Preparing For Your First Law School Experience: Orientation

By Sherriee Detzler, Acting National Director (East) of Helix Bar Review Engagement

Orientation is approaching, you may be wondering . . . how do I prepare? Here are some simple steps to help you walk into your first law school experience with confidence. 


Know what to expect. Overall, think of orientation as a celebratory affair. You have made it to law school – be proud and shine. This is the time to meet your new (and lifelong) colleagues, learn the ins and outs of the campus, get to know your law school support team and see a glimpse into your first semester as a 1L. If you have not already received communication from your law school with orientation details, proactively reach out so you’re ready for the experience! (Your Admissions Office is always a good starting point if you don’t know who to ask.)


Make it count! You will meet many people who will play an important role in your professional training during law school orientation. So, consider the first impression you will make on these future colleagues and mentors and make it count. Consider your attire. The usual dress is business casual, but your orientation may also involve a formal dinner, outdoor activity or community service day, requiring completely different attire. So, plan accordingly. Make a lasting, yet positive, imprint of who you are. Jot down three things you want your new colleagues to know about you. You will be introducing yourself a lot over the course of orientation – give people a “fun fact” to remember you by.


Scope out the school in advance. Plan your commute, even if you are walking. How long will it take to get to the school? What is the parking situation? Then, observe your surroundings. Familiarize yourself with where you will essentially “live” for the next 3+ years of your life. Where can you grab a coffee or lunch? What is it going to take to snag a study room in the library? Introduce yourself to the “keeper” of the school – security guard, custodian or hall monitor. You don’t need to know the place inside and out, just enough so you don’t feel completely green walking into orientation. 

 

Consider buying your books. While you are doing this early campus visit, stop by the bookstore and get your course books (if you have not yet received this information, check the school’s website or call your new best friends at the Admissions Office). Depending on how many books you’re buying and how far you need to transport them, you may want to bring your backpack. Check out the used books to save money. Oh, and if your state offers “tax free” days or weekends, consider making your purchases then!


Organize and purchase any needed supplies. Make sure your computer is in working order and that you’ve got a good system in place for backing up your data. Do not be afraid to ask for a little help until your loan disbursement comes through. Reach out to your school’s Financial Aid Office for advice if you’re confused about the process. You can also set up a free financial coaching session with an Accredited Financial Counselor through AccessConnex by AccessLexSM to get your questions about financial aid and loans answered. 
Almost as important as pens, highlighters and books – decide which calendar format you are most comfortable using. Electronic, paper, bulletin board or some combination of all three – choose the format that you’re most likely to use, because, as Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” You will appreciate that hour!


Be prepared. Make sure that you’ve carefully read any required orientation assignments. You want to make sure you start law school strong! While orientation is the start of your law school journey, it is not the start of classes. It is never a bad thing to prepare early so, if you can, skim your first day of class reading assignments. There’s still plenty of time to prepare, however, reviewing your reading in advance will help you manage your time more effectively between orientation and the first day of class. It’s also never too early to consider other tools that will help you to be successful in law school, such as the Helix 1L Mini-Outlines (free!) and Helix Flashcard Sets, which cover subjects you’ll learn about starting in your 1L year.


Don’t forget your family is on this journey with you. Prepare your family and friends for the experience as well. Make sure they know that your life is going to be very different during your 1L year, and you may not have the bandwidth for all the social and personal activities you enjoyed with them before law school. They will understand and support you – they want you to succeed. 


Enjoy the experience! Orientation can feel overwhelming, but it’s also a time to have some fun with new friends before law school. So, relish in the fact that matriculating as a law student is a huge accomplishment, connect with classmates and upper-class students who can offer sage advice and soak it all in. 


You’ve arrived. Welcome to law school!