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 27, PLAS welcomed Rebecca Ray, Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Illinois College of Law who shared her insights on negotiating scholarships with law schools. For those of you who were unable to attend, here are some of the questions 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.
  • Dean Ray discouraged the use of scholarship reconsideration solely to leverage offers at other law schools.
  • Remember: Most law schools’ initial scholarship offers are offers that they intend view as market competitive so don’t approach the reconsideration process assuming that the law school is using a “low-ball” offer as a starting point.  As such, although it is fine to ask for reconsideration, in most cases the law schools say “No” more often than they say “Yes” to these requests.

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 set aside a specific time frame 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!
  • Dean Ray indicated that she was not persuaded simply by arguments that she “should match” another school’s scholarship offer.
  • Manage your expectations — full tuition scholarships are very rarely awarded so do not expect that result.
  • Do not turn 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.  As such, if possible, you should attach the other competing scholarship offers to your reconsideration letter/email.  That equals good lawyering by you!

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 institution 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.
  • Note: 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


  • 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 – your proposal should be a well-crafted and thoughtfully-presented piece of advocacy
  • Show your interest by visiting the school


  • 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.