I studied hard, took the LSAT in December 2010, and got a 164--I had been practice testing around 169. I applied to only the top tier schools and was rejected from all of them. So I took all the TLS advice and worked my ass off to retake the LSAT. The month leading up to the test I consistently scored 172-178 at home. On test day of October 2011, I got... a 164. Decided to lower my standards and apply to some T20-30 and strong regional schools, since I didn't see the point in doing the LSAT thing for a third time when I really gave it my all the last time.
Eventually got full scholarships from Cardozo (which I turned down because the recent alums I spoke to in PI said it was just not a good place to be for PI), Temple (decided it wasn't worth it to choose over Brooklyn when I'd have to move), and Brooklyn, and 25k/year from both BU and BC. (I am not as interested in BU, as the recent alums I spoke to said that they had no public interest commitment to speak of and were very Boston firm oriented.)
My goal: public interest non-profit or government. Failing that, midlaw or small law. Zero interest in BigLaw. I make low-mid 40s now and can live on it just fine, though more is always better. I live frugally and my law school goal isn't money, it's more interesting work that makes a difference. I've been in the work force full-time for six years but I've been working consistently since I was 16, so I'm pretty good at networking. My understanding is that public interest tends to be marginally less snobby law school-wise than BigLaw, but it's actually more competitive, so I'm not sure how that shakes out in terms of choices. I'm planning to clinic or extern and pro bono pretty much every semester that it's possible to make as many connections as I can.
Northwestern: No scholarship. Total debt: about $250k.
Brooklyn: $48k/year scholarship (basically full ride) plus $5k/year living stipend, stip is top 80% (doable--if you're in the bottom 20% you should probably just drop out anyway). I learned yesterday that I was awarded the Sparer Fellowship for Public Interest, which gives you $5000 for your first summer and a resume line. They only give out a handful before the school year starts and the program director said the committee was extremely impressed with me, so I must interview well.
Pros: I get to stay in NYC and keep my partner and apartment, the Sparer Fellowship automatically distinguishes me (there were 13 1L fellows last year in a class of 390), and the only loans I'd need are for living expenses.
Cons: Ranking, potential lack of job prospects. (These should need no further explanation.)
Pros: Higher ranked, prestige, presumably better overall job prospects. I've spoken to at least half a dozen alumni who have put me in touch with various people in PI and they were all really happy to talk about their career paths and how BC got them there so their alumni network has been great.
Cons: It's in Boston (I've been a New Yorker for ten years), and about an hour from the city center, which might make externing difficult. I don't know how useful the alumni connections are really going to be, and I am worried that it's too strongly regional for me to easily work outside of Boston (namely NYC, Philly, SF). Will all those connections I work so hard to make in Boston by externing and volunteering actually help me get a job outside of Boston? It's also a lot of money for a school that isn't even T14. I'd also have to uproot my boyfriend of 8 years and/or live apart for an undetermined amount of time, which adds an unquantifiable dread factor.
EDIT: Brooklyn has now offered me a full scholarship, plus $5k/year stipend. Northwestern has accepted me off the waitlist, and I have edited this post to reflect that.
So I'm torn. Do I take the money from BLS and cross my fingers for jobs? Are my public interest prospects going to be better in a strong NYC regional school than at a better ranked school?
Any and all advice is appreciated.