Skip to content

Back to School 101: How to Prepare for the 1L Year

As much as I hate to say it, summer is starting to wind down. In just less than a month, we will be back to class, working away, while the sun is shining outside. In addition to getting back to work, preparation for school can be time consuming, even daunting. Add the time-consuming activities, nerves and being away from home (potentially for the first time) and the back-to-school season can be overwhelming.

However, there are some simple things we can all do to make back-to-school season easier, from setting a budget to figuring out law school attire.

Set a budget

When getting ready to pack up and head off to law school, it is important to consider all your expenses. How will you be paying for school? Will your parents be helping you? Or will you be relying on student loans/lines of credit? How much will you have to work with each year? Have you obtained any scholarships that offset the costs? Don’t forget to factor in the cost of living where your school is, costs of tuition and fees, transportation (including insurance and gas, if you’ll have a car), books and entertainment.

It is also advisable to have a small amount put away for an emergency fund. Creating a budget — or working with an advisor who will help you create one — is also a good first step in finding a place to rent within your price range and easing your mind about the financial burden of a legal education.

Finding a place to live

Some places are certainly more student-budget friendly than others. Upon recognizing what you can afford, consider your own personal needs in housing. Can you afford your own place? Or do you prefer living with roommates? Does your budget allow for a two-bedroom condo on the waterfront or downtown? 

Once this is all taken into account, search Facebook to see if your school has a group for housing. In this group, fellow students will be posting ads for places to rent and roommates. This will allow for people of all budgets and lifestyle choices to see some potential rentals. In addition, Kijiji can be a useful resource, as is reaching out to upper-year students at your new school to ask questions. Lastly, driving around town to find “For Rent” signs and going on viewings are great ways to find a new home away from home.

Attire

At some law schools, professional attire is a social norm and even a requirement. However, in my experience, your clothes from your undergraduate days will do just fine for everyday wear during the semester. There will be opportunities where business dress — or at least business casual — will be a necessity, including during moot court and professional development days. Therefore, it is highly recommended that everyone come to law school with at least one suit, a few dress shirts or a few dresses/skirt ensembles (for those hot days at the beginning of the school year).

Social orientation

At the beginning of the academic year, it is likely that your school will hold academic and social orientations. While academic orientation isn’t exactly fun, it is very important to attend to learn more about what your school life will look like for the next three years. On the other hand, social orientation is made to be fun. There are a variety of activities, from pub crawls to game and movie nights, that allow you the opportunity to meet new people and explore your new surroundings.

Joining a club or volunteering

Much like social orientation, joining an interesting club will give you the opportunity to learn about fascinating topics and meet people with which you will have a lot in common. It is easy to become involved, as most schools will host a club fair and have advertising for clubs and societies around the school. If not, reach out to upper years or faculty to obtain more information.

Additionally, if volunteering better suits you, research online about opportunities in the community.  For example, some students at Windsor Law organize group volunteering sessions outside of the school at soup kitchens and animal shelters. This is also a good way to meet new people and give back to your new community while further exploring your environment and adding to your resumé.

Reach out to upper-year students

Lastly, when in doubt or if you have any questions or concerns, reach out to upper-year students in your program. They know how things in law school work on a tried-and-true basis and can provide further information about how to thrive over the next few years.

Additionally, there are mentorship programs available at many schools, in case you are uncomfortable reaching out on your own. These programs provide first-years with an upper-year mentor. In my experience, it is common for the pair to meet periodically and to chat, share experiences and to help those who may be having a rougher transition.

At the end of the day, each person will have a different experience while transitioning to law school. The good news is that there are ways to help ease the process and gain a support system while taking advantage of all that law school life has to offer.