Although admission to law school is more competitive, scholarships and discounts are still available
Law school admissions season is underway. Which means that between now and August, applicants will receive decisions from the law schools they applied to, and then choose which one to attend based on cost, postgraduate job opportunities, and school location. .
It is common knowledge that except for a few elite schools, you should attend the school that awards you the highest tuition discounts Scholarships. Even if it means spending the summer haggling with several schools. And even if that means moving away from your dream school to somewhere less expensive. Otherwise, you’ll graduate with such high loan debt that you’ll spend the rest of your life lobbying the government to get your student loan forgiven.
To give a recent and shocking example, a young lawyer admitted she had student loan debt of $543,000.
Negotiating tuition is easier said than done. If your GPA, LSAT score, and intangibles are strong, most schools will be open with their discount offers and may offer full rides. Why? Because they know you’ve probably applied to higher-ranking schools and been accepted into at least one of them. At equal costs, you will most likely go to the top-ranked school. Plus, the school really wants your GPA and LSAT score to improve its US News rankings and is willing to give up income to do so.
But if your numbers are just “good enough,” your acceptance letter probably didn’t contain any scholarships or discounts. Does this mean that you are ordered to pay the full tuition? Even if the school is willing to negotiate the price, how far will it go? Where can an applicant get reliable price information?
One place to look is an article by National Jurist which published net tuition (after subtracting discounts) for many law schools. According to the article, net private school tuition was $29,051 and nearly 80% of applicants received law scholarships in 2020. Most schools gave discounts of 40% or more .
Although the numbers look promising, it’s not a guarantee. Many factors will play a role in obtaining discounts. In recent years, the application process has become more competitive. More applicants have achieved higher LSAT scores, so an LSAT score of 165+ won’t be as impressive as it was a few years ago. Also, some law schools will have fewer acceptance places because they have to admit students who deferred the previous year. And law schools need to monitor who they admit to ensure their graduates have a chance of entering the job market after graduation.
This means that this year, law schools will be less likely to offer scholarships automatically upon acceptance. Instead, discounts should be negotiated during the intake and decision period. And luck will play a bigger role than usual as the new COVID-19 variant may also affect admission decisions.
Either way, it’s always worth asking, because the worst that can happen is you get a no and pay what your school of choice demands. But to maximize your chances, you’ll need to plan. Although the topic of negotiation deserves its own column in the future, there are a few things worth knowing here. First, don’t get locked into a “dream school”. Be open to attending multiple schools. Second, if you have multiple acceptance letters, you can use them as negotiation tools. Third, be kind and professional to all admissions staff, as they have been through this every year. Finally, timing is everything. If you cannot get a scholarship now, another may be available later.
Law school admissions have become more competitive due to higher LSAT scores and fewer seats due to deferred students from previous years. However, it’s always worth getting the lowest tuition possible, unless you want to graduate with large student loans that will take decades to pay off. Remember, law schools don’t owe you better grades just because you paid the full tuition.
Steven Chung is a tax attorney in Los Angeles, California. He helps people with basic tax planning and resolves tax disputes. He is also sympathetic to people who have large student loans. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]. Or you can connect with him on Twitter (@stevenchung) and connect with him on LinkedIn.