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GW Law Welcomes Incoming Class of New Students

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

GW statue

This week, the law school welcomes a brand new class of first year students, as well as visiting, transfer, and international students. According to Dean Anne Richard, Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, this year's admissions process was more competitive than last year's process. "We received approximately 9,700 applications for fall 2009 admission. We will be welcoming 510 new first year students this week.  Our new students come from 41 states and 7 foreign countries (including South Korea, China and Canada)." The average age of the new full-time students is 24 and the average age of part-time students is 27.

Additionally, the entering academic statistics for the entering class are the highest in the history of GW Law, with the median LSAT score at 167 and median GPA at 3.76. Dean Richard also notes that 59 students have advanced degrees, stating "As is the case each year, our new students are extremely talented and accomplished."

While their academic accomplishments are notable, Dean Richard observes: "As in past years, our new students have diverse backgrounds and professional experiences.  Many have spent time abroad -- teaching, working in public interest/relief organizations.  Some have worked in full-time jobs to put themselves through college; some have participated in Teach for America, AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, etc.; some have worked on political campaigns or on the Hill; others have served in the military.  The majority of our new part-time students will be working full time."

The most notable change that comes with the entering class is the addition of a new class group, Section 15. Dean Richard explained: "This year, we added a fifth full time section in order to accommodate the much higher demand for full time study. Of the 510 new students, 460 will be full time and 50 will be part time. The new full time section (Section 15) will have class meetings in the afternoons and evenings (Section 15 will join the part-time class for two of their evening classes). There no longer will be a large group of students transferring from the part-time program to the full-time program at the start of the spring semester."

New students should expect a busy and productive week of Orientation, according to Student Bar Association Vice President of First Year Students Theresa Bowman. "Realistically, I think 1Ls should expect to receive a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time, but hopefully won't feel too overwhelmed by it.  Everyone involved in planning orientation week did the best they could to make it an exciting, rather than stressful, experience.  At the same time, it's understandable that starting 1L year will make some people a little anxious.  Hopefully, new students will take advantage of all the SBA activities and enjoy the week."

Bowman explained that the purpose of Orientation Week is to give students "the lay of the land and give them a little bit of time to digest some basic, practical information about classes and services the law school offers." Bowman also said that the events can reassure nervous students and help introduce them to new friends. "A lot of students come to law school really expecting their first year to be some horrifying experience they have to suffer through, and I think the Orientation program here does a good job of trying to tell students that it just doesn't have to be that way."

This year's introduction to the law school contains a lot of the same events from previous years and a few new surprises. Bowman notes: "2L volunteers will recognize a lot of returning events from last year.  The new student meet & greets were very popular last year, so little was changed.  This year we added some venues in other parts of the city, such as Local 16 on U Street, to try to get new students to explore the DC that exists outside of foggy bottom and dupont circle.  Some other new events include the Softball game on the Mall and the Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, tours of Foggy Bottom and the GW campus, and a used book sale."

Bowman remembers her own Orientation Week was fun, especially the baseball game. "I don't even like the Nationals so I almost didn't go, but it was such a fun, laid-back way to end Orientation week.  This year, we have the baseball game on Friday again, new students can buy tickets in Lerner 101 on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday."

Dean David Johnson, the Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, said that a lot of credit for Orientation goes to the Student Bar Association. He stated, "Many thanks to the SBA and especially Theresa Bowman. She's been awesome and they've been incredibly helpful." He noted that Bowman especially worked for this year's Orientation to contain changes in programming that are meant to provide for more student interaction with the faculty. Dean Johnson stated that there are two days of faculty panels with more faculty participating. The new "subject-matter" deans, such as those for environmental law, IP, and public affairs, are making sure that panels happen in their subject areas as well.

When asked about what he wanted new students to get out of Orientation, Dean Johnson had many things to say, including a warning for students to avoid stressing out about Orientation events and the first classes. "Something that gets lost in law school - this is still education, come to learn first - grades will come later. Focusing on grades, not focused on learning. If you focus on learning, grades will follow because you're interested in what you're learning."

Dean Richard had similar advice, stating: "My advice to new students is to work hard and stay confident.  They likely will be overwhelmed for the first couple of months as they try to tackle material that seems incomprehensible. But, as we all know, it will get much better once they get the hang of it."

Additionally, students should take time to appreciate professors during their first year. "You look at your first year schedule and it's a list of all the best professors in the nation. Every section has some real superstars and they're there not to just help you get an 'A.' They're there to teach you something."

Dean Johnson also advised new students to "[t]ake advantage of each other - you guys are interesting and diverse, make friends with each other." If students have questions or concerns, he said: "There are two places to start with. First, your Dean's Fellows are the best initial upper level resource. Then come to Student Affairs, we don't have all the answers, but we can direct you to best resources."

"Finally, there's the cliché GW advice - you're in Washington, D.C., like wanting to be in movies and being in Hollywood, you're in the middle of all. The three major areas of the law are here - the judiciary, lobbying and legislation, and the best law firms. All three are here in spades. Get outside these walls, you're paying to be here."