Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

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

Choose my fate:

Poll ended at Tue May 14, 2013 9:15 am

Chicago
16
30%
Harvard
37
70%
 
Total votes: 53

CupOfTea
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Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby CupOfTea » Sun May 12, 2013 9:15 am

Longtime lurker and asking for TLS wisdom. Was recently offered a Ruby and have little time to make up my mind. I come from a very low income family and am ordinarily risk/debt averse. However a family member died and left me their savings in a fund to be used for educational purposes only. If I don't use it for school I don't get it and it gets split between the family. It would pay for full tuition at Harvard or cover my COL remaining at Chicago. So debt at graduation would be:
Harvard- $75k (could decrease with summer PI funding + 2L SA)
Chicago- none. Actually keep living stipend of $30k and 2L SA $. Not use half of fund.

I know this is a lucky position and these were always my two favorite options so its hard to choose between them. Visited both, prefer the Harvard campus and environment but like the city of Chicago and have family there. I like Harvard better (more clinics, exciting student body) but would have more outside support in Chicago. I feel like Chicago was extremely biglaw focused though.
About me: went to no name undergrad on scholly so I would avoid debt. Ties to Florida but would prefer to end up in DC or the West (Colorado, California, Washington). Interested in govt work, do not plan to have a career in biglaw. A few years work experience in state gov post-undergrad. Work experience through undergrad as well. Scores 174/3.9. If I failed to including anything important let me know. Thanks in advance for your help.

One thing I have noticed on these forums over time is the variations in responses depending on where the person is in their law school experience. So I think it would be helpful to generally identify oneself so future readers can better separate responses. That said...
PLEASE INCLUDE IN YOUR RESPONSE WHETHER YOU ARE AN 0L, CURRENT STUDENT, OR GRADUATE.

NYstate
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby NYstate » Sun May 12, 2013 9:23 am

Go to Harvard.

I'm a very risk averse person. This is unexpected windfall money designed to help you. Go for to the best school. You will have manageable debt when you graduate.

I'm a grad. My law school tuition was paid for by money my father left me when he died. I think that you will be following the person's wishes by going to the best school possible.

This may be the only situation I can think of when I would advise someone to turn down a Ruby. A Ruby is an amazing option.

Edit to add: I went to school and lived at home so I had a lot of support. I don't know how to value what you need in terms of support. But I think that you can find all the support that you need at Harvard if you look for it.

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Doorkeeper
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby Doorkeeper » Sun May 12, 2013 9:28 am

If you were interested in biglaw, this would be Chicago hands down.

But you're interested in government work. If your interest extends into working for the federal government, then Harvard is worth the extra money. No school right now has better ties to the federal government, both in terms of faculty and administrative support. Through a few lecturers and advisers, Harvard also has great ties to a few big state AG offices.

I can't speak for Chicago's ties to state and local government, but I cannot fathom it being better than Harvard's ties right now.

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Tekrul
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby Tekrul » Sun May 12, 2013 9:38 am

You say you're from a "very low income family". How much would the burden of your family be alleviated if you were to take the Ruby and distribute the money in excess of COL, you mentioned it would be half, to your family?

I made the decision to leave UG in 3 years instead of 4 in order to alleviate the burden of debt on myself and my parents. I chose now to go to law school for timing with my younger brother's education. Cost and timing were the two biggest issues for me, not just for myself, but for my entire family.

That said, your no biglaw stipulation makes Harvard the best choice for you, but also not impossible from Chicago.

I'm a 0L.

CupOfTea
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby CupOfTea » Sun May 12, 2013 9:53 am

Thanks for responses everyone. :)

To doorkeeper- are Harvard's connections to fedgov mostly available to graduating students, or also to students a few years out. I ask because fedgov hiring is super stingy right now due to our brilliant politicians so even though I don't want to I may end up going the big law route at first.

To tekrul - I agree, and I actually did the same thing for undergrad (3 years instead of 4). If the money were disbursed evenly through the family it would be about 9k each. Helpful but not life altering in any way.

And to the first poster that I have forgotten your handle - I'm sorry to hear about your dad. But yes I am sure sure my family would be extremely proud should I use the money for Harvard, as I'm sure your dad would've been as well.

