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May 15 2010

The Art of Negotiating Your Law School Scholarship

posted in 1L/2L, Law School Applicants by Christy
Categories: Finances

Congratulations! The wait is over. You’ve just received an acceptance letter from one or more of the law schools you applied to. Now you have to figure out how you are going to pay for the rising cost of law school tuition. Graduate students have a few options to choose from when deciding how to finance their education, including grants, scholarships, and loans. When you factor in the cost of tuition, fees, books, and living expenses, law school can cost well over $100,000. One direct way to cut down on the cost of your legal education is to receive a scholarship from the law school you will be attending. 

If you did not receive an initial scholarship with your acceptance don’t be afraid to ask for some money or if you received a partial scholarship, don’t be afraid to ask for an increase in aid. I don’t think many students believe they can ask for money or they might worry about coming off as “cheap” or greedy, but lets face it, it could be the difference between $5,000-$10,000 per year, which isn’t chump change. 
 
There is definitely a right and wrong way to go about asking for financial aid from law schools. 
 
First, make sure to be humble and polite. You aren’t negotiating a price for a used car. Contact the financial aid office directly; email is probably the best communication method, because they probably won’t be able to make a decision quickly over the phone. 
 
Second, it is okay to make the school aware of other offers you might have, but also mention why you want to attend their school over others, if that is the case.
 
Third, mention any awards you've received or extracurricular activities you've been involved in since applying.  
 
Lastly, don’t over do it. If you were turned down after asking for a scholarship or received only a slight increase in money and you still aren’t satisfied, turn to other options for financial aid. Don’t keep hounding the financial aid office if you don’t get a favorable result, because they probably won’t change their minds and you don’t want to form a bad relationship with your future law school.
 
REMEMBER: all they can is say no, so why not try. 
 
Check out this article at ulinks.com for more information on law school financial aid.
 

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Christy

About the Author: Christy
christy@thelawstreetjournal.com

Christy graduated from law school in May 2011 and is now working for the U.S. Navy as a JAG. She is practicing as a military prosecutor and will move to military defense in December 2012. She is currently stationed in Florida and enjoys traveling, playing soccer, and watching Dexter and Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Comments

  1. Mar said on 1/31/13 at 11:53 AM

    I have been accepted to a law school, and they did not offer me any forms of scholarships. Also, I have not yet been accepted by other schools, waiting for response.  So, how would I approach the issue of asking for some scholarship money.  I do have a 4.0 GPA and cumuolative of 3.57 and was on the Dean’s list all undergrad studies.  But did not have a good LSAT score.  Please help!!

  2. JP said on 2/6/13 at 4:26 PM

    I was accepted to two law schools, waitlisted at one.  The school I want to go to offered me nothing, the “safety” school offered me $12,000 per year.  I am going to contact my top choice soon and attempt to negotiate with them. I will update on how it goes.

  3. Christy said on 2/11/13 at 9:05 PM

    Mar- you have a couple of different options.  First, you can call the school who accepted you and ask if there are any scholarships available.  You do not necessarily have to be accepted to other schools to negotiate for a scholarship.  All they can say is “no,” so you might as well ask.

    You can also wait until you hear from the other schools where you applied and see if they offer you any money.  If they do, then at least you have some negotiating power over the first school, i.e. you can give them the details on the scholarship you received at the other schools.

    Finally, if the first school isn’t offering any money, look for local scholarships or try to apply for programs in your community that might help you fund school.  Don’t bank on this option, however, because many local scholarships will only apply to college and not law school.  It’s definitely worth a google search though.

  4. Christy said on 2/11/13 at 9:06 PM

    JP- thanks for keeping us updated!

  5. ZY said on 4/3/13 at 4:14 PM

    Christy,
    I’m currently facing what I am sure is a common dilemma - attending a top 20 school with no scholarship, or a lower-ranked, regional school with $25k per year as a merit award. Realistically, I don’t think I could parlay this into any sort of additional aid from the better school. However, if I could persuade the lower-ranked school to increase its award, it would become a major factor in my decision making. What are your recommendations for leveraging my offers and getting the optimal scholarship? Thanks so much in advance!

