Asking for Money the Right Way?!
March 6, 2008 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Am deciding between three law schools. One school offered me the least amount of money, and that school is lower in ranking than the other two. I do like the school and its location. What is a sincere and appropriate way to ask the admissions people for more (or equal) money to attend their school than the other two I am looking at? What is the best way to go about asking? Advice? Thank you!
posted by paris2000 to Education (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you meet any of the admissions officers? If so, what about calling them, thanking them for their time getting together with you when you visited their campus. Mention that you enjoyed visiting the town and say something you really liked about the school, then tell it to them straight out: "I was offered _____ in financial aid by ______ school. Unfortunately, though I'd love to attend your law school, my financial situation is such that I may have to accept ____'s offer. However, I would love to go to _____, so if there are any other funding opportunities that would allow me to attend your school, please let me know."

This gives them the room to say, "Sorry, that's our top offer," or graciously offer you more financial aid without it seeming like you're haggling.

I'm not a lawyer, but isn't going to the most highly ranked law school possible sort of important? From I've read recently in the Wall Street Journal, among others, that jobs for lawyers- particularly lawyers that attended lower ranked schools- are in short supply. You said that the other two schools are a) more highly ranked and b) offering you a good financial aid package. The median income for lawyers seems to hover around $48k, depending on which sites you look at. That article I cited suggests that only the top few people from second tier schools even get interviews, let alone jobs.
posted by arnicae at 2:42 PM on March 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Set up a meeting with the financial aid director, go in and say: "I love your school and I would absolutly love to attend but even with the generous scholarship you are offering I still can not afford it. I have been given X ammount of money at X school and I'm going to have to settle for that if I can't get at least X ammount of money from you." Chances are they'll up the money if it means getting you as a student.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 2:43 PM on March 6, 2008

Usually any post bac/grad program has a specific admissions committee within the department you are applying to, so contact them, not the admissions or financial aid office. Why should they give you more money? What are you offering that institution as an individual? That is more the way you should approach it and not try and leverage other offers against theirs or they might just say you should take your best offer and not negotiate at all. Think of it as using your baby lawyer skills to reason and negotiate.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:49 PM on March 6, 2008

Seconding thebrokenmuse's suggestion. Arnicae, ranking doesn't necessarily correlate to the job market as far as law schools are concerned. Georgetown, for instance, is ranked at 13, but has the highest number of recruiters. Fordham is generally ranked around 30, but is one of the tops for starting salary. Also, one must consider the ability to get onto journals and barristers' council and so forth, which is done entirely within one's law school. There's a lot more to consider than just U.S. News ranking.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:56 PM on March 6, 2008

I was in a similar situation a few years back. I did exactly as thebrokenmuse said, with no particular niceties involved, and the school sent a letter raising the amount they were willing to give me. It still wasn't as attractive an offer as the higher-ranked school, and ranking IS relatively important, so it was kind of a no-brainer for me. (I'd also pay careful attention to whether a scholarship has a GPA requirement. You shouldn't assume you'll be acing your classes.)
posted by naju at 3:02 PM on March 6, 2008

@Navelgazing- 'k, as I said, I'm neither a lawyer nor going to law school. Just think its wise to think about all of the factors, and not a week goes by that I don't hear doom and gloom about the lawyer job market. I particularly like the temporary lawyer's blog. He talks a lot about booze and sweatshops.
posted by arnicae at 3:05 PM on March 6, 2008

Oops, I should say I just sent a letter to the school. No face-to-face meeting.
posted by naju at 3:12 PM on March 6, 2008

What are you offering that institution as an individual?

I don't think this is the way to approach it. I think your should approach it exactly as thebrokenmuse suggests. Schools know that their top-choice students will be getting other offers, and as long as you are reasonably polite about it (ie, you know that you're not in a position to demand anything from them) it's okay to be up-front about the fact that you're considering multiple offers.

Ask your undergrad advisor whether the third-ranked place would be a good idea given your specific career goals. Going to a place with only a regional reputation means that you are very likely to end up practicing law near there; it will be harder to move to NYC for example if you want to do that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:25 PM on March 6, 2008

Something to keep in mind is that rankings only really matter if you're talking top 10-15 (or maybe even less) in the national rankings. If the schools in question are ranked at 15 or below, then you should focus on the highest-ranked school in the area you wish to live and practice.

