as well as Chief Editor of Indian Journal of International Economic Law, and was the Teaching Assistant for the Legal Methods course.

Ayushi also took a keen interest in mooting, and most notably won, the award for the Best Defense Case at the 13th International Criminal Court Moot Court Competition, The Hague in 2017.

She subsequently read for the BCL at Oxford as a Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholar. She also represented Oxford University at the 11th Nelson Mandela Moot Court Competition at Palais Des Nations, Geneva, where her team was declared the overall winners. Ayushi was then selected as a fellow through the Oxford Bonavero Institute of Human Rights Fellowship Program.

She presently teaches at Jindal Global Law School.

Being an all-rounder: What it really requires

Every student has his/her own mantra to success. While it might be true that some students know how to get their way around things, it still takes a lot of initiation, hard work and patience to excel. Academic success is not just about being a book worm especially in the field of aw which requires lots of practical interpretation of laws and likes.

However, it is also true that, initially, after your graduation, your grades do matter. Most of the law schools follow a policy of giving average grades to their students no matter how they perform on a test and this affects the prospects of employment or even securing an admission in a top tier institution for a higher degree.

Addressing all such dilemmas, Ms. Ayushi told us:

1. Productivity and resilience is key

During my law school days, I used to engage in a lot of activities. I participated in moot court competitions almost every year, served as the Editor of Socio-Legal Review, the Chief Editor of Indian Journal of International Economic law, and likes. I was also the Captain of our women’s basketball team.
As far as academics are concerned, I believe it is important to not only be interested in the subject but also to persevere. It’s true that law school academics can get pretty dry at times, in that case, resilience plays a key role. It is also important to keep in mind the benefits that one can derive from having a great class rank, which include better prospects in recruitment as well as higher studies.

2. Tackling the ‘grades’ dilemma

I believe, the recruiters and university committees usually look at a student’s class rank because they understand that different colleges have different marking criteria. However it would be different if even after performing the best in your class your GPA is significantly really low.
For instance, in my BCL class there were 11 Indian students and they belonged to different law schools. I believe, the committee at Oxford shortlisted the best students from each law school and therefore, what matters is how you stand out in your class and therefore, it is a better measure than your GPA during your selection process.

Pursuing a higher degree: BCL from Oxford University

Now as we stated earlier, going for an advanced degree does require a lot of hardwork and a good academic record. However, once a student does secure an admission, it can be an experience of a lifetime. An advanced degree does have a lot of perks but in order to make the most of it, a student is required to undergo extensive work pressure during their time at the institute.

1. Securing an admission and the experience afterwards

One’s academic background is a very crucial factor in the application for the BCL, given how rigorous the course is. Being in the top 5 of your batch ranks will significantly improve the chances of selection.
Another thing which a student should consider before applying is whether the modules that are being offered by the University fall in their area of interest or not.
As far as my own journey is concerned, the year at Oxford reading for the BCL was one of the best years of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed all the modules I took, joined the University’s fencing team, and represented Oxford University at the Nelson Mandela Moot Court competition at the United Nations in Geneva, which our team won.

2. Effect on one’s career opportunities

The effect the BCL can have on one’s career is that it definitely adds value to one’s profile no matter where one wants to work in the future.
Other than that, I would say it depends on the career one wants to pursue after completing it. For instance, if a student wants to settle abroad, then it might help them achieve their goal by interning at certain law firms there and eventually finding a job. It could also improve the prospects of employment within India.
As for me, I wanted to increase my knowledge and gain a specialization in my chosen field, and in that aspect this degree definitely helped me.

Being from an NLU/Non-NLU, it’s effect

Another dilemma that most of the law students face nowadays is the bias in the industry with regard to the name of their law schools. However, how true is this notion that if a student belongs to an NLU they would have a better chance at succeeding? Is there a comparison between the two based on a student’s personal growth and development?

1. Not belonging to an NLU: How worrisome?

NLUs have an advantage by virtue of their alumni base and peer groups, which probably results from the fact that most of the top NLUs were founded much earlier than other Universities and so they have the first mover advantage.
However, nowadays, it has become really competitive for every law student irrespective of their law school. I believe that a student can’t simply rely on which University they’re from. There are students from NLUs who don’t manage to secure the job or LLM they want, just as there are students from non-NLUs who manage to get these opportunities by working harder than their peers in the NLUs.
It’s true that such students have to struggle more because, unfortunately, there are certain biases in the industry and some firms prioritize NLU students over others. But, in the end what matters the most is the ability to work hard and self-confidence.

Choose wisely, think differently, and work passionately

I would urge students to spend some energy on trying to figure out what area of law and what kind of a job best suits their goals and personality. It is importantly to think consciously about these choices because it will ultimately determine their quality of life.
Personally, back in my days, I felt like I was under constant pressure because it always seemed to me that I was simply not doing enough. While it is important to try different things and gain diverse experiences, it is not wise to do things simply for the sake of competing with others.
It is wiser to build a streamlined profile that shows the strengths that will be most valuable in one’s chosen career. Lastly, remember that there is simply no substitute for hard work.

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