What to Do During Your Law School Visit

August 17th, 2012 No comments

As we start a new school year, some of you may be scheduling campus visits as you apply.  Here’s a few suggestions to make the most out of a visit.

  • Do your homework first

I understand that some people prefer talking to someone rather than doing research.  But you give off a much better impression toAdmissions representatives if you visit a law school knowing the basics.  Research is a major aspect of law school after all, show that you are already savvy with it.  Take a look at Widener Law’s website before you stop by.  All of our application requirements and procedures are listed there.  Create an account through our portal and see what the process looks like.  Also, visit lsac.org for information about the LSAT and creating a Credential Assembly Service (CAS) report.  These are the basic application procedures.

  •  You interview us, not the other way around

Widener Law does not interview applicants so do not consider a visit as an interview for Admission.  No, a campus visit will not sway the Committee’s decision.  We will gladly help improve your application but any requests for reconsideration or clarification should be submitted in writing (email or letter).

On the other hand, this is your opportunity to gauge whether Widener Law is a good fit for you.  Make a list of questions that you feel are important and ask them during your visit.  If anything is unclear, ask again!  We are here to give you a full picture of our programs and atmosphere.   About.com has a good list of questions to ask, but ask anything you want!  If your tour guide can’t answer a questions, then someone else probably can.  Feel free to request another contact for further information.

  •  When should you visit?

Widener Law welcomes visitors any time of the year.  But I usually suggest waiting until you receive a decision.  I recommend applying to a wide variety of law schools (if you can afford it).  After receiving piles of acceptances (hopefully), narrow down your most likely choices.  Then visit those schools.

  • Meet students, faculty, staff, etc.

Visit a class, request to meet a student, stop by our cafeteria (Crown Court) and stroll through the library on your own.  Make sure to meet as many people as you can to get an accurate picture of student life.  We regularly schedule class visits and have an active Student Ambassador group to answer your questions.  US News offers a great suggestion:

“During your visit, try not to let the awe-inspiring (or underwhelming) facilities distract you; stay focused on what really matters. While a grandiose library may be impressive, pay closer attention to how happy and collaborative the students are and how involved they are in the school and in extracurricular activities. Is there a sense of community, both within the law school and within the broader university?”

  • Don’t rush to judgement

Just as when you visited colleges (if you didn’t then, you should visit law schools now), don’t rush to judgement.  I was highly disillusioned with my college visit.  It was a dreary, rainy day.  The campus was enormous and overwhelming.  The food was barely edible.  The location was not exactly “happening”.  And I had trouble really seeing myself there.  Despite the visit, they had great programs and a good price so I chose that school anyway.  I had some of the best years of my life there and I would choose that school again – I’m glad I didn’t rush to judgement!  Sometimes visits don’t give an accurate picture of three or four years worth of education.  Weigh your options.  We all have bad days, classes are not always lively and interesting, and rainy days happen.  Remember what’s important and take visits into account along with the bigger picture.

  • Now you’re ready to stop by!  

I hope you can all take a look at both the Harrisburg and Delaware campuses.  They both offer more than just a building, it’s an entire community.  For the full experience, call 717-541-3903 to visit the Harrisburg campus or 302-477-2100 to visit the Delaware campus or email lawadmissions@widener.edu.  Further details are available on our website.

What do you think?  What additional advice can you offer?  Comment below!

Advice from a 3L to Incoming Law Students

August 8th, 2012 No comments

Incoming students and applicants alike wonder what the law school experience is all about. Although curiosity is normal and even helpful, there are a few that go above and beyond to prepare for law school. Most of you aspiring lawyers students already have good testing, studying, reading and writing skills. So keep up your good habits, prioritize your time and focus on the present moment. The rest will come in time so don’t stress before you need to. Take time to do the best you can with what you have. Tom Trettel, third year Student Ambassador, offers the following advice for new students:
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Tom Trettel, 3L