  6. Christy said on 4/14/13 at 3:47 PM

    ZY- Thanks for your comment.  I think the first step is talking with the admissions department to see if they can increase your award.  Let them know about the top 20 school and that you are still considering attending that school.  Then ask them if there is anyway they can increase your award.  Let them know that you are extremely interested in attending, but the amount of the scholarship might not be enough for your to attend.  They don’t need to know that you do not have a scholarship to the top 20 school.  If they can’t increase your award, you can always search for local scholarships from the state bar association.

  7. Vince said on 2/5/14 at 12:43 PM

    Hi Christy,

    I have been accepted to a school that is 12 spots higher than my top choice, but my top choice did not offer me any $$. The higher ranked school offered me $15,000 per year.
    How do I approach my top choice (and lower ranked of the two) and ask them to make an offer similar to this? If the school was willing to do so, I would put down my seat deposit ASAP.
    Any help you can offer I truly appreciate it.

    Thank you!

  8. Christy said on 2/17/14 at 11:04 AM

    Vince,

    A general principle I try to live by in a situation like yours is “all they can say is no.”  So, I would definitely ask your top choice to match the higher ranked school’s offer and see what they say.  Worst case, your top choice declines to offer you a scholarship and you are still right back where you started.  Then you have to make the decision that is right for you.  I can tell you that $15,000 should be a huge factor.  I’m paying on my student loans now and believe me, any scholarship funds help.  However, you also want to enjoy your life for three years and study in an area where you think you might practice, so if the top choice offers those things then it might be better to forgo the money.  Please keep us updated on what happens.  Thanks.

  9. Jolie said on 2/21/14 at 9:31 PM

    Hi Christy,

    I was accepted to 1 top 20 school offering $10k and another school ranked just outside of the top 20 with the same scholarship. I have a full ride and half tuition at some lower ranked schools, but I’m still waiting to hear from Duke, Michigan and Penn (my dream schools). I’m torn. Since I still don’t have a response on several applications, I’m weary of negotiating with the two schools where I have identical offers. How do you suggest approaching this?  Should I wait for more information? Should Attempt to get more money from the top 20 school that has offered 10k? Please advise.

  10. Christy said on 2/23/14 at 7:11 PM

    Hi Jolie,

    Thanks for reaching out.  Have you tried contacting the schools you haven’t heard from yet?  It might be worth a call to their admissions department.  Tell them about the current offers at the other schools and politely ask when they will be making their decision.  Ultimately, you should go to the school that offers the overall best experience for you, i.e. rankings sometimes don’t matter as much as studying in the area where you think you would like to practice when you graduate.  To to wait until the last possible minute to make a decision on the scholarships if you still haven’t heard from your top choices.  I would also call the two schools offering the scholarships and see how long you have to make a decision.  This is when you can hint at the other school’s scholarship and possibly try to negotiate.

  11. OF said on 3/28/14 at 5:21 PM

    So I was accepted to Washington Law in St. Louis and was offered a 3k/year scholarship. I’ve been sent various emails from other law schools stating that they offer about $50,000 in savings compared to other law schools. Another one offered me a $15,000/year scholarship (if I am admitted to the school) but both of these schools are ranked in the top 50s. Any recommendations?

  12. Christy said on 3/30/14 at 7:05 PM

    Hi OF,

    My general advice would be to pick a school that matches your criteria best overall.  If both schools are in the top 50, then I would next move to the location.  Unless you are going to a top 10 school, I always advise going to law school in the area that you plan on practicing in after school.  Next is probably the money.  If the tuition is generally the same for both schools, then $45,000 in total savings over three years is huge!  Prioritize your criteria and then if the schools are still close, I would go with the higher scholarship.  You can always try to negotiate with the other school for a higher scholarship as well.

  13. Carlos said on 8/2/14 at 10:56 AM

    My advice? YOU CAN GO TO COLLEGE BECAUSE THERE ARE SCHOLARSHIPS OUT THERE!  The partive colleges are rolling in dough, and they literally threw money at my son, a good but not Harvard-quality student, to attend their school.  These are not even scholarships he applied for, just checked the box and applied in time to be considered.  The midwest and south in particular were very generous.  And if you don’t get what you need, don’t give up! We met with financial counselors at the schools, and in some cases, they were able to add even more dollars.  We have paid $500 this year out of pocket for a $60,000 a year education (plus books).

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