At the beginning of each new semester, choosing courses to offer as part of meeting up with Law degree requirements is the norm. As exciting as this should be, it can be frustrating for unguided students. Generally, the Faculty/College of Law provides students with tens of courses with minimum requirements for the award of the degree of law. Of these courses, a good number are core courses while others are elective courses. The core courses are compulsory for the award of the degree and are fixed by the Faculty while elective courses are not compulsory and are chosen by students from a number of optional subjects.
Basically, an elective law course is designed to increase your knowledge of the law and to give you a broader view of the workings of the law in the society. Therefore, the courses are designed to ensure that students are not restricted to the general principles or the most popular branches of the law. Taking into cognizance the fast-paced advancements in the world at large and invariably the legal profession, the curriculum of many law faculties gets revised every now and then to equip future lawyers with information reasonably sufficient for them to tackle contemporary issues. These courses are most times classed as electives.
Before you choose that “easy A” course or explore that course of interest, I have highlighted a number of factors that should guide you in your quest for academic excellence.
1. Your interests and values
In order to succeed in anything including in academics, interest is a must. It is good you understand what aspect of law you are passionate about. Just an interest will do, as you may not compulsorily have defined your career path yet. Before each semester begins, conduct a background study into the courses available for selection during the semester. A good way is to study the prospectus given by your faculty; consider the topics constituting each elective course to see which aligns with your goals or interest. Look up the area of law on the internet and read contributions of notable scholars in that field. Attend the introductory classes in that course. You should then be able to form an opinion on whether you would take the course or not.
2. Previous performances in related courses
Although this would not apply to freshmen, it is a good pointer for returning students. Your performance in the subjects you enrolled in previous semesters gives you a clue as to your areas of strength. Your results in each course area are intelligent indicators for making course selections subsequently. For example, if you have scored ‘A’ grades in property law courses previously and have not performed too well in commercial law courses, it will be smarter to select the bulk of courses from property law as your electives.
3. Weight of each course and the general workload
It is important to note that all courses have differing workloads. It might be the case that all courses – core and electives – carry an equal number of units. However, it is an undeniable fact that no two courses pose the same challenges. This is a critical factor as you would not want to be overwhelmed by too many academic activities that you don’t have time to socialise and engage in beneficial extra-curricular activities. Therefore, your selection should be guided by the demands of the elective course vis-à-vis the strength of the core courses you must take.
4. Involvement in extra-curricular activities
Engagement in extra-curricular activities, membership of student associations and societies and even politics influences your freedom to choose electives. Based on the degree requirements in your institution, you might be required to take a minimum of one or two electives and a maximum of three or more electives every semester. If you are involved in extracurricular activities, (and you should be), avoid conflicts by sticking to the minimum requirements, unless you are certain that you would strive to balance your activities with your academics effectively.
5. Advice from your course advisor
This would be particularly useful for students who have a working relationship with their course advisors. Your course advisor is there to monitor your academic progress and render all necessary assistance for the attainment of your academic goals. Your course advisor will usually have a robust knowledge of the degree requirements and what each course entails. He/she might ask questions relating to the points highlighted above and advise you accordingly. It is advised you maintain a working relationship with your advisor and get his/her advice before you register any course for the semester.
6. Do you really need that extra course?
This would apply more to students in their penultimate or final years in the university. A little arithmetic would come in handy here. Would you have met the minimum degree requirements (measured in terms of course units) after adding up all the courses you have done and any outstanding core course? If that is the case, you might not need an elective course except of course to feed your interests or to boost your GPA.
I cannot close without stressing the need to avoid fear while choosing your courses. How older students fared previously in the course is not a factor that you should consider before choosing electives. Faith in yourself and in your abilities and a personal resolve to get the best grades should be your motivation and not what an older student whom you probably hold in high esteem told you about the course(s). Be selective in accepting and following the advice given by older students, especially unsolicited advice.
With all that has been said, it’s imperative to mention certain non-negotiables. Attendance at classes and paying rapt attention during classes (the latter being more important) are very crucial to getting desired grades. Also, working hard and smart is very important and cannot be overstressed.
In conclusion, whilst I understand that no student can take all the elective courses available, always ensure that you at least have a working knowledge of the other courses, as such knowledge can come in handy later on. In other words, be versatile and well-rounded!
Grace Gureje is a First Class graduate of the prestigious University of Lagos where she obtained her LL.B in 2016. She is currently a student of the Nigerian Law School. She aims to be a notable corporate and environmental lawyer and believes strongly in the Nigerian dream. She loves singing, reading, and writing.