Negotiating Scholarships Roundup

Negotiating law school scholarships has become quite common in the last few years. While many students have successfully bargained for additional scholarship dollars, the process of negotiating can be risky and stressful. On February 24, PLAS welcomed two Deans of Admission–Rebecca Ray from the University of Illinois College of Law and Ann Perry from University of Chicago Law School– who shared their insights into negotiating scholarships with law schools. For those of you who were unable to attend due to the blizzard, here are some of the questions they addressed.

1. Under what circumstances should students negotiate scholarships?

  • Generally speaking, it is fine to contact schools about your scholarship as long as they do not expressly indicate that they will not reconsider your scholarship.
  • Most law schools are open to renegotiating/reconsidering scholarships under certain circumstances.  Specifically, it is appropriate to request reconsideration of your scholarship if you really want to attend that law school but are facing a financial hurdle that might prohibit you matriculating there.
  • Both deans discouraged the use of scholarship reconsideration solely to leverage offers at other law schools.

2. How can students successfully engage with law schools?

  • Follow the instructions provided by the schools that outline the process and procedure for reconsideration of scholarship offers.  It the school requests a separate email, write the email.  If the school requires the submission of a special form, complete and submit it.  If the school would prefer you call them, then make the phone call.
    • Note – if a school specifically states it will not reconsider scholarship offers then respect that and do not contact the school to attempt to negotiate.
    • Also – some schools, like the University of Chicago Law School, set aside a specific time frame (mid-late April) for renegotiation.  As such, pestering them for a final decision before their designated time for reviewing scholarships is not a good strategy.
  • Be professional, courteous and prepared. Before you submit anything or make a phone call, consider your demeanor and the quality of your submission.  Professionalism is key!
  • Both deans indicated that they were not persuaded simply by arguments that they “should match” another school’s scholarship offer.
  • Manage your expectations — full tuition scholarships are very rarely awarded so do not expect that result.
  • Both deans cautioned against turning the negotiation into something resembling haggling over a purchase of a used car.
  • Visit the law school.  There is no better way to convey your sincere interest in attending a school than to schedule a visit.  Tip – all admitted students should visit any school they are considering attending before submitting a seat deposit. You never know if the atmosphere of the school is going to match how it seems to fit you “on paper.”

3. What would make a law school deny a request to renegotiate/reconsider a scholarship?

  • Lack of additional funding.  This is important to remember — however much a law school might want to provide you with additional scholarship money, there are limits to their financial resources.
  • Lack of professional behavior by the requesting student.  See number 2, above.

4. Why do law schools ask to see other scholarship offers as part of the negotiation process?

  • Schools typically ask for this to verify the conditions and amounts that the student is claiming she has received.
  • Note — there is nothing wrong with such a request.  This is simply good lawyering by the admissions office.

5. What is a “peer” institution? Why is this relevant?

  • Generally speaking, schools with similar admitted student profiles consider themselves “peer” institutions.
  • A peer institution could be a school with similar GPA and LSAT medians.
  • A peer could also be another law school in the same region or grouping of schools, e.g., Big 10 law schools, Chicago-area law schools.  The definition is subject to interpretation by each law school.
  • This designation is important because most law schools consider scholarship offers from peer institutions to be more relevant in the reconsideration process.

Final Thoughts — Dos and Don’ts for Negotiating Scholarships

Do

  • Follow each school’s directions for scholarship reconsideration
  • Decide what you are able and willing to pay for your education before you ask for reconsideration
  • Conduct yourself professionally by being prepared and courteous
  • Show your interest by visiting the school

Don’t

  • Ignore specific instructions for contacting the school about scholarships
  • Become demanding and difficult if the school cannot accommodate your request
  • Expect to get a full ride/free legal education – those situations are extremely rare

Still not sure what to do or have specific questions to discuss?  Please contact our office 333-9669 and make an appointment with an advisor.

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Best Financial Aid Resources for Law School

It’s that time of year again! Applicants have gotten their acceptances and thoughts now turn to “how will I pay for this?” Great financial aid resources are out there, and we’ve done the work of finding them for you. Here is our Best Financial Aid Resources roundup.

If you’re trying to understand how law school financial aid works:

If you’re entering law school this fall–even if you don’t know where just yet:

  • It all starts with filling out your FAFSA. Grab your W-2s if you worked last year, and submit this as soon as possible. Priority deadline is March 15 for many schools. https://fafsa.ed.gov/ If you don’t know where you’re going yet, just list each law school that you might attend or each one that has admitted you.
  • It’s time to check your credit report! Many law students will receive both federal (government-backed) loans and private (lender) loans, and private lenders will base your interest rate on your credit score. Check your credit report and correct any errors that may exist BEFORE your lenders see it. Go to the only government-provided free credit report: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
  • Make sure to visit the financial aid websites of all the law schools where you’ve been admitted. There you will find scholarships specific to the school–and many have deadlines NOW, before you may even have committed. Go ahead and apply–it is always better to turn down a scholarship than not to apply for it at all because you haven’t decided where to attend law school yet!
  • Spend some time searching for other scholarships offered by the American Bar Association or local bar associations or other legal organizations. (John Marshall Law School provides an excellent scholarship listing here.) Searching for “your county” and “bar association” is a good start too.

