HELP! Single mom needs advice...

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

Which law school choice makes the MOST sense for my family situation?

Vanderbilt (T17)
17
81%
Minnesota/Mid-West (T20-25)
0
No votes
Maryland (T43)
4
19%
 
Total votes: 21

krj02004
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HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby krj02004 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:49 pm

I'm recently divorced with 2 toddlers... I got accepted at some top 20 schools and I'm would really like to go to Vanderbilt (T-17)... I also got waitlisted at Penn (my 1st choice) and Virginia, but with how waitlists are playing out this year I'm sure it's pretty hopeless to get in.

Here is my dilemna... I got very little scholarship money (only $10k) from Vandy and with all the loans I have to take out (including child care) I'm going to be paying back around $203k. With 2 kids, I'm very scared. I was also hoping to go into public interest law... but with over $1k in loan payments per month AND raising a family on one income I think that would be pretty foolish of me. Let's not even talk about child support... nonexistent. I have experience in Labor and EMployment law, which I think pays closer to corporate law if I work for a large firm. Am I right in this??

Anyways, here is my decision dilemna---I also got accepted at Minnesota (T-20) which eases my total debt load to $170k and I was accepted at UMaryland... which is ranked 43rd and it's in-state tuition for me... so I would owe maximum $120k after I graduate. Money-wise, it seems that Maryland is the best choice for my family, however I don't want to stay in the Baltimore/DC area long... it's expensive and I want some quality of life for my kids while I'm paying off student loans. It is also known for healthcare law and environmental policy.. not areas I'm particularly interested it. But Maryland has an EXCELLENT regional reputation... and NYC/Philly/DC/Baltimore area is obviously not a bad region to be in for jobs in the legal field... then again the average starting salary at Maryland is $83k compared to $145k at Vandy.


So, what do I do? If I was single I would totally follow the rankings and go to Vandy, but with a family I don't know if that is the right decision.

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jks289
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby jks289 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:00 pm

Having read the number I still think Vanderbilt makes the most sense. If you were talking about a full ride somewhere, that might be different. But with IBR, LRAP, etc the actual difference between 100K and 200K doesn't end up being all that much. Make sure you are able to limit yourself to federal loans at all cost, they should be open to increasing childcare allowances. I would contact Vanderbilt's financial aid office to discuss specifics. They also might be able to point you towards grants outside the institution for single parents, etc. I know they exist. Also schools often have on campus childcare, some of which is federally subsidized. There is a way to make this work.

As an aside, I really have to commend you on this undertaking. Most days I feel like being a wife and working full time is overwhelming, and even question our decision to have a baby 2L year. Being a single mother of two toddlers and returning to law school is just about the bravest, most ass-kicking thing I have ever heard. It's honestly really inspiring to hear.

Good luck!!

oneforship
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby oneforship » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:04 pm

wow, RC fail....
Last edited by oneforship on Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Shaggier1
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby Shaggier1 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:05 pm

I don't want to stay in the Baltimore/DC area long... it's expensive and I want some quality of life for my kids while I'm paying off student loans. It is also known for healthcare law and environmental policy.. not areas I'm particularly interested it. But Maryland has an EXCELLENT regional reputation... and NYC/Philly/DC/Baltimore area is obviously not a bad region to be in for jobs in the legal field... then again the average starting salary at Maryland is $83k compared to $145k at Vandy.


If you don't want to be in Baltimore/DC area for long, then do NOT go to UMD.

I really think Vandy is the clear winner in this case. I think the relative differences in debt load will come back to you eventually given Vandy's rank and reach. Good luck to you.

shanejamin
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby shanejamin » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:09 pm

I can't tell you about salaries for labor law, etc., but I can tell you what I'm doing: I'm taking the money. I don't think the legal market is going to rebound to the salary opportunities of the halcyon days of 2005/2006--and if it does, people from lower-ranked schools had chances at those salaries as well. Furthermore, schools are notorious for massaging their average starting salary data by not being terribly random in their "random" sampling, and much ink has been spilled about schools' self-reported employment statistics to begin with.

I'm in at Michigan with nothing, which would leave me something like $195k in the hole, and Texas with in-state tuition and some scholarship money, leaving me something like $70k-$80k in the red. And that's not even the whole story; interest on $100k in loans over 10 years is like $30k; on $200k, it's over $70k (and with children, it will definitely take 10 years). That's nearly the cost of an in-state legal education again.

It's also obvious that a good quality of life for your kids is important to you. If you're $200k in debt, you'll have to take the biggest law job you can get, which will keep you in the office for unpredictable hours, often very, very late in the evening. It will be tough to arrange for anyone to be watching them, to say nothing of spending time with them yourself.

The general wisdom is that if your starting salary equals your loan amount, then it was a good decision. Less than half your loan amount, it becomes very tough to pay down the interest even. I just can't imagine the odds being better than even that we're getting $200k jobs in 3 years when people are advertising on craigslist for hourly doc review jobs right now. I would probably not give us all great odds of making even 100k to start (of course, having been a teacher for 3 years now, that seems like a fortune in itself).