As it gets closer to time to start law school, I (as a 3L) have a few words of advice. As always, take what you find helpful and leave the rest.
1) Breathe.
2) It will all fall into place and in a year you will wonder, “Was I really stressed about That?”
3) Enjoy the next couple of weeks. Hang out with friends and family. Let them know that the next few months will probably be filled with school and little else.
4) Know that having the right kind of computer, highlighter, or dictionary is really not very important. You just need pen, paper, and yourself. (And you can borrow the pen and paper.)
5) Put in the time, do the work and you will be fine. Really. We have all been through it. We survived and so will you.
6) Do not hesitate to ask questions of people who have been through it. We really are offering to help.
7) See #1.

Work, Life and Law School: How Do You Balance It All?

July 11th, 2012 No comments

Troy Riddle, Multicultural Affairs Officer

Working full-time and attending law school can be a scary notion.  However,  Troy Riddle, Widener Law’s Multicultural Affairs Officer, is living proof that it can be done.  Mr. Riddle is an alum of Widener Law’s Extended  (part-time)  Division, his entry below describes his experience and tips that helped him through.

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Law school is challenging for a student of any age or academic pedigree, but I believe it is exponentially more challenging for students trying to balance a full-time job and/or family. The sense of accomplishment one feels, however, when the four year’s are over is euphoric.

As an Extended Division student, I was employed full-time as a middle manager in the healthcare industry, managing a staff of more than forty. The nice thing about my work situation, however, was that my boss and the staff knew I was in law school, and provided a lot of support and encouragement to me. This support system proved invaluable to me. Especially on those days where I hadn’t completed all of my assigned readings and needed to steal a few extra minutes at lunch time to try and cover the material before making the drive from Philadelphia to Delaware.

Four years later, it was all over, and to be quite honest, I was a little sad. I actually enjoyed law school. The rigors of legal education challenged me in ways that I didn’t know I could be. I learned a lot…not just about the law and how to craft ingenious arguments, but about life and how the world really works and how the law influences it. Because law touches virtually every aspect of human existence, it’s almost impossible to leave law school without having at least one “light bulb” moment regarding something you previously thought mundane or ordinary.
There are many ways to approach law school if trying to balance it with work and/or family.

Here are a few tips/advice I’d like to share with you:
• Don’t make any life-changing moves or decisions.
• Know that at times you’ll have more reading than humanly possible to complete.
• Know that the people you always see in the library aren’t necessarily getting the top grades.
• Understand that your family and friends won’t understand the demands being place upon you.
• Talk to your professors when you don’t understand a concept/case covered in class.
• Take as many practice exams as you can and get feedback.
• Take time for you (both mentally and physically); exercise, spend time with the family.
• Take at least one day during the week for a reprieve. (I made Friday my “me day.”)
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. (It doesn’t make you a poor law student.)

Much success to you as you embark upon what I think is the most transformative education one can obtain!

Thank you, Mr. Riddle, for sharing your experience!  If you have further questions about the part-time program please feel free to email the Admissions office at lawadmissions@widener.edu.

What to do when you don’t get in.

May 15th, 2012 No comments

Law school admission is a tough battle.  For some, classes and tests come easy and law schools welcome students with these natural academic skills.  Others work hard to reach their dreams and simply need the opportunity to show their work ethic in a legal setting.  For these aspiring lawyers, getting into law school can be a greater challenge.  If your GPA is less than stellar and your standardized test taking skills need some work, then consider these steps to improve your chances:

  • Prepare for the LSAT.  Take as many practice tests as you can and time yourself in the process!  I frequently meet applicants who study for the LSAT but never timed themselves.  Guess what?  They felt rushed and pressured when they actually took the test.  Don’t be one of these applicants; take a prep class if you feel it’s appropriate.  In addition, search online, contact your pre-law advisor or career development center or ask local colleges if they offer weekend prep courses.  Yes, they are expensive but so is law school.  In the end you might save more money with a scholarship if you score well on the LSAT.  Widener Law offer mock LSAT administration every year.  We invite prospective students to take the LSAT under simulated testing center standards.  This is free and typically offered one week before the actual test.

