How to Negotiate Scholarship Offers (Part 2)

hurdlersSo many of you wrote in comments and questions in response to my post on how to negotiate scholarship offers, that I felt compelled to write a part two.

First, thanks to everyone who wrote in with their specific scholarship negotiation situation. By writing about your personal situation, and being willing to receive feedback and advice, you gave my current and future blog readers a chance to learn from your experiences.

Second, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you must advocate for yourself before you advocate for others. If you want to become a lawyer, start acting like one now. Starting with the first day that you begin your law school application process, carry yourself with respect, work hard, and do not settle for less than what you deserve. It’s not over after you get admitted. You need to think hard and work hard to make sure that you choose the right school with as many resources (aka. money, moula, mean green, etc.) as possible.

Third, always remember, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

On that note, I want to share with you the scholarship negotiation situation posted by Missy. Missy was the first person to comment on my scholarship post.

Here’s what she first posted.

What about negotiating with an unranked school? I’m a mom so I can’t take on debt and need to be part time. I work near a law school so I hoped to work part time and go to school part time. I’ve gotten a few full or close to full rides from ranked schools but the part time day time program at the Unranked school near me offered me barely anything!!! Are Unranked schools just stingy because they have less money? How would you go about negotiations?

Here’s my advice to her.

Thanks for writing in, Missy. That’s great that you’ve received full or close-to-full ride scholarships at several ranked law schools. Congratulations!

I don’t know why the unranked law school that admitted you did not give you a scholarship. That’s a shame. Still, you can do something about it. I would call them and let them know about the scholarships you’ve received at your other schools. See my article above for tips on this.

If the unranked school doesn’t offer you a good scholarship, I would consider the law school where you can attend and graduate with the LEAST amount of debt (for example, sometimes the biggest scholarship isn’t the best buy if it’s going to cost more to live in that city/area).

And Missy’s response back…

…Yes I don’t want to take on anymore debt. I am still paying off undergrad. I scheduled a meeting to meet with someone at the financial aid department of the school I am hoping to go to…would you suggest I bring proof of the other scholarships? Or wait until asked for it? Thanks for the quick response!

My response back…

I’m glad you’re set on not taking on more debt, Missy. I wish more people had your mindset. Debt makes things very difficult–especially when you’re trying to find a job during your 3rd year. When you’re saddled with debt, you don’t always make the best career choices.

That’s great you’re meeting with a financial aid officer at the law school you want to attend. Sure, bring proof of your other scholarships. You don’t need to show them to the officer, just mention them during your conversation. If he/she asks for them, then pull them out of your bag. Good luck with your meeting!

And here’s how things went with Missy’s meeting.

By the way thank you for all your tips. After meeting with the school I just got word that they are granting me a full ride! I can’t express how grateful I am to have found this post!

Yes, you read that right. Missy negotiated a full-ride scholarship to law school.

And here’s some great advice that Missy gave to another reader who wrote in.

And Yoya, I have a 2.5 undergrad and got into T14 schools with scholarships because of my LSAT so don’t worry, I’m sure you will get one and if you don’t, seriously consider the pointers in this post because you really can negotiate a scholarship! The law school I just negotiated with actually told me they appreciate seeing someone willing to negotiate and are more willing to offer extra scholarship money because it shows your commitment to the school.

Missy has a 2.5 undergrad GPA but a high LSAT score. She’s what we call a “splitter.” Think your GPA is going to keep you from getting scholarships? Take a lesson from Missy and make sure you get a high LSAT score.

If you’re afraid of negotiating your scholarship offers, don’t be. As Missy points out, schools appreciate seeing someone who is willing to negotiate.

Missy first wrote in on February 19th and by February 24th (five days later), she had a full-ride scholarship. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

But no, the story doesn’t end there. Here’s what I heard from her on April 11, almost two months later…

I need to tell you thank you one more time for this awesome blog! I had one more school I was considering but that only offered me a small scholarship. I took your advice and tried to negotiate.

First I initiated an email explaining that I was extremely interested in their school but due to financial circumstances there was no way I could go there unless I reviewed a larger offer. I asked if there was anything they could do and they immediately added an extra scholarship of $5k. I decided to push it a little further and explained that would still leave me with a lot of loans and asked if I forwarded proof of larger scholarship offers if they could match it…this is where your awesome advice really came in…they told me to forward acceptance letters with scholarship offers.

Although I had some full ride offers I remembered what you said about peer institutions so rather than sending them the unranked schools full rides, I sent over the schools of equal or better ranking (I only chose 3 that I was SERIOUSLY considering)…this was 3 weeks ago…the lady who had been helping me told me she would forward it to the scholarship committee.

Well yesterday I got contacted from this same lady who had been helping me to let me know she just processed a scholarship increase…they increased it to a 90% scholarship! I can’t thank you enough! Your advice has earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars!

And here’s Missy’s last words of advice…

…with a high LSAT but a low GPA, I thought that getting any money was lucky and I had to take what I could get. I hope anyone applying to law school gets lucky enough to read your advice. So go right ahead and quote whatever you want and THANK YOU AGAIN.