Before I went to law school, nobody told me how regional emphasis can really determine your job search. After I went to law school (at a top 25 school, mind you), I heard several putative employers ask me "you went where? Why? Why not go to [insert name of local fourth-tier law school here]?"

In other words, rankings matter less than you may think, and money may matter more than you can foresee.

On preview, and to address LobsterMitten's fine point: If you're not going to school in NYC, you will find it extremely difficult to find a job in NYC if your school is ranked lower than 15 nationally. Not impossible (especially if you know folks), but very, very difficult. To that end (and to get particular on the NYC example, but not to diss any grads of these schools!), a lower tier school like Fordham or St. John's may be a better route to a job in NYC than going to, say, Minnesota or Illinois.

I'm just sayin, is all . . .
posted by deejay jaydee at 3:40 PM on March 6, 2008

Definitely Don't call it negotiating
posted by clearlynuts at 3:46 PM on March 6, 2008

Just ask, as brokenuse says, and be confident. Law schools love to raise their GPA and LSAT averages and their diversity metrics. If you've been admitted to two higher-ranked schools you're virtually certain to be raising their LSAT, GPA, and/or diversity stats. They need you more than you need them.

If you want to put a more noble spin on the request, you can say something like "I'm giving very serious thought to enrolling, but I'm very conscious of the limitations that law school place upon choosing and growing a legal career. I just can't justify going here instead of School X or School Y when to do so would increase my debt burden." (By the way, this has the virtue of both lubricating the negotiation and being completely true and valid.)

However, don't be surprised if they just can't do get you more money. The lower-ranked a school, the less grant aid it has, because grant aid is generated by donors and endowments, and there's a near linear relationship between rank and resources. If your favored school has fully committed its scholarships, they won't be able to do something for you now.
posted by MattD at 5:03 PM on March 6, 2008

Oh, and read the WSJ story that arnicae links too. It's is God's truth. Law school is a big, and often disastrous, financial gamble outside of the very top-ranked schools. (Law school is still a big gamble at the top-ranked schools -- but the currency is more happiness than money, since a top-ranked graduate can always make a very healthy living.)
posted by MattD at 5:05 PM on March 6, 2008

Yeah, follow the advice above about money. Just ask. But more importantly, take a minute to think about why folks are giving you unasked for advice. Because the question you ask is a little limited. So what if school x ends up matching the money? What will you have achieved? I'm being very serious here, because a lot of perspective students lose sight of the forest for the trees haggling over what, ultimately, amounts to non-consequential sums over the course of one's life.
So what will having school X match what school Y is giving you achieve? Will it mean that you will make $160,000/year versus $40,000 (yup, the difference between top tier and many other places)? Will it mean that you will get to live in the location that prefer (and allow you to afford being able to live in the location that you prefer)? Will it mean that you have the option, at the end of law school, to practice the type of law that you find fulfilling and enjoyable, rather than the mind-numbing contract work that most law-school graduates fall into in order to pay back their debt? Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees.
posted by jujube at 6:17 PM on March 6, 2008

My friend is at GULC (Georgetown) now, and he sent a politely worded letter about how much he liked Georgetown but that some other schools were offering a much better financial package, could they consider increasing theirs? Sent via e-mail, no phone call. He got an extra $45,000 (over 3 years). He was a marginal admit, too (high LSAT, lowish GPA). And he was probably gonna go there anyway!

Law school admissions isn't like other grad schools. It's much less about what you can offer the academic community you'll be joining and much more about how you'll effect the statistical profile of the incoming class.
posted by bluejayk at 6:50 PM on March 6, 2008

paris2000: do consider letting us know what schools you are considering (or, if you are unwilling to be that specific, you can post US News range, e.g. 5-10, 10-15, etc.); depending on what schools are you considering, the answer may well change from "Here's how you ask the lower-ranked school for more money" to "Take less money and go to the higher-ranked school."
posted by Pontius Pilate at 6:38 AM on March 7, 2008

« Older Historical "jawboning"?   |   iMovie editing question Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.