 

 

 

 

 

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After Spring Break — PLAS Financial Aid Week!

As you head out for Spring Break, don’t forget that PLAS Financial Aid Week begins March 31, with a very informative workshop on how to navigate the law school financial aid process.  In addition, PLAS will be offering appointment slots for those of you still trying to understand and decide among your various law school offers.  We have designated Tuesday, April 1, for those meetings.  Call 333-9669 to schedule your appointment!
 
Financing Law School Workshop, Featuring Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law and Donna Davis, 3L and PLAS Grad Assistant
Monday, March 31, 5-6pm,
UIUC College of Law, Room F, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue
 
Financial aid at the law school level is quite different than for undergraduates. Join us for this in-depth workshop to learn: What forms of financial aid exist for law school? What should you be looking for in an aid offer? How can you budget for law school expenses in advance? What are common pitfalls for students who don’t understand the aid process? Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law, and Donna Davis, current 3L and Pre-Law Advising Services Graduate Assistant, will share their experience and expertise with financial aid from both the expert and the law student’s perspective. This is a must-see for anyone considering law school! No registration necessary. This event is part of Financial Aid Week.
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Spring Break Edition: Things To Do

Spring Break starts at the end of this week.  Here are some suggestions for how to use the break wisely.  

Seniors Applying This Cycle

1. Applications. If you haven’t already done so….submit your applications!!!!!  I know several law schools have extended their deadlines but this is a rolling process and many schools have few if any seats (or financial aid) left to give to applicants.

2. Decision Time.  For those of you that submitted applications much earlier this cycle and consequently are now weighing all your options — really evaluate your offers and try to come to a decision in the next couple of weeks.  Those of you who have been in to see me have been advised to create a table or spreadsheet listing the items most important to you (i.e., cost/scholarship, employment numbers, bar passage rate, location) to help you decide among your offers.  Also make plans to visit the law schools if you haven’t already done so — you would be surprised about the number of students who love a school on paper but are not thrilled with the school once they visit.  Law school is a HUGE investment — find the time to visit the schools!!!!

Juniors Applying in the Fall

1. Letters of Recommendation. Start thinking about whom you should ask to write your letters of recommendation and plan to request your LORs BEFORE you leave campus for the summer.  Applicants frequently make the mistake of waiting until fall to approach their professors and then find themselves waiting quite a while.  Your professors are busy so you need to plan ahead to give them enough time to write your letters… and the letters that others are requesting.

2. Attend PLAS Programs! Attending our upcoming PLAS programs will help you get a jump start on your applications.  Remember — most law schools admit applicants on a rolling basis so the earlier you apply, the better!

  • Financing Law School, Monday April 1, 5-6pm, College of Law, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Classroom A. Our Financial Aid Series continues! With so many different aid offers from various law schools….how do students choose? Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law, and Donna Davis, a current 2L and Pre-Law Advising Graduate Assistant, are here to walk you through it! Ms. Griffin and Ms. Davis will show you what a law school financial aid offer looks like and demonstrate how to evaluate aid packages and make fair comparisons among schools. No registration required. 
  • Applying to Law School — A Workshop for Fall Applicants — Monday, April 15, 4-5:00 pm, Room 1027 Lincoln Hall. Applying to law school early in the application cycle can result in more admission offers, more aid, and much less stress. This workshop is designed for students who will be applying to law school this fall and want to maximize their law school opportunities. We will provide an overview of the law school application process and share a timeline for optimal application results. No registration required.
  • Personal Statement Workshop for Fall Applicants — Thursday, April 18, 12-1:00pm, Room 514 Illini Union Bookstore Building.  Law school applicants consistently say that the personal statement took much more time to write than they expected. This workshop will provide an overview of the personal statement and the resume for law school applications. Please register by clicking on this link http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508 to our Event Calendar. Once there, please select this event and then click on “register.”  Registration is required so that we can provide enough seating and materials for everyone.

All Pre-Law Students

1. Find and apply for summer internships NOW.  Not sure where to start?  Go here, http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2012/12/20/internship-newsletter/, to access our Internship Newsletter that was originally posted on December 20.  It contains 17 pages of information on internships and jobs.  Many of these postings have March deadlines so start looking now!