There you have it, folks. Missy’s situation is what I call a “best practice.” A situation that was handled well and can be used as an important story to be passed along to anyone else facing a similar situation.

Even if you’re like Missy and think you’re lucky to get what you get, take her advice and DON’T STOP THERE. Follow the tips I give in my negotiating scholarship offers post.

Be brave. Be diplomatic. Be earnest. Take it to the end of the line.

Remember, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

THANKS SO MUCH to Missy in Southern California for allowing me to quote her and share her negotiation experiences in this post. Dang, girl, you do impress. If your scholarship negotiations are any indication of future success, you are going to be one kick-ass lawyer.

Female hurdlers photo from the Dutch National Archives.

How to Negotiate Scholarship Offers

Optimus_Prime“Money, money, money, money…mohhh-nnney!”

Whenever spring rolls around, I can’t help but hear the song, “For the Love of Money,” by The O’Jays playing in my head.

Why do I hear it?

Because springtime signals the offering of scholarships (aka. mean green, dollar bills, yo) to law school applicants all over the nation. Like the cherry blossoms showering the Quad at the University of Washington, it is a beautiful time.

Not only can you get free money to attend law school, you can also negotiate how much you receive and up the offer.

Yes, you can.

How do you do this?

First, you need to know which schools admitted you and how much money, if any, they are offering you. You never know–sometimes the last school you’re admitted to is the one that will offer up the most dough. So, make sure you’ve heard from all of your schools before you start negotiations.

Second, you need to know your top choice school and second choice school. Take time to figure this out. Visit each school, sit in on classes, talk to as many law students, staff and faculty at the school as you can, and make an informed decision.

Third, of the schools that have admitted you, compare them by rank.

For example, let’s say you’ve been admitted to the following law schools (ranking noted) with these scholarships.

Your top choice is UCLA. But you’re worried about all the debt you’ll accrue by the time you graduate–more than $120,000 in tuition alone–and you want to try to negotiate for a higher scholarship.

Let’s say also that if you can’t get more money from UCLA, you’re going to attend your second choice school, USC–still a great law school and with your $30K/year scholarship, you will owe about $71,000 in tuition by the time you graduate (still considerable but a lot less than what you would owe at UCLA).

Because UCLA and USC are closely ranked, they are considered “peer schools.” (If you know anything about colleges and football teams, you will know that the Bruins and Trojans are not just peers but lifelong rivals!)

Scholarship offers between peer schools should be negotiated.

What doesn’t work as well is negotiating offers between schools that aren’t ranked near each other at all.

For example, if you contact USC and let them know that San Diego offered you $45,000 a year and could they (USC) do better than that, they are probably going to come back with “Sorry, we can’t. Our original offer stands.”

You can understand this, right? When compared with a law school that is far below it in rank, most law schools will not feel compelled to offer you more moula to attend their school. But, you can still try. I’m all for trying, especially in this day and age of decreasing application numbers.

However, in the case of peer institutions, you absolutely should negotiate!

Negotiations can be conducted over the phone or via email.

Contact the admissions officer at your top school and let them know that you really want to go to their school and why that school is a great fit for you. Then let them know that you’ve received a scholarship offer from a peer institution. Name the school and how much they’ve offered you. Thank the admissions officer for the scholarship they’ve offered you so far but ask if they can do better.

“Is there more you can do? I really want to go to your school.”

They will likely need to talk to the financial aid officer and do some calculations. They will get back to you.

And during that time, you wait.

Usually a school will get back to you within a few days, at the most a week. Good things come to those that wait…and negotiate.

So, try it.

You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This post is dedicated to a savvy prelaw student that I’ve known for several years. Let’s call him Optimus Prime.

Optimus was admitted to both UCLA and USC. Like the example above, he received a $30,000/year scholarship offer from USC. But unlike the example, he received no money from UCLA. That’s right. Zero. Zip.

What did he do? Like the brave and wise robot that is his namesake, Optimus emailed UCLA a heartfelt letter on why UCLA was the right law school for him. He let them know of USC’s offer. He also let them know that without a scholarship from UCLA, he would have to attend USC.

Guess what? UCLA came back with an offer of $20,000/year.


From zero to $60,000.

As the saying goes, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

Have questions about law school scholarships or negotiating scholarship offers? I’d love to hear from you! I’m here to help. Post your questions below and I’ll respond.

Optimus Prime photo by Joey Cortez.

!!! NOTE: Q&As on this post are now CLOSED !!!

Thanks to everyone for writing in. I really appreciated hearing from all of you and helping you with your specific scholarship negotiation situation.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: you must advocate for yourself before you advocate for others. If you’re going to go to law school, start acting like a lawyer NOW. Advocate for the best situation for yourself.

If you read through all the Q&As that have been posted, you’ll find many good tips and advice for your scholarship negotiation situation. In fact, I repeated the same advice several times. I think we’ve covered all the bases for now. Stay tuned for a Part 2 scholarship negotiation post very soon.

UPDATE: Read How to Negotiate Scholarship Offers (Part 2)!