Junior looking for help putting together a college list (planning for law school)

Law School Reports | LST Reports shows employment outcomes of various law schools that may be useful for a pre-law student trying to choose between law school admission offers.

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@ucbalumnus Agreed – I also recommend the ABA 509 report and NALP reports for specific law schools, which show detailed employment outcomes.

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This is demonstrably not a correct statement. Both YLS and HLS have need based financial aid.

UChicago has some “merit” awards.

https://www.law.uchicago.edu/financialaid/scholarships

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Financing Your Education: Need Based Grants • Penn Law (upenn.edu)

Financing Your Education: Merit Scholarships • Penn Law (upenn.edu)

Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for Public Interest Lawyers | Columbia Law School

Mordecai Scholars | Duke University School of Law

Scholarships & Fellowships - WashULaw (wustl.edu)

Scholarships A-F (cornell.edu)

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@eeyore, my apologies for painting with a broad brush which left out the nuance. You are right, there is need-based aid which are “grants” which reduce the cost of attendance. But even students eligible for financial aid are still borrowing – a lot. In undergrad admissions at schools like Harvard and Princeton, very low income students may get full-need based aid with no loans. However, when those same students turn around and apply to law school, they are expected to borrow significantly.

When my kid was applying to law school, fully independent but with low income, we researched need-based aid at various schools, thinking maybe there would be some upside for him having scrapped by in public interest work for several years. Harvard’s website stated that the financial aid award for poverty level students includes $50k loans per year, so $150k plus accrued interest and fees. So yes, while that Harvard Law student would also be getting a grant of about $40+ per year, their loan indebtedness at the end of three years would be more than $150k.

Harvard, Yale and Stanford (the “T3”) do not give merit awards, everyone else does, including Chicago which is ranked 4. Law school awards do not typically distinguish between need based or merit based aid. The applicant gets a letter with an “award” which basically shows how much the school is discounting the cost of attendance, and how is left to pay, which the student has to borrow.

My point, which I agree was carelessly broad and, therefore, inaccurate, was that unlike college admissions with NPCs and a sliding scale of financial aid eligibility based on income, law school finances involve weighing significant loans with the possibility of merit, depending on the school.

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I am a practicing lawyer, and have been for 18 years. I went to Georgetown Law. I own my own firm (7 attorneys). Few law schools offer substantive merit aid. While there may be some financial aid, most of it is in the form of loans. I know, I just finished paying mine off in November. The advice to minimize your student debt at the undergraduate level is good advice. There is little substantive financial assistance in law school. To get into law school, you need an excellent GPA and high LSAT score. The question that is NOT being asked here, is why law? A lot of law is being automated at the moment. AI is increasingly putting lawyers out of a job. Yet, the US graduates thousands of lawyers a year into an increasingly shrinking marketplace. That being the reality of law and its near future, is that what you want?

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I realize there is a “financial aid” process at law school, that is how students get their loans. And every law school other than Harvard, Yale and Stanford gives merit awards. My point was – being poor doesn’t mean you go to law school without loans. A low income student could be admitted to Harvard, and the financial aid award includes $50k loans per year, so over $150k indebtedness. That same low income students might be admitted to Chicago or Columbia, ranked #4, and get a coveted full tuition award, so with much less indebtedness. At that point, the student has to weight the benefit of the HLS degree vs. the benefit of lower indebtedness.

Many top schools have public interest loan repayment programs – for anyone interested in public interest law intending to borrow for law school, it is very very important to compare those programs before making a decision. Again, the top law schools are the most generous. Many other schools have competitive admission for loan repayment programs so that only a small number of students can get it, or cap the amount of assistance, or have other provisions which make the programs less helpful than one might expect.

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James Madison College at Michigan State. This college came onto my daughter’s radar in the past couple months and I’ve done tons of reading about the program. It seems ideal for anyone thinking about a law degree.

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I was more addressing this…

“…there is (sic) no need-based grants/scholarships and the very top schools do not give merit awards.”

You addressed it already with your response to the other poster.

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Some people want to go where there are other people who share their religious interests, political interests, sports interests, extracurricular activity interests. These are all ways of paring down the list. But you’ve given us enough.

Any school will have History and English majors, both of which help you to develop excellent writing ability, which is very important for law school. If you have a particular interest that you’re leaning toward in law, you might also want to take courses in that - accounting, family psychology/relations, whatever.

Sounds to me, from what you describe, that a big state U might be perfect for you. Many of them will offer “merit” money that will bring your cost down to close to in-state. So aside from Urbana Champaign, I would add UW Madison, UMich, UNC, and UVa. In terms of the private schools, the issue is cost. They’re running over 70K, and the ones that will give you “merit” aid (because it doesn’t sound as if you would qualify for financial aid) are going to be less competitive than the ones you would probably qualify to go to.

But, if it really is the case that law schools do not care where you got your undergrad degree, only that you got a very high GPA, and a stellar LSAT, then you might be well-advised to also apply to less competitive undergraduate schools that might offer you a substantial amount of merit aid, as long as you can be well prepared for the LSAT. There are a LOT of private schools that might offer you a substantial discount, even a full ride, if you get a very high SAT. You’ve already got good grades and substantial rigor. Plus there are state schools, mostly in the South and Southwest, that offer a lot of merit aid to a well-qualified candidate, plus they have honors programs, so you’re grouped with other high-achieving students.