2. Stay informed… about all of our PLAS Programs, information sessions, updates on the legal profession, etc.  How???

 Enjoy your break!

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Financing Law School — Audio File for Webinar Available!

Were you unable to attend the Heather Jarvis webinar, “Realities of Financing a Legal Education” last week? Good news — click on the following link and you can find out what you missed! https://illinois.edu/fb/sec/9083015.  Just enter your net id and password and you will be able to access the presentation. Once there, click on the “view presentation” link.  The audio and slide presentation should begin.

In the webinar Ms. Jarvis, a nationally-renowed financial aid expert, explains student loan options at the law school level and shares information about recent changes to loan repayment options, including loan forgiveness programs . This is a must-see for students entering law school. Find out more about Heather and her excellent resources at http://askheatherjarvis.com/. The webinar link will only be available for the next month so check it out now!!

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Financing Law School: Heather Jarvis Webinar Monday, March 4!!

I know, I know — I sound like “Debbie Downer” when pre-law students come into my office with stars in their eyes, excited about law school admissions offers and I ask: “Have you figured out how you are going to pay for it?”  But folks, this is a huge issue!  Law school debt and the student loan crisis have made it imperative that pre-law students thoroughly understand financial aid processes and options at the law school level. As such, PLAS has put together a two-part series on financing law school.  Our first program in the series is a webinar set for next Monday, March 4, 5pm, entitled “Financing Law School: Understanding Debt and Student Loans” featuring financial aid and student loan guru Heather Jarvis. 

Heather Jarvis is a nationally recognized expert and speaker on the complexities of financial aid and student loans. During this webinar, she will provide a detailed overview of student loan options at the law school level, and share information about recent changes to loan repayment options, including loan forgiveness programs. This is a must-see for students entering law school. Find out more about Heather and her excellent resources at http://askheatherjarvis.com/This event is FREE and exclusively for UIUC students.  Note — PARTICIPATION IS LIMITED and participants must register in advance. To register, click on this link to the PLAS event calendar: http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508. Once there, select the March 4 event and then select register and follow the instructions which will ultimately direct you to Ms. Jarvis’s registration system. This is a must see, not to be missed opportunity so register today!!!!
 
So just exactly who is Heather Jarvis?
 
As she shares on her website, Heather graduated from Duke University School of Law cum laude owing $125,000 in student loans and facing 30-years’ worth of $1,200 monthly payments.  No one ever told Heather that she couldn’t afford to go to Duke, even though, um, she couldn’t.  Her mother was a modestly paid executive assistant and her father a mostly unemployed Shakespearean actor.  Heather didn’t realize she couldn’t afford an expensive education until after she got one.  
 

At one time, people who earned fancy grades at fancy law schools got offered fancy jobs with fancy paychecks.  Having become all fancyfied, Heather had to decide: take the job she had been dreaming about all her life that only paid $25,000 per year (representing people facing criminal prosecution), or make a boatload of money.

Duke Law’s generous loan repayment assistance program made it possible for Heather to eschew the money without defaulting on her student loans.  She will always be grateful that Duke enabled her to continue ignoring her own financial security in pursuit of her irresistible urge to stand up for people in trouble.

Heather has practiced public interest law for more than a dozen years.  Beginning in 2005, Heather focused her advocacy work on reducing the financial barriers to practicing public interest law.

Heather has contributed to student debt relief policy for the House Education Committee and others in Congress, and has dedicated her professional efforts to advancing public service loan forgiveness which allows recent graduates to dedicate their careers to the greater good.  Heather leads efforts to establish and expand student debt relief programs and to inform borrowers, schools, and employers about how to benefit from available debt relief programs.

Widely recognized by school professionals and media representatives as an expert source of information, Heather has trained thousands of students and professionals and is sought after for her sophisticated legal knowledge and accessible teaching style.  Mark your calendars now and register for this event ASAP!!

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Subsidized federal loans for graduate students end July 1

As part of the recent student loan overhaul, subsidized federal loans were eliminated for graduate students as of July 1. What does that mean? Before July 1, graduate (including law) students were allowed to borrow up to a certain amount (about $65,000) in subsidized loans, meaning that interest did not begin to accrue on those loans until after the student graduated. With the elimination of the subsidy, these loans will now begin to accrue interest as soon as they are dispersed.

Maybe it seems like this isn’t a big deal in the overall borrowing of law students. However, the Chronicle of Higher Education estimates that the subsidy for graduate students who borrowed the maximum subsidized loans ($65,000) saved them $207 PER MONTH in payments over a 10 year payoff period. That’s $24,000 more that graduate students will now be paying in interest. It’s important for students to consider the overall costs–including interest–when evaluating your educational investment.

Check out the article here: http://chronicle.com/article/Federal-Loan-Changes-May-Curb/132665/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

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