Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )

Which scholarship option would you select?

a) $20k with strings
13
39%
b) $12k guaranteed
20
61%
 
Total votes: 33

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thinkbig
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Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Fri Apr 23, 2010 7:51 pm

I recently received a scholarship offer from a certain regional law school I am seriously considering. There are two award options. BOTH ARE OFFERED BY THE SAME SCHOOL, I just need to pick one:

a) $20,000/year if I maintain a 3.25. Drops to $10,000/year if I maintain a 3.0. Award lost permanently if cumulative gpa drops below 3.0.

b) $12,000/year guaranteed.


Obviously, I intend to maintain a 3.25 and believe I can (I will need to get even better than that to compete with top tier grads). However, I am aware that law school grading is very unpredictable.
Last edited by thinkbig on Fri Apr 23, 2010 11:59 pm, edited 4 times in total.

reverendt
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Re: Help me choose a scholarship option!

Postby reverendt » Fri Apr 23, 2010 7:56 pm

what is the curve/median?
If it's 3.0 or higher you only need to be at median to get at least 10K. While grades are unpredictable that might be worth the gamble.

If it's UNDER 3.0 you'd have to perform above (perhaps significantly above) the median. That could be a game changer.

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thinkbig
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Re: Help me choose a scholarship option!

Postby thinkbig » Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:06 pm

reverendt wrote:what is the curve/median?
If it's 3.0 or higher you only need to be at median to get at least 10K. While grades are unpredictable that might be worth the gamble.

If it's UNDER 3.0 you'd have to perform above (perhaps significantly above) the median. That could be a game changer.


The median seems to be slightly above 3.0.

According to the award letter, 25% to 30% of the class attains a 3.25, and slightly more than 50% of the class attains a 3.00.

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thinkbig
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Fri Apr 23, 2010 11:52 pm

Anyone else?

goodolgil
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby goodolgil » Fri Apr 23, 2010 11:52 pm

Depends on your mindset. I came into the cycle thoroughly opposed to any strings attached scholarships because I did not want the added pressure of taking what amount to $20,000 law school exams. But everyone thinks differently about stuff like this.

showNprove
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby showNprove » Fri Apr 23, 2010 11:55 pm

Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.

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thinkbig
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:01 am

showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.


The same school is offering both options; I just need to pick one.

byunbee
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby byunbee » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:06 am

thinkbig wrote:
showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.


The same school is offering both options; I just need to pick one.


WTH? Why would they mess with you like this?

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DoubleChecks
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby DoubleChecks » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:07 am

showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.


mathematically the right answer? lol i dont know if is done correctly, but there is a definite mathematical way of figuring out the best choice (assuming law school grade unpredictability)

also, as another poster said, i wouldnt want the added pressure of having to maintain x GPA on top of the law school stress

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thinkbig
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:08 am

byunbee wrote:
thinkbig wrote:
showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.


The same school is offering both options; I just need to pick one.


WTH? Why would they mess with you like this?


Yeaaaaa, seriously.....

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thinkbig
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:13 am

DoubleChecks wrote: i wouldnt want the added pressure of having to maintain x GPA on top of the law school stress


Me neither, really.... but the LSAT was probably worth even more, right?

Any finance or math people out there know how to calculate the better logical choice?
Last edited by thinkbig on Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

JOThompson
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby JOThompson » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:15 am

I would choose the $12k/year guaranteed option. Few things are certain in law school and having that scholarship secure would be great.

byunbee
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby byunbee » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:26 am

showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.


I mean, doesn't that say it right there? Taking into account grade distribution, you're expected award if you take the first offer is only $31,250 total (assuming showNprove's formula is right, but I'm not a math guy).

Am I looking at this correctly? Don't you have ~25% statistically of maintaining full scholarship through 3 years?

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thinkbig
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:30 am

byunbee wrote:
showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.



I mean, doesn't just say it right there? Taking into account grade distribution, you're expected award if you take the first offer is only $31,250 total (assuming showNprove's formula is right, but I'm not a math guy).

Am I looking at this correctly? Don't you have ~25% statistically of maintaining full scholarship through 3 years?


25%-30% if all you knew about me was that I am enrolling at this school. I guess that's all you do know about me, lol. I believe I'll be above average for this school, and really, a big fish in a small pond. Could you enter that into the formula? Out of curiosity...

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DoubleChecks
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby DoubleChecks » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:39 am

thinkbig wrote:
byunbee wrote:
showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.



