Spring is an exciting time for law school applicants. Admissions results have been trickling in over the winter and, by now you have probably heard back from most of the schools on your list: either acceptance, rejection, or waitlist. For the schools who admitted you, the tables have turned: they are now trying to impress you and convince you to choose them over other schools. As part of this, during March and April most law schools open their doors to accepted students, providing the chance to meet professors and current students, attend classes, and tour the campus.
While you’re probably exhausted from the application process, you still have a big decision to make, so don’t skip out on this final leg! Admitted student days are not only a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate your accomplishments, but they also allow you gather more information and add more data points in order to make your final decision. It’s important to keep in mind that schools are going to be putting their best foot forward, but you can still learn a lot about a school’s values, its social and academic culture, and its location. Admitted student days are often packed chock-full with events from morning to night, so it’s a good idea to make a plan coming in about how to make the most of this opportunity.
Sit in on a class
If the school you’re visiting gives you the chance to sit in on a class, definitely take it (and try to pick a class you’re actually interested in)! Seeing how courses are taught and how students behave in class can tell you a lot. Are students collegial with each other, or more combative? Are students engaged in class? How does the professor interact with the students? Do you feel you could learn well in this environment? It’s true that a class is only one data point, and your experience will be somewhat dependent on the specific course and professor. But you’ll be spending the majority of your time in law school sitting in class, so getting an inside peek at what that looks like at different schools is a good idea.
Go to more informal, student-planned events
The official programming sessions, like speeches, panels, and campus tours, can definitely be helpful. But note these will also be heavily skewed toward the positive, and the current students who choose to participate are likely self-selecting as those who have had a good experience. Some of the events where I felt I got the most honest answers and inside information were the less official events, like those hosted by student organizations. Unlike the admissions office, these students really have no stake in which school you choose, so they tend to be more candid and provide a more well-rounded perspective on a school’s positives and negatives, including the nitty-gritty aspects that official events often gloss over. A student at one of these events, after hearing about my specific situation, actually recommended I choose one of my other options! These students can also provide insight into what made them pick the school they’re at, and whether they feel like those reasons still hold true. Another option to get a more honest perspective is to see if any friends or family know a current student you can meet up during your visit who can give you an unvarnished view of what life at the school is like.
Walk around campus and the surrounding area
The place you choose is going to be your home for at least the next three years, so it’s also important that you like a school’s location and can see yourself having a life there. Be sure to take some time to wander around campus and the surrounding area. Admitted student days are fun and fast-paced, but wherever you end up, you’ll also be doing mundane things like walking to class and going to the grocery store. So try to break off from the pack for a bit to explore on your own, both on campus and off. Grab a cup of coffee at the campus café, walk in the park nearby—try to get a sense of the place as a whole, and see if you can picture yourself living there.
Admitted student days can be information overload – meeting fellow admitted students and current students, getting whisked around campus, listening to faculty tell you how great the school is and all the reasons you should come. Even if it means skipping out on an event or two, make sure to build time into your schedule to take breaks! Breaks are a time to take a breath and look inward. Not only will taking breaks keep you from burning out after day one, but it’s also during those quiet moments that you will have time to process the massive influx of information you’ve experienced, and reflect on how you feel.
Ultimately, admitted students days are a tool you can and should use to make an informed decision about where to attend law school. While no school is perfect, finding a good fit for your personality, goals, and values will help you thrive and do your best.
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