Welcome! As the Dean of Admissions, I would like to welcome you again to the University of Wisconsin Law School Community!
As part of this opening message, I want to encourage you to check out the Wisconsin Law 2012 - Admitted Students group on Facebook. This group is designed to enable you to communicate with fellow admitted students, to get to know each other, and get questions answered by those already in Madison.
Last year's class found this to be an extremely helpful way to begin to connect with each other in advance of orientation. Several students found roommates this way, and others formed friendships that made the transition to Madison and law school much less daunting! Should any of you have particular individual questions though, please don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is some basic information and answers to questions that we know many of you have on the following topics:
- Class Schedules
- Financial Aid
- Computer Recommendations
- Dual Degrees
- Student Health Insurance
We want you to find a great place to live. The earlier you can do this, the better. However, if you simply cannot get to Madison until August, many fine future lawyers have found excellent housing in August-- it's just a little more stressful. Most leases begin on August 15, although some begin on August 1.
The undergrads and some grad students leave town the third week of May, and things quiet down. If you are going to come to Madison to look for housing, plan to spend a couple of days getting to know the neighborhoods and their different personalities. (It's good to do this as part of a first visit.) Check out the Madison Home page at www.madison.com, which has a very good map of the city in their real estate section, with a description of the different neighborhoods. I think it's nice if you can be within biking distance of the Law Building or on a convenient bus line. Doing so enables you to be fully involved in the life of the Law School and in the greater University, with all of its events, art, culture and sports. Parking is difficult to find on campus, and costs about $8-10 per day.
When looking for housing, talk to neighbors and people in the buildings you are looking at to check on the noise level. Further, if you see too many sofas on front porches, chances are you are in an undergraduate neighborhood. And while we certainly believe that undergrads are people too, you may not want to live in a neighborhood that is noisy.
Beginning around mid-March, signs go up on buildings indicating that fall rentals are available. When you come to town, you will be able to drive the neighborhoods and see some of what is for rent by those signs. Once you have a sense of the city, you will be able to find a place within 2-3 days. So do your homework before you get here, and you shouldn't have too many problems. We also have asked some 2nd and 3rd year students post their recommendations to the Admitted Student Forum, so you can have additional advice. Finally, we do have a number of law students who take advantage of living in the Graduate Student Dorms. This is a cheaper option than apartment living, and the dorms have the added benefit of being very close to the Law School.
For more information on housing, see the links on our admitted student page.
This summer, you will receive your first semester schedule in the mail. For your first semester, it is necessary that you adhere to the schedule prepared for you because all the schedules for the first year are closely coordinated. Changing your schedule to accommodate you would dislocate someone else. You will, however, have a choice of an elective course in your spring semester. You will be able to entirely select your own schedule to pursue your substantive interests in your second and third years.
Some background information on the scheduling process may help you understand what you will be doing when you register in August. We expect an incoming class of approximately 250 students. Full-time students take 5 courses per semester. For part-time students to complete the 1st-year coursework in the allotted two years, a minimum of two or three courses each semester is required.
We have a first year, small-section program in which each student has one of the black letter courses with approximately 25 people in it. The students in this "small section" will have the same schedule for all their other courses. The small-section classes provide each of you with an opportunity for closer student-faculty contact during your first semester than would otherwise be possible. You will have the opportunity to get to know the other students in your small section during Orientation.
You will receive a packet with course schedules from the Law School and you will also receive a packet of registration materials directly from the University, so watch your mail in July.
Financial Aid Award Letters & General Financial Aid Eligibility
As many of you know, we have a bifurcated financial aid award process. We here at the Law School make all of the large and small scholarship awards, and then the University will notify you via your award letter about your federal loan and work-study eligibility. You will probably receive your University Award Letter between the beginning of May and July. However, in an effort to ease some of your worries, I want to remind you of the most common eligibility levels for most law students.
As most of you know, graduate students are eligible for an $8,500 Subsidized Stafford Loan and a $12,000 Unsubsidized Stafford Loan each year. Subsidized means the interest is paid for you by the Department of Education while you are enrolled in school at least half-time. Unsubsidized means that the interest begins to accrue on these loans the moment they are originated.
Many of you have been concerned that your FAFSA data and hence your award letter is based on your income of the past year, a period in which many of you were working full-time. If you receive your award letter and feel that you need access to additional loan funds beyond the amount listed on your initial award letter (i.e. based on your FAFSA data, you were not eligible for the full $20,500 of loan funds) there is an additional step in the process available to you. Once you have stopped working, such that your financial circumstances are different than those you described in your FAFSA, you may fill out an Academic Year Budget Adjustment Form. This form is available through the Office of Student Financial Services at 333 E. Campus Mall, #9701 and online at www.finaid.wisc.edu. Their phone number is (608) 262-3060. In addition to your loan eligibility, many Law Students are eligible for a Federal Work-Study award of up to $2,400.
Finally, as a law student, you will also have access to private loans should you need additional funds to cover your total cost of attendance. These loans are private loans and as such, are based on your credit rating. I want to caution you all again about the consequences of student loan debt after graduation, and encourage all of you to minimize your borrowing in any way you can.
We provide this information with the hope that you will be able to do some basic financial planning for the coming year in advance of actually receiving your award letter from the University. A last bit of advice- please stay in close communication with the University Financial Aid Office at East Campus Mall, to ensure that they consider your file complete. Too many students wait to get their award letters, and assume any delay is on the University's end, when indeed the system showed that it was the student's file that was incomplete. Confirm with them that they have everything they need to award you, and that you are ready to be packaged.
Our Director of Technology, Eric Giefer, has recommendations for those of you who are about to purchase a new computer. These include specifications to accommodate our wireless network. Many students have found these suggestions helpful in their purchases.
We have had many questions recently about Dual Degrees. We offer two kinds of dual degrees. We have long-standing dual degree programs with a number of UW graduate departments, research programs, and professional schools. We also offer a process for creating your own dual degree program with the UW campus and getting faculty approval for the program.
For the Law School, it does not matter whether you are admitted first to the J.D. program or to another program. In either case, you will need to complete your first year of law study as a full-time student, for both the fall and spring semesters consecutively. However, some of the other programs will not admit you as a dual degree student unless you are admitted to both programs in the same academic year. In all cases, you need to be in process with both departments separately on admissions and financial aid issues.
If you are interested in the Dual Degree Program, please contact the Admissions Office and we will send you more information.
Student Health Insurance
We know that, since many of you are leaving full-time employment, you are also particularly concerned about health insurance. We have a very good student HMO plan available through the Student Health Insurance Plan (referred to as SHIP). I would note that this plan also provides domestic partner coverage, when the rest of the University does not offer such coverage to faculty and staff. In short, I would encourage you to look at this option for those of you who will be without coverage in the fall. The SHIP Program at University Health Services will be mailing you a brochure this summer on the different plans and premiums.
Any Other Questions
If you have other questions, we encourage you to consult our Web site, which is the most comprehensive source of information available to students. You can find a full directory of faculty and staff email and phone numbers, as well as policies and procedures on most issues. As most of you also know, you can reach the Admissions Office at email@example.com, or at (608) 262-5914.
Finally, we encourage you to really engage with us as you make your decision about where to enroll in the fall. This will not only help you get answers to your question but will also help ensure that you end up at the law school that is the best fit for you. In the meantime, we will work hard to give you information about the UW Law School, including the opportunities and resources that will directly benefit you and that make us one of the most dynamic and interesting places to study law in the country.