Welcome! As the Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, 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 2014 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.The group is a private group, open only to admitted and current UW Law students. If you would like to be invited to join the group, please email email@example.com.
Last year's class found this to be an extremely helpful way 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! Of course, the Admissions Office staff is also available to answer any questions you might have, so please don't hesitate to contact us.
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 our Neighborhood Guide for descriptions of the different neighborhoods that are popular with law students. 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 should 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 housing recommendations to the Admitted Student Facebook Group,
so you can have additional advice. Finally, we do have a number of law
students who take advantage of living in the University's Graduate Student Housing.
This is often a cheaper option than apartment living, and these housing options are a short bike or bus rider from the Law School.
For more information on housing, see our Utterly Unofficial Housing Guide.
This summer, you will receive your first semester schedule by email, along with instructions on how to register for classes. 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 be able to entirely
select your own schedule to pursue your substantive interests in your
second and third years.
We have a small-section program the first semester in which each student has one of their black letter law 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.
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 scholarship awards, while the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA), the main UW-Madison financial aid office, makes all federal loan and work-study awards. You should 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 a $20,500 Direct Unsubsidized Loan each
Unsubsidized means that the interest begins to accrue on these loans
the moment they are originated.You are also able to apply for a Direct GradPLUS Loan, which, if you are eligible, would allow you to borrow up to your full cost of attendance minus any other aid you are receiving. In order to apply for these loans, you must submit your FAFSA to the OSFA as soon as possible. If you are applying for GradPLUS Loans, you will also need to submit additional documentation that you can download from OSFA's website.
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 OSFA, 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 contact 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). In short, I would encourage you to look at this option for those of you who will be without coverage in the fall. I would note that this plan also provides domestic partner coverage.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.