Reflecting on My First Law School Visits as a Pre Law Student

Over the break, I took a trip to Chicago to visit two law schools—University of Chicago and Chicago-Kent. The trip was planned and provided by Phi Alpha Delta Pre Law Fraternity! Although I will be taking a gap year or two between undergrad and law school, I have decided to get a jump start on law school visits. It is important for me to see and experience the places I may be spending three years of my life! Not only is the law school building and campus important, but it is great to get a feel for the surrounding neighborhood and city, as well.  

My first stop was University of Chicago Law School. The campus is located in Hyde Park, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. It is about a 25 minute drive from the downtown area. UChicago Law hosted a self-guided tour day where prospective students followed a schedule outlined in a guidebook that was provided by staff. The guidebook led me around the law library, classrooms, the auditorium, and common rooms where students studied and relaxed. I also got to see some of the professors’ offices. I saw former President Barack Obama’s office and Justice Antonin Scalia’s office! 

My favorite part of the tour was the law library. I had never actually seen a law library before, and I was amazed by the 100,000+ print volumes. I read a few pages of some of them, and it was incredible to read about law and policy in one of the greatest law libraries in the world. Not only were there books about United States law, but there were large sections of the library that held books about law in European and Asian countries. There were also special sections of the library that were designated for rare and/or old books. Some of those books were massive, bound together with leather or calfskin, dating back to the 1600s and earlier. 

There was something very special about being in the presence of so many books and so much knowledge. Experiencing the law library made me feel excited about law school. I love learning, and I could see myself growing personally and professionally in a place where so much knowledge is at my fingertips. I keep hearing people say that law school is an indoctrination, and I never really understood that statement until I realized how much you can broaden your perspective with the mass amount of information you learn and have access to in law school. 

I also found it really helpful to interact with students and staff. This provided me with a firsthand experience of the culture of the school. I always hear from law school students and admissions staff that finding a law school culture in which you feel comfortable is critical for success. The students and seemed extremely busy, and the environment felt very hustle-bustle and high pressure. Some people may enjoy this and feel like it motivates them. Others may be looking for a more relaxed, collaborative environment. 

 Even though the students seemed very busy, many of them gathered together for a catered lunch in one of the main hallways of the law school during my tour. I also heard students and staff members discussing social events at the law school, such as gatherings for coffee in the morning and cocktails at night. It was refreshing to see students smiling, socializing, and finding time to relax and have fun even though they are participating in one of the greatest, most rigorous J.D. programs in the world. Many people talk about how stressful law school is. While there are truths to those statements, there is also another, more fun side of law school that allows students to network with high achieving peers in a unique environment. After my visit to UChicago Law, I spoke with one of my professors who earned his PhD from UChicago. He said that although it was academically rigorous, the people he met and the education he received were truly world-class. His testimony accurately reflects my perception of the student experience at UChicago Law. 

After my visit to UChicago Law, I visited the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent School of Law. Chicago-Kent is located downtown Chicago in a beautiful, tall building. My experience at Chicago-Kent was a little different. This tour was led by the Director of Admissions, Gabriela Amador, who I had previously met at IU Law Day, and a 3L student. I adored the school’s location in the heart of the city, and I really enjoyed the personalized experience of the guided tour by Ms. Amador and the 3L student. I had the opportunity to see classrooms, the moot court room, the recreation room, and the gym. This tour allowed me to have a sneak-peek into the day-to-day lives of law students and where they spend their time. 

The students with which I interacted during my trip to Chicago-Kent were incredibly friendly. They were clearly very excited to see students touring their school. While I was touring, there was an event occurring for the Chicago-Kent law journal. The students managing the event were eager to engage in conversations with my peers and I. They expressed how fun law school is, how much they are learning, their passion for the work they are doing with the law journal, and the connections they have made with their professors and fellow classmates. The students seemed to have genuine friendships with one another. While there was friendly competition, the culture of Chicago-Kent seemed truly collaborative and supportive. I really appreciated this insight into the culture of the school and was impressed by the hospitality and enthusiasm of students and staff. 

One of the factors that stood out to me about Chicago-Kent was how the Director of Admissions, the staff, and the students took extra care to explain things to my peers and I. Law school can often feel inaccessible and daunting, but Chicago-Kent makes an obvious effort to increase accessibility to the legal field. During the tour, the staff and students often used terminology that was niche to law students, but they made sure to explain this language so that we understood what they were discussing. It was clear that Chicago-Kent values inclusion of all people from all socioeconomic, educational, and cultural backgrounds. Its dedication to diversity was a dominant theme throughout the entire tour. This made me very excited about the school and created a welcoming environment.

Visiting law schools for the first time was a wonderful, eye-opening experience. My advice is to visit as many law schools as you can whenever the opportunity arises! Pay close attention to the culture of the university, how the students interact with one another, the interest of students and staff in prospective students, and the area surrounding the campus. These schools may be your home for three of the most critical years of your academic and professional journey. Do your research, take those trips to visit schools, and don’t be afraid to reach out to law students and staff! 

By Aleksandra Ramōn
Aleksandra Ramōn Peer Educator