 

  • Ignore the naysayers.  There’s a lot of gripe about law school out there.  First, yes, it is important to know that you definitely want to pursue law as a career.  Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into (this is a topic for another blog).  If you know it, you can do it.  I believe there is a right law school for almost everyone.  Do your research and find out when law schools begin accepting applications.  Widener Law has a fairly open application season.  We begin accepting application in late August and continue accepting applications through May 15.  However, we continue accepting applications through the summer if space is available.  So if you didn’t get in early, try for different options.  Sometimes schools you never considered are a diamond in the rough, check out JD programs for what they offer rather than just what you heard.

 

  • Contact the Admissions office to ask about your file.  If you were not successful this time around, we can help improve your chances next time around.  Remember that the LSAT and GPA are important criteria for admission.  The Admissions Committee generally looks for applicants close to the incoming class median.  Widener Law’s medians are typically around a 151 LSAT and above a 3.0 GPA.  However, every applicant is review holistically and your personal statement, letters of recommendation, work experience and additional accolades can sway the committee’s decision.

Still not sure where to go from here?  I’d be happy to help, feel free to email me at asdelpuerto@mail.widener.edu.

Meet Jason Ploppert – Rising 3L

April 27th, 2012 No comments

Jason Ploppert, Widener Law Student

My name is Jason Ploppert, and I am going into my third year of law school at Widener.  I am Penn State alumnus, where I majored in Crime, Law, and Justice.  Since coming to Widener I have become an active member of the Moe Levine Trial Advocacy Honors Society and the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law.

As an incoming 1L my biggest fear was the immense amount of reading, and the inherent competitive nature of law school.  Your first year in law school is unlike any other experience you have had in your life.  The pressure you face your first year is palpable, however, the professors and students at Widener make first year a much less harrowing task.  Professors and other students are more than willing to lend a helping hand, and unlike other schools there is less of the typical “me-first” mentality.  In my first year I had some of the best teachers I have had in my entire life.  My civil procedure professor, Patrick Johnston, was able to take a subject that many consider the hardest in law school and make it much less convoluted, while adding in a great deal of humor.  Another personal favorite of mine, Leslie Johnson, makes students feel so comfortable by being so approachable and teaches in a way that could make the most complex subject seem like third grade math.

At the end of the day law school is what you make out of it, in my two years here I have probably learned more than I did in the other 23 years of my life combined.  If you come here willing to put in the work, there is no limit to what you can accomplish.

Thanks for your thoughts Jason!  Learn more about him on our Student Ambassadors Page.

How to Prepare for Law School

March 30th, 2012 No comments

So you’ve decided to attend law school.  Good choice!  Maybe you were a Pre-Law major interning at a law office, or maybe you studied Biology and only recently decided to follow a legal career.  Maybe you’re 21 or maybe you’re 55.  No matter what your background, law school is a completely different ball game from your past education and experiences.  We all begin law school with a blank slate.  So, how do you prepare?

First, relax.  This is your break before diving into cases and hundreds of pages to analyze.  Try to avoid burn out before you even begin.  Catch up with friends and family, read novels that you find interesting, keep up with the news and current events.  Take a vacation if you can!

Next, consider keeping your mind active with a few classes or books.  They don’t need to be intense, just a way to keep keen for school.  Widener Law offers a summer Paralegal Certificate program that introduces legal research, legal writing and mechanics of the litigation process.  If you feel that extra courses can help you, this is a great head start.

Finally, What else do you think helps prepare for law school?  Do you think internships are useful?  Taking a reading or writing course?  Seeking advice from friends and family?  Interviewing a person in the field?  Share your thoughts!

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Should You Transfer?

