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Incoming 1Ls: Some tips before you begin

While it may seem as though the fall is weeks away, it will be here in no time. For those who have been accepted to law school (congratulations) or those who are patiently awaiting a response from their prospective schools (stay patient), it may be worthwhile to take a few hours to think about your upcoming school year. However, before I offer some tips, make sure your summer before law school is relaxing. The best thing an incoming law student can have: a calm and clear head. Nevertheless, the first semester of law school is a whirlwind — it’s OK to be prepared.

Do some research

Once you know where you’re going, do a quick search of the courses, events and organizations that your school offers. Most schools attempt to offer numerous avenues in which students can engage with a particular area of the law. Even if you have no idea where your legal interests lie, you get a sense of your school’s particular inclinations. It is likely that you knew your school’s focus before you applied, but a refresher never hurts. For example, the University of Windsor emphasizes access to justice as well as transnational law (given its proximity to the border). Access to justice permeates Windsor Law’s courses and clubs, giving students unique lessons on how the law can be used as a vehicle for social change.

Get settled in advance

If you have to move to a new city, try to figure out your living situation early. It helps to settle in to your new digs prior to the start of the semester because once it begins it can be a tad chaotic. If your apartment or house is organized and unpacked it will be the perfect environment to unwind and calm down from the school day. Keep in mind that you are not the only one seeking a place to live. If you don’t want to be stuck in a dive, begin the apartment hunt in June. Most landlords, especially those with student tenants, will know if they have any upcoming vacancies.

Have an idea of your timelines

Most schools will release a schedule of important dates and deadlines. As trivial as it may seem, have a sense as to when the semester begins as well as when exam period begins and be sure to record when your tuition is due.

Reach out to upper-year students

I can remember as an incoming 1L the continuous stream of questions that ran through my head. (As an aside, it was confirmed that I was not alone in the fog and, yes, everyone feels like an imposter.) What I wish I had known was how willing upper-year students are to answer any and all questions, no matter how far-fetched or ridiculous they seem to be. From what classes are like to what areas of town to avoid, don’t be afraid to leave no stone unturned. It’s far more helpful and downright efficient to reach out to an upper-year student instead of spinning your wheels on an online forum full of anxious questions and suppositions. You will also have the benefit of a friendly face to welcome you on your first day.

Reach out to faculty

If you have a little more of a sense of your legal interests, do not hesitate to reach out to faculty members in that particular field. Worst-case scenario? They don’t answer. Best-case scenario? They are enthusiastic with the idea of an incoming student who is interested in their work and offer ways for you to get involved.

Be ready to have a great time

Above all, you’re going to have a lot of fun. In between the courses, the assignments, the stress and the studying, there will be time to socialize. Law school is demanding and the pressure is intense. Realizing early on that you are far from alone can be an incredible coping mechanism. Every student shares similar fears and insecurities. Once this is admitted, relax. Find like-minded individuals and go for a meal, go to the movies or just hang out. The memories you make in law school will last a lifetime.