VC/TC Application Chances with first year grades

Discussion in 'Applications Discussion' started by Red, Sep 5, 2019.

  1. Red

    Red New Member

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    My personal situation is probably very different from the vast majority of applicants, but I would appreciate any insights as to my prospects of securing a vac scheme and/or TC.

    I study Law at University College London (UCL), after achieving very good GCSE and A Level grades. I achieved the highest marks in my home country for two out of my three subjects. However, my first year results were dismal, to say the very least. I initially struggled to keep up with the rigours of the course, and I suffer pure-O OCD and GAD. Whatever the cause was, I ended up failing my Contract Law module, which was probably the worst outcome for someone interested in commercial law. I re-sat and passed but my official mark is capped at 40%, so a bare pass. My performance in my other modules wasn't great either, with 2:2s and low 2:1s.

    I was determined to turn things around and I really worked hard this year, alongside getting proper medication and counseling support. I've ended up with a mid-2:1 average of 64% for second-year, including a 70% in EU Law. I know that for most law students such results come naturally, but after my first year, I am quite proud of how far I've progressed. I've been a Committee member on four different societies and I've taken up a part-time retail job. In terms of legal experience, I've done four internships at prestigious international law firms based in my home country; I've attended first-year insight schemes and campus Careers events, and I actively volunteer as a caseworker at a legal clinic. I'm also bilingual and have advanced proficiency in two more languages.

    In short, do I still have any chance for even getting a vacation scheme? Firms keep on going on about how they're willing to take extenuating circumstances into account, but realistically, even if I write the best app I can; I have relevant ECs and good A-Levels/good second year grades (from a very reputed/competitive uni), does my first-year pull me back? My degree is awarded based only on second and third year performance so I can still achieve a 2:1 overall, but are firms going to reject me instantly because of Contract/an average of 2:2 in first year?

    Would really appreciate any advice/support because I've been getting very anxious about my future. I do want to qualify as a solicitor in a commercial firm, and I feel like I've screwed up years of hard work and dedication because of one bad examination.
  2. Max Knowles

    Max Knowles Star Member
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    I have just finished my first year and I'm in a similar position to you when it comes to my first year grades, and my overall academic record- especially when it comes to contract law. I've received a lot of advice in respect of my first year grades (including from Jaysen and from the former president of my own university's Law Society), so I thought it'd be helpful to pass this advice on. Out of simple curiosity, what firms are you considering applying for? Have you applied for any vacation schemes this year?

    The straight-forward answer is no. Your desired firms won't reject you instantly because of your first year grades. At the very worst, they'll want you to explain at interview why your first year grades (including contract) stand out as anomaly. You've already got a solid explanation for this (and it's pretty similar to my own reasons for getting disappointing marks in first year!), and you've taken clear steps to improve on your first year grades. Your second year grades (paired with your GCSEs and A Levels) will convince firms that your first year was an anomaly, provided that you keep up the momentum in third year. 64% average in second year is an excellent position to be in, and you've got a first on your record. Your grades demonstrate that you're on track for a good 2.1 and that's what firms want to see. Stay focused on your grades in 3rd year and keep up your extra-curricular activities.

    In my opinion, you are in a pretty good starting position to get on vacation schemes next year. Make sure that you draw out and analyse all the transferable skills that you've picked up during your extracurricular activities, and link them back to the firms you're applying for and how those skills would make you a good trainee. Tailor your applications to your chosen firms as much as possible, and keep up your commercial awareness. I'd also draw on your insight schemes/open days where relevant. I know this is all obvious, but you'll want to make your written application as strong as possible. TCLA has been a life-saver for me, and I've recently upgraded to Premium- it's definitely worth considering the investment. Alternatively, websites such as Lex100 and Chambers Student have some really detailed information about each firm. If I remember correctly, TCLA and Bright Network both provide regular commercial news updates to your email.

    I wouldn't just limit yourself to vacation schemes either- it's definitely worth considering applying directly for training contracts.

    I hope this is somewhat helpful!
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  3. skshq

    skshq New Member

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    My background is very similar - I'm foreign, I was always a high achiever in my home country, bilingual etc. My first year grades were terrible, I failed Criminal Law module and my Contract result was well below 50%. In the second year of my studies my average peaked at 68%, then in the third year the first term was a mix of ups and downs (success in some externally recognised competition and suffering from GAD, trying to keep up with all stuff at uni - luckily, not all the courses in the third year here count towards final degree classification). All of that working up to 30 hours a week in order to cover my living costs. I don't think, however, that this was the cause of my poor performance. I would rather say that it was due to the general difficulties with transition to a different educational system, I didn't really know what was expected of me and that sometimes it's more important how you present your knowledge than what you actually know.

    Now I'm in the fourth year of my degree (I study in Scotland), I'm hoping for a high 2.1, maybe even a first. I secured one vacation scheme with a national firm, no one had ever asked me about my poor performance in the first year even though I always mention it in 'extenuating circumstances' section. I had a TC assessment centre with an international firm last week (still waiting for the results) and again, no one asked me about my poor initial performance at the uni, there's more to one's background and capabilities than just grades, cheer up! I can see that you have lots of extra-curricular experience, you should definitely build your applications around that!

    P.S. Being bilingual is an important asset and you can use it not only to impress recruiters, but also to find a better paying and more interesting part-time job - linguistics pays better than anybody in the retail/hospitality sector, believe me;)

    A friend of mine had almost failed her contract module (a bare pass), she graduated with a 1st and just started a paralegal job with a Silver Circle firm, 1 grade cannot put your entire career in jeopardy!

    Perhaps there are some additional contract law modules you could take to show recruiters that you've made a progress in that field since the initial failure?
    #3 skshq, Sep 23, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
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