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Doorkeeper
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby Doorkeeper » Sun May 12, 2013 10:00 am

CupOfTea wrote:To doorkeeper- are Harvard's connections to fedgov mostly available to graduating students, or also to students a few years out. I ask because fedgov hiring is super stingy right now due to our brilliant politicians so even though I don't want to I may end up going the big law route at first.

Yes. If you become friendly with the right administrative people while you're a student, then they won't hesitate to continue to help you after you graduate. This is the same for clerkships, government jobs, and other areas where administrative support and connections will help you. Same thing goes for the professors that you develop close relationships with.

Stinson
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby Stinson » Sun May 12, 2013 10:02 am

Harvard 3L/Graduating in Two Weeks: If you get fed gov $75k will not be a great burden (and LIPP will help out in the earlier years when you make less), and you have a better chance to get it from Harvard. If you get a lower paying state gov or other PI job, LIPP will pay the majority of your loans anyway. The things you seem to want are more easily attainable from Harvard, and there's no tremendous financial downside to worry over here.

As to the connections question - which is the right question because fedgov hiring is very slim right now - I think the answer is that the connections are easier to make while in school, through clinics, OPIA programs, summer placements, and various other avenues. You'll have the alumni network once you graduate too, obviously, but the thing to do is forge the connections while in school and keep in contact/continue to express interest even if your first job is elsewhere. The objective is that once something opens up, they call you.

Anyway, go Crimson.

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2014
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby 2014 » Sun May 12, 2013 10:52 am

Chicago 1L, go to Harvard. Given your goals, that debt difference justifies getting the H name on your resume. I'm as big of a Chicago homer as anyone and think this is the right choice for almost everyone who gets in, but this is a rare situation where I'd go elsewhere.

grace123
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby grace123 » Sun May 12, 2013 11:06 am

Rising 2L here. If you are very confident that you would love law school, have always known that you want to be a lawyer, and want to work in government, then I would go to Harvard. If you know you want to do PI/Gov't, go to Harvard. Keep in mind a huge chunk of people who say they are going to do PI/Govt end up in biglaw.

If you're not totally sold that law school is for you or aren't sure what you want to do, I would go to Chicago. (or not law school at all!) Chicago is going to give you much more flexibility in the short term, while Harvard will give you more flexibility in the long term.

I think people don't plan an exit strategy enough in the event that they don't like law school/legal work. Most people do not like law school and even more hate practicing law. Most people should keep their debt way down so that if they suck at law school, can't find a job, or hate being a lawyer, they have exit options. Chicago offers you this luxury.

You'll be fine either way though. Both amazing options, congratulations!

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sun May 12, 2013 11:10 am

NYU soon to be graduate here. $75k will be a manageable debt load pretty much regardless of what you choose to do. I might say you should take Harvard even if you did just want to go into biglaw because it gives you a bigger cushion. Keep in mind that a popular path to fed government these days is clerkship --> biglaw --> government (or biglaw --> clerkship --> govt), and HYS give you a leg up, even over Chicago, with the clerkship part and with getting into firms that have the biggest government revolving doors.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sun May 12, 2013 11:16 am

grace123 wrote:I think people don't plan an exit strategy enough in the event that they don't like law school/legal work. Most people do not like law school and even more hate practicing law. Most people should keep their debt way down so that if they suck at law school, can't find a job, or hate being a lawyer, they have exit options.
Just wanted to add that I do also really agree with this and think most 0Ls ought to be thinking way more about the possibility that they will hate law school and the law, because it's pretty obnoxious a lot of the time. But I think that $75k at Harvard is still a very low-risk proposition. If it turns out you hate practicing law, you'll probably have the opportunity to coast into some market-paying job, stick it out for a year, and pay down half of your debt or more. Even if you wash out of law altogether within 4 years of matriculating you've got the HLS degree with, say, $40,000 debt? That's not a bad place to be. And I usually mock people for thinking the lay prestige and Hahvahhhhd je ne sais quoi is worth much, but here I do think it helps make up some of the difference.

timbs4339
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby timbs4339 » Sun May 12, 2013 1:06 pm

Fed gov jobs are not exactly low-paying either. Some agencies start you off at 100K+.