February 18th, 2012 No comments

Students sometimes struggle through their first semester of law school or college.  However, if you find yourself frustrated with the environment or resources offered at your school then consider other options.  Transferring can stir up a lot of anxiety.  Traci Cosby, third year law student, was unsure about her decision to transfer but ultimately found a great fit at Widener Law.  See her story on YouTube:  Traci Cosby Talks About Transferring to Widener Law.

Learning as a Law Student

It’s interesting to look back at when I just started and see how far I’ve come in such a short period of time. The first time I briefed a case in law school, I spent about 3 hours trying to wrangle some sort of meaning from it. I got most of it wrong. The second time it took about an hour, but I still got most of it wrong. The work load has substantially increased this year. In my first semester, most professors gave us 5 to 10 pages of homework per class. This doesn’t sound like much, but it is when each page takes 15 to 20 minutes just to get a basic understanding. By second semester, professors had moved up to giving 10, 20, or even 25 pages of reading per class. This tracked well with my ability to comprehend, and before I knew it, I was actually understanding cases and concepts without having to reread it 10 times.

This year, my work load has dramatically increased, but so has my comprehension. I can still remember posting on Facebook, “My Real Estate professor wants me to read 125 pages by Thursday. I may have made a mistake.” Well, I did the work and survived. I even thrived.

It is now about a month into the Spring semester of my second year, just past the halfway point in my law school career. I am taking 6 classes for a total of 16 credits. The pressures of first year have been replaced with this year’s tsunami of work and the Bar Exam looming in the not too distant future. As long as I keep swimming, I just might become a lawyer.

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Pre Law Advisors, Alumni and Professors Offer Valuable Advice

November 17th, 2011 2 comments

PRELAWADVISOROn November 11, 2011, Widener Law invited Pre-Law Advisors from regional colleges and universities to visit the Harrisburg campus and discuss recent trends in law school admission and education.  Topics included the worth of law school, alumni occupations, and advice to offer undergraduates.  Since this blog serves prospective students, I’ll focus on the information most pertinent to you.  And, since there was a wealth of information, this post is long but worthwhile!

First, Professor Ben Barros proficiently addressed the controversy over law school tuition, debt and salary statistics.  If you graduate from law school, you will likely leave with a great diploma and a debt around $90K-$100K, unless you have alternate means like a scholarship or sponsor.  Yes, that’s daunting.  But recall that you have decades to pay off your debt and initial salaries increase within a few years.  Consider the investment you are making, this is your life and you will very likely find a job within law that will cover your debt load.  Dean Linda Ammons reminded us that professional schools in general require a hefty investment, take a look at the tuition rates for medical programs (how about dentistry?).

But don’t take my word for it, take a look at statistics.  The website Law School Transparency uses American Bar Association (ABA) data to formulate reports about salaries, job characteristics, credential requirements and geographies.  Professor Barros encourages everyone to consider the wide range of salary data and look at the whole picture.  What is the cost of living within the region?  Where do graduates obtain jobs?  Typically, law schools are regional.  Plan to practice where you study, that’s where you network, secure internships and learn the law.  It makes sense to place location high on your list of criteria that determine your choice of schools.

The following session showcased alumni addressing their experiences at Widener Law and finding employment.  Once again, networking was a general theme since most, if not all, of the graduates secured a job through friends, colleagues and mentors.  LeaNora Ruffin, Assistant Dean for Career Development, added that Widener offers a mentoring program between alumni and students to learn more about important skills and network into the profession.  She also addressed the difference between J.D. preferred and J.D. required jobs.   J.D. preferred positions tend to require the skills developed in law school, such as leadership and writing.  The jobs, such as lobbyists and executives, associate with the law but are not directly involved in proceedings.

In regards to undergraduate preparation, the panel stressed the importance of writing persuasively. English was an excellent choice of major for several panelists.  Specifically, they mentioned rhetoric and persuasive writing classes as more beneficial than creative writing.  Additionally, public speaking classes can help define the skills necessary to support and argue a legal position.