Anyway, 's what I'm doing.

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TonyDigital
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby TonyDigital » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:25 pm

What all is included in that 120k maximum total for UM? I'm thinking if you had a good enough application to get a scholarship of any kind to Vandy, then you would've gotten a generous one from Maryland (on top of being in-state).

In any case...I believe the conservative route here would be to take on the least financially risky option because of your children. I understand your job opportunities from UM won't be as plentiful, or as lucrative, as Vandy (generally speaking). But there are grey areas, depending on class rank and networking, where a Vandy grad won't do as well as a UM grad based on starting salary. What isn't grey, and is 100% certain, is Vandy will cost you a lot more.

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Teoeo
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby Teoeo » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:30 pm

with LRAP + IBR i would definately choose vandy if you are serious about public interest. If you don't mind the cold, Min. is not a bad choice either.

krj02004
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby krj02004 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:32 pm

I haven't received a financial aid package from UM yet... I might get a lot, or not. I applied late so grants may be gone. But 120k is a generous figure that includes tuition, fees, room and board, living expenses, and childcare.

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jks289
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby jks289 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:35 pm

I understand where shanejamin is coming from, but I don't think that advice holds for the OP. If you don't want to be in DC/Maryland UMaryland is not a smart choice. So you are down to Vandy vs MN, and only talking about a 33K difference in debt (plus interest). Vandy will give you significantly better employment prospects, well worth the marginal difference. The question is really if the OP can secure a qualifying PI job and make the IBR payments for ten years while raising her family. I don't have that answer, but I believe its entirely possible.

If you sit down and crunch all of the numbers, plus summer costs, plus oh my god how to you work BigLaw hours with two kids in kindergarten and what if you don't get a decent PI job, and what if the economy gets ever worse and catastrophize then it doesn't make sense for her to go to law school. It doesn't really make sense for anyone to go to law school. But assuming OP is determined in her decision (and she should be) then among the choices at hand Vanderbilt makes the most sense to me. You have to be smart about debt, and sometimes that includes spending more to get a better return. My experience has been that people with the most responsibilities have the best time management, and the people with the most on the line are the ones who really thrive. Invest in the better school, graduate somewhere near the top of that class, and find an employment option that works for you. Federal loans can be managed.

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Philo38
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby Philo38 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:44 pm

jks289 wrote:I understand where shanejamin is coming from, but I don't think that advice holds for the OP. If you don't want to be in DC/Maryland UMaryland is not a smart choice. So you are down to Vandy vs MN, and only talking about a 33K difference in debt (plus interest). Vandy will give you significantly better employment prospects, well worth the marginal difference. The question is really if the OP can secure a qualifying PI job and make the IBR payments for ten years while raising her family. I don't have that answer, but I believe its entirely possible.

If you sit down and crunch all of the numbers, plus summer costs, plus oh my god how to you work BigLaw hours with two kids in kindergarten and what if you don't get a decent PI job, and what if the economy gets ever worse and catastrophize then it doesn't make sense for her to go to law school. It doesn't really make sense for anyone to go to law school. But assuming OP is determined in her decision (and she should be) then among the choices at hand Vanderbilt makes the most sense to me. You have to be smart about debt, and sometimes that includes spending more to get a better return. My experience has been that people with the most responsibilities have the best time management, and the people with the most on the line are the ones who really thrive. Invest in the better school, graduate somewhere near the top of that class, and find an employment option that works for you. Federal loans can be managed.


+1. What is key is you are going to need to consider how well you can perform in law school with small children and all of the extra work you will have. It certainly can be done. I would say that if debt is your fear and you have two children your only option is to graduate near the top. If you do very well at Vandy, get excellent grades, and take advantage of all they have to offer, you will have all the opportunity in the world.

Also, shameless Nashville trolling: You couldn't ask for a better place to raise your family, and the Vandy area in particular is great. Although, (if you are already from Nashville you may know this) you will want to start looking at magnet schools very seriously, very soon, if you are going to be living in Davidson county. The magnet/charter school system here can be really fantastic but difficult to get into. You do not want your kids in metro schools if you can avoid it.

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Great Satchmo
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby Great Satchmo » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:12 pm

Don't go to UMD if you don't want to live in the area afterward.

I picked Vandy because, as others have mentioned, IBR and LRAP with public interest will make it manageable.


On another note: I have MUCH respect for your ability to pull this off....I'm fretting over the responsibility that adopting a dog represents....

khanvalescent
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Re: HELP! Single mom needs advice...

Postby khanvalescent » Sat May 01, 2010 2:11 am

Since some people have given real--and perhaps good--advice above, obligatory snarky reply to follow:

If your biological makeup included as many periods (yes, I know they are ellipses) as your post, you wouldn't have to worry about supporting two kids! HIYOOOO




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