Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

(Rankings, Profiles, Tuition, Student Life, . . . )

Which way to go?

Harvard or Stanford (~110K of debt)
20
43%
Columbia (<10K of debt)
27
57%
 
Total votes: 47

generals10
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Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby generals10 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:59 am

I'm in a few very fortunate positions: accepted to Harvard and Stanford, the recipient of a Hamilton full-tuition scholarship at Columbia, and with significant resources (parents are in good shape financially and generous, and I went to UG on scholarship) so that I won't have to borrow my entire cost of attendance.

Academia isn't a factor in my decision, but clerkships are. The most attractive long-term career goals to me right now are working for a federal agency or for a small litigation shop in DC, but I think I would also be fine with a stint in Biglaw. I also completely expect these vague notions to completely change once I'm actually in law school and have done some externships/internships, etc.

I've visited CLS and HLS and liked both, but I did have a slight preference for Harvard. I do have some very good friends in NYC. I will be visiting SLS in a few weeks. While I can't be entirely certain, I think that Harvard and Stanford would both put me $100-115K in debt, while I would leave Columbia with very little debt (maybe nothing, maybe $10-15K, depending on summers). The idea of graduating essentially debt-free from a top-6 school is obviously very attractive, but part of me is a bit scared of a) limiting myself somewhat by not going to the one of the absolute best schools I got into b) not being all that good at law school and having to scramble for a job from the bottom half of CLS, where the grading systems and added prestige of H/S would provide a cushion. I also think that my stress level would be much lower during law school at H/S, but then again six-figure debt is probably pretty stressful too.

Given my situation, do you all think I should take on the significant but not nightmarish debt to go to HLS/SLS (whichever one I end up liking more) or take the money at Columbia? Thanks, and sorry for the long post.
Last edited by generals10 on Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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EijiMiyake
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby EijiMiyake » Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:17 am

I think that H/S are better for clerkships and some of the elite litigation boutiques. However, no opportunities will be closed to you because you took the Hamilton instead of going to H/S - whether or not the edge is worth $100k to you is a deeply personal question and depends on how strongly you want these things.

Additionally, LRAPs aren't the same as having no debt, but they will help if you end up at a fed agency.

My advice - visit SLS, and if you love CA, go there. Otherwise, take the $ and don't look back.

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daesonesb
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby daesonesb » Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:28 am

I'd go Stanford myself, then you'd have really strong chances for a ninth circuit clerkship, and you'd spend the next three years in a great spot.

But who knows, maybe you'll visit Harvard and love it.

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jakeoooh
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby jakeoooh » Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:50 am

I went with Columbia on this vote, hands-down. Most of these comparison threads involve individuals having to take out loans to cover their entire COL, which can certainly add up in the city. When that's the vote, and you're taking out massive loans anyway, I could see hedging your bets by picking H. In your case though, having the financial cushion NOT to take out COL loans changes the game. If you end up at the bottom of your class at Columbia, you will definitely be worse off job-wise than ending up at the bottom of the class at Harvard or Stanford. But since you won't have any debt coming out of C, versus $100k + from H or S, that difference becomes a lot less important (at least for me).

While your shot at academia is better at Harvard, you said you don't really care about that (and from everything I read on here an individual's shot at academia is pretty poor no matter where they attend). In addition I would imagine that Columbia probably goes out of their way to make more opportunities available to those students who receive the Hamilton, as opposed to H/S where you would be just another admit. This is probably less of a big deal at S, because they only have around 500 students total, but at H (where the enrollment is like 1750 total) it's probably a different story. I don't know how many Hamiltons are given out and accepted each year, but I'd imagine it's no more than five or ten (that end up matriculating)... So in terms of opportunities being offered to you would you rather be 1 of 10, 1 of 180, or 1 of 600? Yeah, Harvard and Stanford might have better options for the average student, but getting a Hamilton in itself separates you from the average Columbia student. Plus, if I remember correctly, the Hamilton comes with some sort of mentoring program which will give you the opportunity to develop a close relationship with one of their profs (which would probably help with clerking and if you decided to try academia after-all).

If I were in your situation, Hamilton w/ no debt> Stanford> Harvard.

legends159
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby legends159 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:48 pm

I'd choose CLS but if you're even a little bit serious about attending SLS talk to Faye Deal about your financial situation. They say they only do need based aid but there's always an exception to every rule and if they want you enough that amount could go down.

Btw does Hamilton cover living expenses as well as health insurance and random law school fees/textbook fees? How are you calculating 10-15k and how are you calculating the 110-115K? To get your COA at H/S down to 110-115K for 3 years w/o putting any of your own money in you'd probably be getting around 35K/yr from each and I don't think Harvard gives that much no matter how much need.

