5 Tips for Visiting Law Schools
- Student Tips
So, you've decided to apply to law school. But before you seal that application envelope, it might be a good idea to visit potential law schools first. Most law schools charge application fees, so a visit to just a few schools might help you narrow your choices. Even if you've already applied, or have been accepted to one (or more!), you'll gain lots of valuable insight by visiting schools. Visiting law schools will take time and can be expensive, but visits are an important step in the application process, and your choice of school will shape your future career. Choose wisely and use these five tips to get the most out of your law-school visits.
1. Prepare well for your visit
Law schools understand that the choice to attend is a big one, and they're used to students wanting tours and visits. Here are a few things you can do to plan the best visit possible:
· Visit the school's website.
Most law schools offer regularly scheduled tours that you can book online. Some schools offer online tours, which could help you narrow your choices. Even if they don't, you can do some research on the school and community.
· Get the most out of your visit
Many schools offer events that are open to prospective students, so check the school's schedule and try to time your visit with one that interests you. You'll get a sense of how the school operates and have an opportunity to meet with current students and faculty, as well as other prospective students.
· Be flexible, but plan wisely
Be as flexible as possible regarding your dates, but if the school doesn't offer pre-planned visits, or their schedule doesn't work with yours contact the school directly and ask to arrange a visit. Consider the timing of your visit. If you visit during a holiday period or the summer, you might miss out on seeing the school in action. On the other hand, the tour may be more relaxed, and staff and students (who aren't of on vacation) might be more accessible.
2. Plan enough time
Be careful. If you're visiting a city or region with several schools, it's tempting to try to cram them all into one or two days. Don't overbook yourself. This is a big life decision, and you need to spend some time at each school to get all the information you need. Most schools recommend 2-3 hours for the tour itself. If you plan to attend a lecture or event, meet with students or professors, or have questions for the admissions faculty, you'll need to plan accordingly.
Recommended reading: How to choose a law school?
3. Visit strategic venues
The tour will likely include law school buildings, but law school is more than classrooms. If you have time, explore the campus on your own. Check out the library and see what kinds of resources they offer. Scope out the student areas – dining halls, notice boards, on-campus housing, recreation centers, and lounges will all play a part in your study experience. In fact, you'll probably spend more time in the library and common areas than you will in the classrooms. Don't forget to note whether the school has labs and clinics where you can gain real-world experience.
4. Sit in on a class
Remember to schedule a class or lecture visit before you arrive! Most schools allow prospective students to sit in on a class, but it's unlikely that you'll be able to 'pop in' unannounced. And if you do sit in on a class, don't try to participate or ask questions. But feel free to take notes – pay attention to how the class structure, attendance, and participation. Use your observations to formulate questions for your meetings with staff and students.
5. Ask good questions
Like class visits, be sure to plan your meetings with faculty and students ahead of time. And prepare good questions.
· If you meet with students, be sure to ask about both studies and student life. Find out which professors are favored and which classes are the most challenging. Ask about the school's atmosphere – are students very competitive? Is there a lot of cooperation? Does the school have good resources for students? Don't be afraid to ask pointed questions – was this school their first choice? Would they choose it again?
· When meeting with professors and instructors, remember that they are busy and keep your questions on topic. Ask about the methods they use and how open they are to working with students. You might consider asking about career prospects for law graduates – do they recommend legal academia?
· You'll probably have a chance to talk with the admissions office. Use the chance to ask questions you have about the application process – portfolios, LSAT scores, etc. Don't be afraid to ask probing questions – what will automatically disqualify an applicant? What makes a really good application?
After you've completed your visits, take some time to process what you've seen and heard. How did you feel at each school? Which school seemed most likely to challenge you? And remember, if you met with individual people, it's always a good idea to send a polite email thanking them for their time. And don't hesitate to ask genuine follow-up questions. It's never too early to start building a network!