What factors should I consider when deciding where to attend law school?

After you have been admitted to one or more law schools, the time will come for you to choose which law school to attend. Typically, the deadline for this decision is in April unless you have been waitlisted. When making this decision, the same factors that led you to apply to certain law schools will be relevant when choosing among them (geography, ranking, employment prospects, etc.). But once you have offers in hand, it will be extremely important to also consider the bottom line cost of attending each school (taking into considering any merit or need-based financial aid) and whether or not each school is a good fit for you.

Cost

Given the current legal employment market, it is important to carefully consider the amount of debt that you take on during law school. Paying full sticker price to attend law school can run you up to $250,000, a staggering amount of debt to carry for the next 30 years. So think long and hard before paying full sticker price for law school.

Fortunately, with the recent decline in the number of law school applicants, law schools have been offering larger scholarships to a greater number of applicants in an effort to sway decisionmaking. When comparing scholarship offers from multiple schools, be sure to look at the bottom line cost of attendance – don’t just compare scholarship amounts offered by each school in an apples-to-apples manner. For example, attending Wisconsin Law School as a Wisconsin resident with no financial aid offer (~$22,000/yr) is less expensive than attending a school that offered you a $15,000/yr scholarship toward a tuition of $45,000/yr. The $15,000 scholarship might seem tempting, but the bottom line cost is the more relevant factor.

Similarly, be sure to factor in the cost of living for each school.

Fit

You should never accept an offer from a law school that you haven’t visited. Fortunately, many law schools will offer admitted students stipends to cover their attendance at an Admitted Students Day/Weekend. Make every effort to attend, or if you are unable to attend, try to request a stipend to visit on another date. When you visit, speak with as many current or admitted students as you can. You would be spending three years with these potential peers. So gather as much information as possible while visiting, then listen to your gut when comparing schools.