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.