Congratulations! You did it. You’ve been accepted to law school. Now that all your hard work has paid off, it’s time to celebrate … tonight anyway. Keep in mind though that when you wake up tomorrow (or perhaps in a couple of days) you’ll still have some important work to do. Fortunately, much of this will only require that you ask some simple questions and do a little legwork. Let’s consider just a few of the basic questions that you’ll need to cover with school representatives:
- When is a good time to visit? And can I sit in on classes?
Okay, I trust that you’ve researched the school, but it’s probably been quite a while. If like most applicants, you haven’t yet visited the school, you should definitely do so now (unless serious financial constraints dictate otherwise). In fact, even if you have visited in the past, it wouldn’t hurt if you were to check out the program one more time before making your final decision and signing on the dotted line. Also, be aware that aside from the standard orientation that all law schools have in the days prior to the start of classes, most programs now also have an “Admitted Students Day,” to help introduce you to your new law school. If your school has such a day, like University of Florida’s Admitted Students Day or University of Chicago’s Admitted Students Weekend, then it would probably make sense if you could arrange a visit during that time period. Keep in mind that while walking the school grounds, sitting in on classes, and talking to students will be at the forefront of your mind, you should also start thinking about other basic needs, particularly housing.
- What types of housing are available, and how can I go about ensuring that I have priority access to the best options?
Granted, you’ll probably be spending a huge portion of your time in the school library (so, be sure to check that out), but you’ll have to sleep sometime. Yes, you will work long, hard hours, but you will also sleep. (I promise.) And, you just might rest a bit easier now if you have an idea of where you’re likely to be sleeping when classes begin.
Note that those of you who will be living with a spouse and, or children, as well as some of you who have disabilities or other special needs may have a bit more legwork to do when it comes to finding the right housing.
For those of you who can’t visit in person, and in fact, even for those who can, be sure to ask …
- Does the school have a website for newly accepted or admitted students?
Increasingly, the answer to this question is yes, and these sites can provide very useful information. For instance, take a look at University of Texas at Austin’s site, though be aware that these types of sites often require special access with a user ID and password.
- Can you forward the contact information of a couple of law school students who can provide guidance for newbies?
Keep in mind that law schools typically have “student ambassadors” who can answer your questions from the perspective of those who have actually lived the experience that you’re about to embark upon. If you don’t receive information about student ambassadors in your acceptance materials, you may find the individuals that you’re looking for on the school’s website. For instance, take a look at all the smiling faces (and email addresses) of USC Gould School of Law’s Student Ambassadors.
Finally, the issue of how you’re going to pay for your legal education should have a high priority among your questions. Of course, if information regarding your financial award has not been provided with your acceptance letter, you need to ask …
- When will I receive my financial aid award?
Keep in mind that you should file your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) well in advance – in fact, you should have filed it by now. Not only does the government need time to process the form, but the school will then have to analyze the information before determining your aid package.
Just as importantly, if you’ve been offered one or more scholarships, it is critical that you ask …
- What are the conditions of this award?
To be clear, you must not only read, but also follow-up with questions about the fine print. Such questions include, but are not limited to …
- What is the minimum GPA that I need in order for this award to be renewed each year?
- What percentage of students lost this award during the past two years?
These are questions that many law school scholarship recipients have not asked in past years, and as was noted by several news reports, including this one in The New York Times, at some schools, quite a few students can lose their awards. By asking questions and being prepared, you will be less likely to be in that number.
Last, but certainly not least, it is imperative that you make sure that you’re aware of all deadlines – including the respective deadlines for you to respond to admissions and send in a non-refundable deposit, which is necessary to secure your seat. This information may have been noted in your acceptance information, but if it was not, be sure to ask about it.
But, as you can see, you’ve still got some important things you’re going to need to look into.
Now that you’ve gotten into law school, it’s not the end of your journey. On the contrary, your journey has only just begun.