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GeePee
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby GeePee » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:52 pm

legends159 wrote:I'd choose CLS but if you're even a little bit serious about attending SLS talk to Faye Deal about your financial situation. They say they only do need based aid but there's always an exception to every rule and if they want you enough that amount could go down.

Btw does Hamilton cover living expenses as well as health insurance and random law school fees/textbook fees? How are you calculating 10-15k and how are you calculating the 110-115K? To get your COA at H/S down to 110-115K for 3 years w/o putting any of your own money in you'd probably be getting around 35K/yr from each and I don't think Harvard gives that much no matter how much need.

He says he has significant resources saved to help pay for his cost of attendance.

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rayiner
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby rayiner » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:53 pm

If you end up at the bottom of your class at Columbia, you will definitely be worse off job-wise than ending up at the bottom of the class at Harvard or Stanford. But since you won't have any debt coming out of C, versus $100k + from H or S, that difference becomes a lot less important (at least for me).


This is such an incredibly dumb argument yet it keeps popping up.

Bottom 1/3 at CLS was pwnt in this year's OCI. Stanford folks, by all accounts, are fine. Yeah, you won't have any debt if you get pwnt by OCI at CLS, but you also won't get the type of job you want. Remember, we're talking a huge opportunity cost here. If OP's saved up $100k or so already, he's probably forgoing $200k or more in lost income to go to CLS, so his total cost to attend CLS is still $300k or so (he could put his savings to other uses, after all). That's the number that you need to compare to the HLS/SLS total of $400k or so.

And with only $100k of debt at HLS/SLS, which you can pay down with a short stint in biglaw, it's a no-brainer to choose HLS/SLS for the security.

imchuckbass58
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby imchuckbass58 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:58 pm

I would not put too much stock in the fact that you have money saved up. Obviously that's a great thing to have, but it's not like it makes either school "cheaper." I would also not put a great deal of stock in clerkships. There is a noticeable difference between H/S and C, but it's only one year of your life, and at any of those schools you will have to be in the top 1/3 to land a good clerkship, so it might be moot.

That said, in your situation I would pick Harvard. If you said you definitely wanted biglaw, especially NYC biglaw, Columbia is a no-brainer. But H places noticeably better in DC lit and in gov't (not that CLS is shabby, but it's not as good), and you won't be mortgaging your life to go to HLS. I say this as a current CLS student.

Good luck with your decision - great options.

Edit: OP there are also tons of threads addressing Hamilton v. HYS. I think it's fine you're starting a new thread tailored to your career goals and debt situation, but it might be worthwhile looking at them as well - there are some good thoughts in there.
Last edited by imchuckbass58 on Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby imchuckbass58 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:02 pm

rayiner wrote:
Bottom 1/3 at CLS was pwnt in this year's OCI. Stanford folks, by all accounts, are fine. Yeah, you won't have any debt if you get pwnt by OCI at CLS, but you also won't get the type of job you want. Remember, we're talking a huge opportunity cost here. If OP's saved up $100k or so already, he's probably forgoing $200k or more in lost income to go to CLS, so his total cost to attend CLS is still $300k or so (he could put his savings to other uses, after all). That's the number that you need to compare to the HLS/SLS total of $400k or so.

And with only $100k of debt at HLS/SLS, which you can pay down with a short stint in biglaw, it's a no-brainer to choose HLS/SLS for the security.


I agree with the general point here, but I'd take issue with the idea that everyone at HLS/SLS is fine across the board. I have no view on SLS, but a few 2L and 3L friends at HLS have told me that there are a significant number of people who struck out at 2L OCI. I have no idea what the percentage is (almost certainly less than CLS), but it's not as if bottom 1/3 at HLS cruised into biglaw - in many cases they got screwed as well. Even one LP (8% of every class, so probably around 15% of the total 1L class) was supposedly a kiss of death.

I would say choose HLS as well, but not because of the security at the bottom end, but rather the increased opportunities in the middle and near the top.

legends159
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby legends159 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:06 pm

legends159 wrote:I'd choose CLS but if you're even a little bit serious about attending SLS talk to Faye Deal about your financial situation. They say they only do need based aid but there's always an exception to every rule and if they want you enough that amount could go down.

Btw does Hamilton cover living expenses as well as health insurance and random law school fees/textbook fees? How are you calculating 10-15k and how are you calculating the 110-115K? To get your COA at H/S down to 110-115K for 3 years w/o putting any of your own money in you'd probably be getting around 35K/yr from each and I don't think Harvard gives that much no matter how much need.


Oh in that case he probably won't get any money from H/S unless he can bargain with that Hamilton and the schools want him badly enough. Again OP I would chat with Faye Deal when you come to OCI and see if you can negotiate something. I have heard that she's been helpful to at least a few of my 1L classmates in finding ways to bump up the aid to get them to come.