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jbagelboy
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby jbagelboy » Sun May 12, 2013 1:15 pm

I do not understand how one can hail from a "very low income family" and have a close relative with a $160,000 endowed trust. But ill leave that be people say interesting things on the internet.

You should go to Harvard UNLESS the excess money could help another family members education -- at Harvard, with only CoL expenses, thats what you'd be paying to live anyway so its hardly a sunk cost. You seem to prefer the vibe and the connections will serve you for years.

Congrats either way!

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Micdiddy
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby Micdiddy » Sun May 12, 2013 1:30 pm

I'm surprised how easily everyone chose Harvard here. The price difference is 105k in pocket plus whatever remaining funds would be disbursed amongst family.
In not saying the choice isn't Harvard, and with your distaste for BigLaw I would probably also lean towards Harvard, it just seems like a fair chunk of change being dismissed.

0L.

CupOfTea
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby CupOfTea » Sun May 12, 2013 1:35 pm

to jdbagelboy - Because they died...? I think if someone came from a well off family their assets post-passing would probably be more than 150k. And by low income i mean food stamps, section 8, etc until I was 16. Since then it became easier for a time but nobody in my family is rolling in the dough. But please, do continue to judge others so easily. (edit: just re-read your post and although the first part obviously rubs me the wrong way, i appreciate your other feedback. thank you and best of luck/congrats to you as well.)

Yes, McDiddy youre right its a whole lot of money and thats why this is not an easy decision at all. its basically more money than i can fathom at this point in my life.

Anyways, thanks to everyone else for your opinions. I really appreciate the feedback and feel pretty confident should i choose to go to Harvard.

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The Brainalist
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby The Brainalist » Mon May 13, 2013 4:20 pm

Based on your low-income upbringing, I'd say go to Harvard. It simply makes a better story. Yeah, you'll probably end up in more debt at the same place. A good story about going from Section 8 to Harvard is just too awesome to pass up. Even if you ended up, as the fates may will it, in a worse job from Harvard than you would have from Chicago, I'd still say choose Harvard. It isn't about debt or outcomes, it is about being able to tell people that you went to Harvard. I say this in all seriousness. It simply doesn't matter what you do after. Going to Harvard is the accomplishment.

I don't agree with Doorkeeper that Harvard offers for more opportunity for government - I don't think it does and, if I remember right, Doorkeeper's assertions that Harvard connections will help was based on some work he/she did at some kind of research/policy arm in DC before going to law school, not general attorney work. I've interned at a general counsel's office and a USAO. My experience was that, while Harvard is a fairly common credential at a USAO, you'll see plenty of other law schools in government, especially the local powerhouse law schools (e.g., Northwestern in Chicago, Berkeley in SF, and UCLA in LA). At the general counsel's office, the law degrees were from all over the place. Recent hires were mostly from top 20 schools. Older employees were often from tiers 2-4. There certainly weren't any Harvard connections to exploit (nor do I think that, even if someone happened to go to Harvard, they'd give you a boost you weren't otherwise entitled to) at the general counsel's office. Just my limited experience.

CupOfTea
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby CupOfTea » Tue May 14, 2013 2:19 pm

Lol brainalist I got a kick from your response. I do feel that way although its hilarious to see it written out in all seriousness. I withdrew from Chicago yesterday and hope the Ruby goes to someone who really deserves it. Thanks for everyone's responses.

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Micdiddy
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby Micdiddy » Tue May 14, 2013 2:22 pm

CupOfTea wrote:Lol brainalist I got a kick from your response. I do feel that way although its hilarious to see it written out in all seriousness. I withdrew from Chicago yesterday and hope the Ruby goes to someone who really deserves it. Thanks for everyone's responses.


Damn, I wish I was in the position to reject a Ruby. Mbn.
But also congrats and best of luck at Haaaaavard!

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jbagelboy
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Re: Chicago no debt vs Harvard $75k

Postby jbagelboy » Tue May 14, 2013 2:24 pm

CupOfTea wrote:Lol brainalist I got a kick from your response. I do feel that way although its hilarious to see it written out in all seriousness. I withdrew from Chicago yesterday and hope the Ruby goes to someone who really deserves it. Thanks for everyone's responses.


congrats again on your decision. it's the right one. DO GREAT THINGS!




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