During the question and answer session, Pre-Law Advisors asked what characteristics are necessary to succeed in law school.  Professor Ben Barros and Vice Dean Robyn Meadows stressed the importance of focus and dedication.  Too often they see students in class wasting time on facebook or attending because it is expected by Mom and Dad.  You should attend law school because it is your dream and passion.  If you don’t like what you do, it becomes obvious in time.  With dedication, most students succeed.  Widener Law professors feel it is their job to train future attorneys and, while a few students are simply not capable of “thinking like a lawyer”, the majority do succeed if they truly desire.

Additionally, when considering scholarships students should ask how many scholarship recipients retain their award.  At Widener Law, the vast majority keep their scholarship since the Admissions office strives to award funds only to those most likely to show extraordinary performance in their first year of law school as illustrated through the LSAT and undergraduate GPA.

Overall, professors, advisors, administrators and graduates encourage incoming students to really consider their professional skills.  Professors are transitioning into practical, versus doctrinal, teaching to develop students into professional attorneys who do not need significant orientation upon entering their first job.  For this reason, they expect students to seek opportunities as they arise.  Don’t wait for a test to find out you don’t understand the material, ask questions often.  As an attorney, you will be expected to dig for information.  That is only achieved by asking questions.  So start now, what is your goal?  How do you get there?  What are the details involved?  Who can guide you?  What questions can you ask them?

As always, I’m a resource to you if law school admission is your goal!

Highlander, The Karate Kid and law school

karatekidSo, what do Highlander, The Karate Kid and law school have in common?  They all highlight the importance of balance.

As I sit here, at home in my study, I decided that I had better write something for my blog before something else takes priority.  I have been thinking about this for weeks, but just haven’t found the time.  There was always something else that needed to get done first.  This is why I think balance is so important for us as law students.  It seems as if we are going, going, going all the time, with barely a minute to catch our collective breath.  Studying, meetings, family, sleep – if we spend time on one, then there never seems to be enough time to spend on the others.

This semester, I started by biting off more than I could chew.  I took my role as Student Ambassador for the Admissions Office to heart and spent a lot of time talking to new students in order to help them with the transition into law school.  Although I did this willingly and very much enjoyed it, it ate up more of my time than I expected.  I met with students individually and in groups, and I tried to give helpful advice on Facebook.  I also agreed to write this blog, figuring that a few paragraphs every once in a while would be no problem. (Ha!)

As Co-Chair of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society, I spent a considerable amount of time prepping for our Fall Negotiation Competition.  Thanks to the dedication of the other executive board members, it was a stunning success.  We had a record number of students compete and a record number of students inducted into the society.  Again, although I am very pleased with the outcome, time was taken away from other important areas.

highlanderThere are many other non-class related, non-family related drains on my time as a law student.  I am a 2L (second year) Class Representative to the Widener Student Bar Association.  This brings its own set of obligations.  I am also an active member of Phi Alpha Delta, the largest student organization on campus.  Student organizations at Widener Law put on many interesting and informative events and I try to attend as many as I can.  Last week LALSA hosted a fantastic panel discussion on The Dream Act and its implications.  Next week PAD will put on an unprecedented mock trial featuring the Philadelphia Homicide ADA going against one of the highest profile defense attorneys in Philadelphia.  Events like these are invaluable to understanding how what we learn in class is applied in the real world.  Even so, with over two dozen student organizations on campus, the pros and cons of the time commitment must be weighed.

All of this must be balanced with what I think are the two most important time commitments for a law student: studying and home life.  I spend fifteen hours per week in class.  I spend twenty-five to thirty-five hours per week actually studying, and even more than that before finals.  I have begun listening to audio lectures in the car, trying to make more efficient use of my thirty minute drive to and from school.  As for home life, I am very lucky to have such a supportive wife who understands that I need to spend so much time studying and being involved on campus.  We still try to make time for each other and put everything else aside, but it is sometimes easier said than done.

Each law student may have different obligations and priorities, but we all need to balance them the best we can in order to be successful.