And +1 to rayiner. It could be the small class size or the fact that there is no discernible way to tell who is bottom 1/3 but it seems that SLS did amazing at OCI last fall (all things considered). I'm looking at the DC list and there are a LOT of people at elite DC firms this summer. There are even a few 1Ls who scored DC biglaw this summer. I won't provide statistics but it's on par with before ITE numbers.

MellonCollie
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby MellonCollie » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:08 pm

rayiner wrote:
If you end up at the bottom of your class at Columbia, you will definitely be worse off job-wise than ending up at the bottom of the class at Harvard or Stanford. But since you won't have any debt coming out of C, versus $100k + from H or S, that difference becomes a lot less important (at least for me).


This is such an incredibly dumb argument yet it keeps popping up.

Bottom 1/3 at CLS was pwnt in this year's OCI. Stanford folks, by all accounts, are fine. Yeah, you won't have any debt if you get pwnt by OCI at CLS, but you also won't get the type of job you want. Remember, we're talking a huge opportunity cost here. If OP's saved up $100k or so already, he's probably forgoing $200k or more in lost income to go to CLS, so his total cost to attend CLS is still $300k or so (he could put his savings to other uses, after all). That's the number that you need to compare to the HLS/SLS total of $400k or so.

And with only $100k of debt at HLS/SLS, which you can pay down with a short stint in biglaw, it's a no-brainer to choose HLS/SLS for the security.


I definitely get the argument, but this isn't super-comforting either. What's the average biglaw duration, 3-4 years? So you end up at some random firm, bust your ass for a few years to get financially even, and then what?

It's not like the world is awash in opportunities for mediocre HLS students who went to crappy firms.


(I agree that it is RELATIVELY a better position, which is all that matters maybe, but again, it seems like you're better off not going to LS at all in that case.)

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rayiner
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby rayiner » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:12 pm

MellonCollie wrote:I definitely get the argument, but this isn't super-comforting either. What's the average biglaw duration, 3-4 years? So you end up at some random firm, bust your ass for a few years to get financially even, and then what?


Distinguish yourself and lateral to a smaller firm where have an opportunity for partnership, jump into government work, etc. At least you'll still have the opportunity to do that. At CLS, there is a good chance you won't even get to play the game.

In OP's shoes I'd go to SLS and enjoy 3 years of the California sunshine. Fuck the poll --- law students can't do math and think the choice here is between paying $10k at CLS and $110k at HLS/SLS.

MellonCollie
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby MellonCollie » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:16 pm

rayiner wrote:
MellonCollie wrote:I definitely get the argument, but this isn't super-comforting either. What's the average biglaw duration, 3-4 years? So you end up at some random firm, bust your ass for a few years to get financially even, and then what?


Distinguish yourself and lateral to a smaller firm where have an opportunity for partnership, jump into government work, etc. At least you'll still have the opportunity to do that. At CLS, there is a good chance you won't even get to play the game.

In OP's shoes I'd go to SLS and enjoy 3 years of the California sunshine. Fuck the poll --- law students can't do math and think the choice here is between paying $10k at CLS and $110k at HLS/SLS.



How are you getting 300k vs 400k? His LSN says that he's IN undergrad as an English/Politics major - 200k post-tax income is a lot of income to assume for an entry level employee.

MellonCollie
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby MellonCollie » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:22 pm

rayiner wrote:
Distinguish yourself and lateral to a smaller firm where have an opportunity for partnership, jump into government work, etc. At least you'll still have the opportunity to do that. At CLS, there is a good chance you won't even get to play the game.



Yeah, that's true. My feeling on that is if I ended up at the bottom of HLS/CLS, I'd rather go do non-law things, but obviously that is difficult to do as well and probably not possible for those without specific undergraduate majors/work experience backgrounds.

generals10
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby generals10 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:00 pm

Thanks for all the responses. To clarify, money is from parents (I went to UG on scholarship and they are being generous enough to give me most of the money for LS that they would have spent on tuition).

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rayiner
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby rayiner » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:02 pm

generals10 wrote:Thanks for all the responses. To clarify, money is from parents (I went to UG on scholarship and they are being generous enough to give me most of the money for LS that they would have spent on tuition).


It's still money that they're spending that they could spend on something else. It doesn't make sense to subtract it from the total cost like you've done.

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Puffy
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Re: Decision Time--H/S vs. CLS $$$

Postby Puffy » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:47 pm

I would Stanford in a heartbeat. Maybe you won't end up making significantly more money because of that decision, but it's not like you are choosing between, say Penn and Duke $$$ or Michigan and NU $$$. If I had the numbers to get top 3 there is no way I would turn that down unless maybe for actual cash.




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