Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

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SmokedGouda
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Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby SmokedGouda » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:58 pm

I've asked this question to family, friends, co-workers, current students and recent grads, practicing attorneys, and just about everyone else I come in contact with, it seems, but I'm still no closer to making a decision. Maybe you can help? Here's the scoop:

Goals: I'm interested in environmental law, so I'd eventually like to work for an environmental non-profit or the EPA. On the way, I'd like to do a clerkship, and if need be, go the corporate route for a time to help pay off debt. I don't really know where I want to end up (I grew up in Texas, went to undergrad in New York, and currently work as a paralegal in DC), but I could see myself being happy on either coast or in Austin.

Berkeley: Has long been my top choice and most aligns with my goals. I like the strong environmental program, the public interest focus, LRAP, comparatively laid-back atmosphere, location, professors, students - really, just about everything. I attended the Admitted Students Weekend, and I met so many great people and really felt like I fit in. In the words of one Liz Lemon, I want to go to there.

UT: I love Austin, and it's only a few hours' drive away from my family. The school is big, but the people were friendly. There are a plethora of clinics and journals to participate in, and the school seems to be working really hard to increase clerkship placements. But my concerns are that if I'm not at the very top of my class, I'll be stuck in Texas (and not in Austin) and shut out of opportunities that might have been available to me if I went to a higher ranked school.

If money wasn't a concern, I would go to Berkeley without a second thought. But money is always a concern, and I'm looking at a roughly $110K loan difference between the two schools. Berkeley has offered me no aid - no scholarships, no grants - so taking into account my savings, I'm looking at about $170K in loans to cover tuition and cost of living over three years. UT has offered both a merit scholarship and some need-based grants, so I'd only need $60K in loans.

Is Berkeley worth $110K (plus interest!) more than UT, especially in this economy? I don't know. All I want when I graduate is a job, preferably one that will make me happy, but at the very least one that will help me pay off my debt. And I don't want to take out $170K in loans relying on LRAP/IBR alone, because things can change (my goals may change, or, heaven forbid, those programs run out of money). I'd appreciate any advice.

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Shaggier1
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby Shaggier1 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:30 pm

Is Berkeley worth $110K (plus interest!) more than UT, especially in this economy?


If you are genuinely interested in a clerkship and a federal public interest position, then yes. (Not that such goals are unattainable via UT, just less likely)

If money wasn't a concern, I would go to Berkeley without a second thought. But money is always a concern, and I'm looking at a roughly $110K loan difference between the two schools.


In my case, this same sentiment was enough to seal the deal. I know several others on this board (perhaps the majority?) approach the decision differently, but I told myself I deserve exactly the experience I am looking for in law school and I will find a way to make it work financially. There are schools I could have gone to for free, or at the very least for half the cost of Berkeley; but I knew that I would not be nearly as engaged, as motivated, or as fulfilled if I went somewhere else. This is the foundation for what will be my life's work. I will spare no expense.

Besides, its not like we are talking about paying sticker for a tier 4. I know the legal market is not what it once was, but this is a top-10 law school we are talking about.

And while I empathize with your concerns regarding LRAP/IBR, I am betting on those resources being available still in 3 years. As far as LRAP is concerned, part of the reason Berkeley raised tuition was so that it could maintain its LRAP. And I don't see IBR going anywhere under the current administration.

Anyway, just my .02

PS: did you attend the Berkeley Law reception in DC? I think we may have met IRL

SmokedGouda
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby SmokedGouda » Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:37 am

Thanks, Shaggier1! I appreciate your .02. (And I did attend the DC reception! I wonder who you were?) I am genuinely interested in a clerkship, both because all the attorneys I've worked with have said it was one of the best legal experiences of their careers, and also because it seems to be a good stepping stone to getting the type of environmental positions I'm interested in. Berkeley would definitely help me get where I want to be, and more so than UT.

I'm in for a lot of thinking over the next few days (my self-imposed deadline is to make decision by this weekend). Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? Maybe someone who thinks that financial considerations should matter more?

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sandiecohen47
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby sandiecohen47 » Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:54 am

I would echo everything Shaggier said and emphasize the strength of Boalt's environmental program. I remember visiting UCLA at their ASD and meeting with an alum from my undergrad (a current UCLA 2L) who was interested in becoming an environmental lawyer. He told me about all of the current Berkeley students and recent alumni he knew who had the best job connections. He was insanely jealous.

I'm risk averse, too. I can understand the worries regarding the 170K debt (since I have the same worries). But if your heart is pulling a Liz Lemon "I Want to Go To There," follow it! Paying sticker at one of the best law schools in America is not a horrible financial decision (regardless of what you read here at TLS).

Come to Berkeley! And, if you live in DC, join Shaggier1 and me for a happy hour sometime soon. :-)

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Shaggier1
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby Shaggier1 » Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:19 am

And, if you live in DC, join Shaggier1 and me for a happy hour sometime soon. :-)


TITCR!! I think we have 5 Berkeley admits signed on to meet in DC. We need more though. Join us!

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Teoeo
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby Teoeo » Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:21 am

LRAP + IBR = Berkeley IMO

Thatll make the difference in cost a lot less not to mention ITS BOALT!!

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Dignan
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby Dignan » Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:50 pm

$110K is a substantial difference in COA. However, UCB is a better overall law school than UT, and UCB is much stronger in your field of interest.

Were I you, I'd go to Berkeley, but I can see why you are having a hard time with the decision. I think that either choice is defensible.

SmokedGouda
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby SmokedGouda » Thu Apr 29, 2010 4:29 pm

Thanks for the responses! What I'm hearing here is definitely in line with what people have been telling me - that I should probably go to Berkeley, but I wouldn't be crazy if I chose UT. Only a couple of people have told me to take the money at UT, but when they did, I felt a ping of sadness. That's telling, right? I guess I'm just going to have to put down my calculator this weekend and make a decision. And if that decision leads me to California, we can discuss this happy hour business further!

In the meantime, more responses welcome.

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Shaggier1
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Re: Advice appreciated: UT ($$) or Berkeley?

Postby Shaggier1 » Thu Apr 29, 2010 9:07 pm

I felt a ping of sadness. That's telling, right?


Very.




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