7 Tips for a Successful Law School Visit
For most law schools, April 15th is the assigned date for matriculating law students to fork over their first deposit. Still unsure of where I was going to end up, I hopped on a bus last weekend and visited each of the schools I was considering. For anyone who’s still on the fence about which law school is right, a visit, albeit last minute, is definitely worth the time, money, and hours of discomfort on a discount bus.
Why are law school visits worth the trip?
When I showed up at the admissions office of the first law school on my list, I was greeted by a friendly second year law student. She was overjoyed – over the past few months she had arrived to give tours and today was the first day any prospective students had actually shown up. Not a great sign, I thought. Barely able to contain her excitement, the perky tour guide led us out of the double doors and towards our first stop.
I should preface any advice I give with this: I’ve never been a big fan of tours in general, whether it’s law school or college. While I do think they have their value, I’m probably not going to pick a school based on the look of their classrooms or administrative offices. That being said, here are 7 tips for when you’re strolling through the halls of what could be your future alma mater.
1. Don’t expect to be blown away by a law school’s facilities or campus. That’s not to say law schools are decrepit – most are very nice. But don’t go in with the expectation of a beautiful sprawling campus with a quad and a football field. Compared to the majority of college campuses, law schools are tiny. More often than not, the entire school will be made up of about 4-5 buildings. If you’re like me and aren’t very fond of tours, fear not. Due to the small size of both the schools themselves and the actual tour groups, tours usually don’t last more than a half hour. Most likely, you’re not going to step foot on a law school’s campus and get that “this is the place I need to be” feeling.
2. Plan your visit during an “Accepted Students Day.” Not so much for the speeches by faculty and staff, but for the opportunity to talk with current students. Also, during most ASDs, schools will offer admitted students the opportunity to sit in on a live class. While class sit-ins tend to be pretty standard across the board, this experience will at the very least give you a feel for a real law school class.
3. Go for a stroll. Approach some law students around campus – you’ll be able to recognize them by the 4-inch thick red and black books they’re buried in. Sure, it’s awkward. But talking to actual students outside of an official school function can give you a genuine sense of law school life. And although some will act like you don’t exist, most are at least willing to talk to you for a few minutes.
4. Make an appointment to speak to someone in the admissions office and financial aid office. Some schools consolidate these departments into one office, others don’t. If appointments aren’t available, at least stop in and introduce yourself. From my own personal experience, the people working in these offices are very friendly. They recognize that law school is an investment – a big one – and more often than not they’re willing to speak with you. When you do introduce yourself, be charming. After all, these are the people who have a say in the allocation of funds, whether it be merit money or financial aid. First impressions are always important, and a face-to-face conversation with someone can, at the very least, give a face – hopefully a smiling one – to your application.
5. If you received a scholarship to law school, congrats – it’s not an easy thing to do. Be proud of your scholarship, but don’t simply accept a school’s initial offer. You probably just raised your eyebrows, and that’s understandable. When I first learned about negotiating scholarships, I was apprehensive too. But after sending out some emails, I’m convinced that it really does work. If a school has awarded you a scholarship, it’s clear they’re under the impression that you’d be a valuable addition to their institution. And they’re right – believing that you’re in demand is the first step. The second step is grabbing your laptop and launching your email.
6. Next, ask for more money – respectfully, of course. If you’re unsure of how to do this, do a quick Google search. You’ll find information, and even some sample letters, that can guide you through the process. If you’ve received scholarships from other schools besides the one you’re writing to, mention that. Law schools take offers from other schools, especially peer schools, very seriously. After all, if you choose School A over School B, School B is losing out on some serious cash. It’s best, if possible, to send out these emails before you visit schools in person. That way, the admissions office will already be familiar with your situation. Additionally, following up an email with an in-person visit shows the school you’re serious about attending. In the end, my best advice would be to leave your pride at the door when dealing with admissions or financial aid. Don’t be afraid to grovel. I’m not saying you have to get down on your knees and beg for more money, but I’ve learned firsthand that being politely persistent can go a long way.
7. Book a hotel room near the law school you’re visiting. If you’re like me and are doing visits last minute, this might not be possible. But if the option is there, stay in a hotel and experience the nightlife of the surrounding town or city, wherever it may be. After all, everyone needs a break from the library at some point.
Matt DiCenso (@mdicenso24)