I mean, doesn't just say it right there? Taking into account grade distribution, you're expected award if you take the first offer is only $31,250 total (assuming showNprove's formula is right, but I'm not a math guy).

Am I looking at this correctly? Don't you have ~25% statistically of maintaining full scholarship through 3 years?


25%-30% if all you knew about me was that I am enrolling at this school. I guess that's all you do know about me, lol. I believe I'll be above average for this school, and really, a big fish in a small pond. Could you enter that into the formula? Out of curiosity...


a lot of ppl say you cant account for this in law school. dont know how much of that is true.

and what did you mean the LSAT was worth more??

byunbee
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby byunbee » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:42 am

thinkbig wrote:25%-30% if all you knew about me was that I am enrolling at this school. I guess that's all you do know about me, lol. I believe I'll be above average for this school, and really, a big fish in a small pond. Could you enter that into the formula? Out of curiosity...


I believe law schools have formulae (some kind of LSAT + GPA index) that they use to help predict first year performance and determine admission. I talked to an admissions dean at a T25 recently about this, and he seemed pretty convinced that his school's formula worked very well.

But then again, I have read time and time again that these indicators are actually pretty weak predictors of law school performance (LSAT only accounts for ~14% of the variance in the data, I'm not sure how LSAT + GPA performs, though). So I'm going to say that even if your numbers are above average at your school, you won't know for certain how you measure up with your classmates until exam time.

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thinkbig
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:46 am

DoubleChecks wrote:
thinkbig wrote:
byunbee wrote:
showNprove wrote:Assuming ~25% of the class has a GPA above a 3.25, and assuming ~25% has a GPA between 3.00 and 3.25, the expected scholarship amount is about $31,250.

If the school offering the guaranteed $36,000 is the better school, definitely go there.



I mean, doesn't just say it right there? Taking into account grade distribution, you're expected award if you take the first offer is only $31,250 total (assuming showNprove's formula is right, but I'm not a math guy).

Am I looking at this correctly? Don't you have ~25% statistically of maintaining full scholarship through 3 years?


25%-30% if all you knew about me was that I am enrolling at this school. I guess that's all you do know about me, lol. I believe I'll be above average for this school, and really, a big fish in a small pond. Could you enter that into the formula? Out of curiosity...


a lot of ppl say you cant account for this in law school. dont know how much of that is true.

and what did you mean the LSAT was worth more??


In the end, although worlds apart, we're all learning the same content whether at a T14 or a 4th tier. As far as the LSAT, I just meant that doing a little better could, probably would, have made a bigger financial impact than law school gpa determined by a handful of exams. If I'd crushed the LSAT, I'd probably be asking you "which full ride should I take?" or have my pick of T20s (which presumably lead to bigger paychecks 3 years from now), rather than "which modest scholarship to a mediocre school in a saturated market should I pick?"

byunbee
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby byunbee » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:58 am

thinkbig wrote:In the end, although worlds apart, we're all learning the same content whether at a T14 or a 4th tier. As far as the LSAT, I just meant that doing a little better could, probably would, have made a bigger financial impact than law school gpa determined by a handful of exams. If I'd crushed the LSAT, I'd probably be asking you "which full ride should I take?" or have my pick of T20s (which presumably lead to bigger paychecks 3 years from now), rather than "which modest scholarship to a mediocre school in a saturated market should I pick?"


You left out wasting a perfectly good Friday night worrying about this stuff. Man, I need to get a life. Although, going to law school probably won't help on that front. :cry:

Anyhoooo, I think your best bet is to go with the guaranteed 36K. You'd have to do pretty well (top 25%-30%) to make this gamble worth it because median or slightly above it would not be worth it.

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legalease9
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby legalease9 » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:27 am

Go with the guaranteed. Don't put the pressure on yourself. Predictable financial aid is worth a LOT more than volatile aid.

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CoaltoNewCastle
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby CoaltoNewCastle » Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:55 am

If you're below median at this regional school, you're probably screwed anyway though. I think you should take the risky scholarship because it'll give you extra incentive to drop out if you finish below median. Otherwise you'll use sunk costs and pride to convince yourself to stay in law school and rack up debt in order to come out of law school in serious trouble. This is a horrible job market. I know a guy who was top 5% at his regional T1, transferred to Columbia, is above median there, and failed to get paying work for next summer. He's concerned about getting any kind of non-horrible criminal law job out of law school. I have lots of anecdotes like this. Is prepping and retaking the LSAT an option?

