Legal Quandary

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Academic Tourist

I've gotten some questions about some of my recent posts, and thought I would try to clarify things a little.

A little history:
I was supposed to be a member of the class of 2005. Shortly after all my application paperwork was submitted, we found out about Lil Q - chalk it up to a New Years without EC around...San Diego, margaritas, you get the idea. Anyway, a couple of months later, I got my acceptance letter from TVPNU. I was pretty stressed about this, since 1L doesn't have a reputation for being much fun. I thought it would be even less fun with a newborn, and asked to defer for a year. This was a pretty simple process - I think I was able to email a letter to the school that simply said I was pregnant and due to deliver the week classes started. Or words to that effect. My deferment was approved within 24 hours.

Then, toward the end of 1L, we found out that we would probably be moving before my 3L year, but didn't know where. I talked with our dean, who was really helpful and very supportive. Even so, there was some information she didn't give me. I'll try to highlight those points for you.

1. There is a difference between transferring and visiting.

You can typically only transfer after 1L - and this will mean that your degree will come from the school you transfer to. (For example - one of my TVPNU professors started at Berkeley. After 1L, he transferred to Harvard to be with his wife. His degree says "Harvard" on it.) Lots of people do this to "upgrade" schools if they've done particularly well in 1L. If you didn't get into your #1 choice school because of the "C" you got in Calculus your freshman year of college, this may be your second chance - but remember you have to do well in 1L.

Once you've spent 2 years at your school, you can visit for your third year (or a portion thereof). Your degree still comes from your original school, but they agree to accept credits from another school.

You can also visit other schools for 2L or for a portion of any year but 1L. People who do the "study abroad" programs are usually visiting students.

2. You pay the other school's tuition, and will have to go through the other school's financial aid process UNLESS your home school does a consortium agreement with the other school. Essentially what this means is that your school will agree to seek financial aid on your behalf, and then allow the money to be used at another school. TVPNU has a strict policy AGAINST consortium agreements. If you have the luxury of time, be sure to ask about this upfront, since it can be a nasty surprise to find out you have to scramble for financial aid.

3. Your grades will usually show up as Credit/No Credit on your home school's transcripts. When future employers want to see transcripts, you'll have to order sets from both schools for your all your grades to be reflected.

4. Be sure to finish your graduation requirements at your home school if you will be visiting your 3L year. As I think I've mentioned before, visiting students are last in line to get into classes. So, if you somehow neglect to take Professional Responsibility, which I think everyone has to take, and you don't manage to get into a class - too bad, so sad, you don't graduate. If your home school has a writing requirement, you'll also want to make sure it's done before you go - they may not (read: probably won't) accept it from another school. Don't be too discouraged by the last in line thing. Remember - there's always the drop and add period, as well as the possibility of talking to the professor. Although I think some schools are stricter on class size than others.

4a. A corollary to the above. Do your clinics and Trial Advocacy at your home school before you go. Some schools won't let you take those classes. Even if there are openings. Ditto for externships.

5. When you're shopping for schools to visit, take a look at the admissions process. For some schools, you might as well be applying to law school all over again - including the personal statement. The only thing you won't have to do is retake the LSAT. Other schools are a lot more relaxed.

6. Call up the Admissions office and see roughly how many visiting students they admit. Smaller schools will tend to have fewer spaces, so the competition for those spots will be greater. Also - oddly enough, I've been told it's easier to visit a private school than a state school. The reason for this is that state schools are taxpayer subsidized and only have as many spaces as the state will fund. Unless they have lots of their own students transferring or visiting other schools, it's not likely that many spaces will open up. State schools also tend to give instate residents preference. (Duh.)

Visiting another school is probably not the easiest route to go. I know the transition has not been great fun for me - but mainly because I've had so many other things going on in my life the past couple of months. A cross-country move with children and the death of a parent has a way of sucking the "fun" right out of a summer.

Despite the challenges, I think visiting is a terrific opportunity to see how other schools do things and to put your own legal education into perspective.

Wow! Thanks for the info. I didn't know about all this stuff.
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