The point is, you need to go somewhere that you can get a 4.0 GPA, and a high LSAT score, that offers you a lot of merit money, if not a full ride. A southern or southwest state school might just fit the bill for you, or a mid-tier small liberal arts college trying to rise in the rankings.

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Wisconsin, Virginia, UNC, and Michigan provide few merit scholarships to undergraduates. Those that receive them tend to have perfect standardized test scores, GPAs, and are NMSFs.

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Thank you all so much for the advice! I have run the net price calculator for several schools that have been mentioned and it does appear I will not be receiving need based aid for (m)any of them. So it does seem like I should follow the money on this one, especially if I’m planning for law school afterwards. I have taken note of all colleges mentioned, thank you all, this was very helpful!

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Come back on after this school year is over, and you’ve gotten your SAT or ACT score. As I said, there will be private colleges that might offer you a very good package, and since your GPA and LSAT are all that count, a less-competitive school with a full ride might be the best bet for you.

I would recommend you look into the quality of Honors Colleges. Some well-known ones include Plan II at UT (TX), LSA at Michigan, Schreyer at PSU, Honors at USC-Columbia, Sally Barksdale at Ole Miss… Not all offer significant merit scholarships.
Roughly speaking, for significant merit, look at South/Southwestern Flagship universities and Midwestern LACs and non-National LACs or regional universities in the North.

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My daughter is loosely considering law school, but is confident she will continue with graduate school in some capacity (major in chemistry or biochemistry at the moment). She’s been accepted to several great schools and their respective honors college programs. The school that beats every other financially is Ole Miss. She has a 33 ACT and got the full tuition for 4 years (automatic - chart on their financial aid site). She’s waiting on honors college decision coming out in March. We visited Ole Miss in 2019 and she fell in love with the campus. Going back soon for a second visit.

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Just wanted to mention that UofSC Honors College has a 3+3 Bachelors/JD program. Honors is no guarantee though as they get about 5k-6k applications for about 600 spots and the law school is not high in rankings, but thought I would mention in case you want to look into it. UofSC also gives in-state tuition equivalent scholarships.

Hello everyone! Following your advice I’m back as a rising senior with my SAT score. my stats are now:
GPA: 3.94 UW, 4.474 W
SAT:1450
CR:6/~320

In addition I ended up being elected as class president, am now president of the model UN and history club as opposed to co-leader, and have a few more minor computer science awards.
Just wondering how these developments should affect my college choices. Does this put me in a good spot for honors college or merit based aid? Should I still apply to less competitive schools for financial reasons in preparation for law school? Thank you all for all your help!

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Following your journey with interest, as I have a rising junior with similar goals. I have no advice, but wanted to wish you well.
Congrats on a great year!

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The honest answer is it will…but at an increasingly select number of universities. Universities (not LACs) that offer defined merit-based aid usually publish it on their website. Take Alabama for instance (which has not updated its information yet for the class of 2022, entering fall of 2022). It provides a defined matrix that if you hit certain benchmarks of combined GPA and ACT/SAT test scores, you will be awarded a set amount of merit scholarship. There is always a chance that you could be awarded more. Just be aware that there are literally thousands of students applying to college that are just like you. For example, if you took the PSAT, understand that there are 15,000 National Merit Semifinalists each year. That’s a lot of students who may have higher test scores than you. This is not meant to discourage you. Rather, it is meant to inform. This is a tough process. You need to dream some. You also need to be realistic.

At this point, you absolutely need to figure what your budget is. If you intend to go to law school, will you receive any funds from family for that, or will you be borrowing for it (there are few scholarships for law school). Remember, the best education is the PAID education. If you intend to go to law school, it will not be cheap. I saw a lot of my classmates give up their dreams in law school because they had to repay undergraduate and law school loans. Big Law can be a grind. So, figure out (best you can) what you want for yourself. Where do you want to live (geographically speaking). Start building support networks.

There is no perfect school. But, if you are serious about law school and have a limited budget, ensure that you leverage your borrowing power for law school. Keep your undergraduate costs down, do well on the LSAT, and keep your GPA up.

Good low cost schools with defined merit aid: New Mexico, Iowa State, Nebraska, Kansas State, Kansas (I think), Alabama, South Carolina (maybe, depends on your scores), Arizona State, and Arizona.

Now…LACS. Sure you could get a scholarship at a LAC. But, if you get a half scholarship at a LAC and the total cost of attendance is $70K/year…where are you? Does that get you were you need to be? Does it fit your budget? Only you can answer those questions.

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Apply to reputable honors colleges – James Madison at Michigan State, Sally Barksdale at Ole Miss, Schreyer at PSU, plus at UIUC of course.

Kenyon, Middlebury, and other LACs listed above should be in the running.

Add, perhaps, Dickinson, Kalamazoo?

Have you run the NPC on all of them? If you haven’t, do so and cross out the colleges that aren’t within budget.

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