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A needy foreigner - how does this work?

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:17 am
by steffanimal
Hey everyone. Don't post here much but when I have, my obnoxious questions have been promptly replied to and this has become my #1 source for information regarding law school in the U.S. A big thank you is in order I guess!

Anyways, I'm a semester away from finishing my undergrad and I intend to go to law school next year. My academic institution isn't overly difficult so I've managed to maintain a near-perfect GPA alongside half a dozen extracurricular activities, including playing a competitive sport at the highest level there is. My diagnostic LSAT score was a solid 158 which I was pretty happy with as I took the test without a days worth of studying, completely oblivious to the content prior to taking it, so I'm really hoping my intensive preparation over the coming months will be fruitful and that I'll be in a position to apply for T14 schools.

Now, I'm confident that I'll do well on the LSAT (then again, who isn't?) and that my GPA can only change for the better. The main roadblock I'll face, however, is paying for everything. I've done a fair bit of research and noticed that even the best schools offer full rides to a select group of students that "fit the bill" - and I can only hope that I'll have enough going for me apart from my transcript and test score. So, I've got three questions...

First of all, when it comes to scholarships like the Ruby and Mordecai, what is the criteria apart from the obvious scoring? I'm certain that they aren't just given out to the highest scoring 20 or 8 applicants. Does work experience play a part? Diversity? Major? Extracurricular activities? As a student-athlete from a 3rd world country with modest work experience and a degree in IT, would I be in a good position?

Second, I've noticed that some schools - Harvard and Yale to name a few - offer need based grants. What is the process and criteria for demonstrating need and receiving the funds, and is there a limit on the received amount in some/all schools? I'm in a very peculiar financial situation. I won't be allowed to work in the U.S. for the duration of my education due to the limitations of the F1 visa apart from summer internships and campus jobs and I've genuinely got no other source of income. My country is poor to begin with and my only remaining parent, my father, had a stroke last year which nearly left him paralyzed, so I have to pay a hefty fee (for our standards) every month for his nursing care. To cut this story short, I'm sure that a lot of students can come up with a tale which would melt the hearts of admissions staff but, honestly, what would be the best one could cope for when it comes to need-based aid? Do situations like this play a part in the decision to award aid?

Finally, as an athlete, the word 'graduate assistantship' is often thrown around when fellow student-athletes look for financing options for their graduate studies. Most of foreign student-athletes are covered by a substantial amount of athletic aid during undergrad. The NCAA and NAIA rules state that a player can compete for no more than 4 years, so athletic scholarships are not in the picture for post-grad. However, a lot of schools and teams offer graduate assistant coaching jobs for successful and able athletes, and this can, in most cases, cover most of the cost of graduate studies. A lot of my friends went down this road and had all of their expenses paid for while they were earning their Masters degrees, but none of them went to law school. Is this a viable option, even though it isn't a sensible one? I know that 1L itself is overbearing, particularly in a T14 school, and that a "job" on the side would be difficult to handle but I might just have to stick it out if there is no other option. For the record, I play tennis...

Thanks in advance everyone, I really appreciate all of your advice!