JOThompson
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby JOThompson » Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:45 am

CoaltoNewCastle wrote:If you're below median at this regional school, you're probably screwed anyway though. I think you should take the risky scholarship because it'll give you extra incentive to drop out if you finish below median. Otherwise you'll use sunk costs and pride to convince yourself to stay in law school and rack up debt in order to come out of law school in serious trouble. This is a horrible job market. I know a guy who was top 5% at his regional T1, transferred to Columbia, is above median there, and failed to get paying work for next summer. He's concerned about getting any kind of non-horrible criminal law job out of law school. I have lots of anecdotes like this. Is prepping and retaking the LSAT an option?

Retaking is an excellent option for many people. I do have to disagree with one part of your post--being trapped in law school isn't awful is the OP has a burning desire to be an attorney. If his main intent is to rack up six figures, then you make a fair point.

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CoaltoNewCastle
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby CoaltoNewCastle » Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:49 am

JOThompson wrote:
CoaltoNewCastle wrote:If you're below median at this regional school, you're probably screwed anyway though. I think you should take the risky scholarship because it'll give you extra incentive to drop out if you finish below median. Otherwise you'll use sunk costs and pride to convince yourself to stay in law school and rack up debt in order to come out of law school in serious trouble. This is a horrible job market. I know a guy who was top 5% at his regional T1, transferred to Columbia, is above median there, and failed to get paying work for next summer. He's concerned about getting any kind of non-horrible criminal law job out of law school. I have lots of anecdotes like this. Is prepping and retaking the LSAT an option?

Retaking is an excellent option for many people. I do have to disagree with one part of your post--being trapped in law school isn't awful is the OP has a burning desire to be an attorney. If his main intent is to rack up six figures, then you make a fair point.


Thank you. It's not about the six figures though, it's about getting any job at all. There are too many graduates and recently unemployed lawyers competing for way too few legal jobs. I'm curious what the ranking of this regional school is though. That's a pretty crucial consideration. If the median is around 3.0 it may be a T1, which while still a big risk, isn't as nuts as a T2 or below. Especially in a saturated law market, the people at all those higher ranked schools are going to be vying for every legal job out there, and you really can't assume you'll get better grades than most of the rest of your class. Most people going to law school think they'll finish high in their class.

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GeePee
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby GeePee » Sat Apr 24, 2010 11:16 am

OK, let's analyze this. For the sake of analysis, let's assume that a 3.25 is about top quarter on what seems like a B curve and a 3.0 is median. We'll also assume that the distribution of OP's placement in the class is uniform in a given year (i.e. each percentile placement is equally likely). To make one last assumption, we'll assume that the scholarship GPA requirement is assessed after the first year. (OP, if your school does any bullshit like retroactively remove scholarships, or calculate remaining scholarships after each semester, this will have to change.)

Under current assumptions, OP is getting $20k the first year on plan A and $12k on plan B.

On plan B, OP gets $12k the second year.

On plan A, OP gets (.25)(20k) + (.25)(10k) + (.5)(0) = $7.5k.

The third year calculation gets a little more complicated if we're using rigorous math (iterations of uniform distributions become some sort of modified beta distribution until large enough numbers are reached). However, we also have to condition on his performance in the first year, since he won't be able to regain his lost scholarships. I won't go through the calculations here, but the expected value is somewhat lower than $7.5k. More like $5-6k.

So, even if OP is guaranteed the $20k scholarship for the first year, he should expect to actually make less money from the scholarship with strings attached ($32.5k vs. $36k). And, if the OP is risk-averse, then the certainty equivalent on that $32.5k is actually even lower.

Obviously, there are some personal factors which would change the calculations. If there were some GPA floor under which OP would drop out (say, bottom quarter), the consideration shifts in favor of the riskier scholarship. Also, if the uniform possibility turns out to be wrong, and OP has more ability to succeed in law school as indicated by the scholarship, the riskier scholarship again gains ground.

Hopefully this was helpful. Good luck with your decision.

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patrickd139
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby patrickd139 » Sat Apr 24, 2010 11:37 am

Not sure if this has been asked above, but OP, what school? Shouldn't affect your analysis at the school-specific level, I'm just curious.

Also: take the certain money.

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thinkbig
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Re: Help! $60k with strings, or $36k guaranteed?

Postby thinkbig » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:25 pm

patrickd139 wrote:Not sure if this has been asked above, but OP, what school? Shouldn't affect your analysis at the school-specific level, I'm just curious.

Also: take the certain money.


It's one of the three mid-tier (T80ish) schools in Chicago.




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