Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

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mattedor
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Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby mattedor » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:35 pm

Hey everyone,

My question is - is it better to go to a school that is say tier 1 and higher ranked but very expensive or go to a 4th tier or lower ranked school if you can go for free?

Here's some background info about me:

I graduated from Vassar College with a 3.47 GPA. I took the LSATs and scored 165. I am confident that I could get into a first tier law school (I know this isn't as important, but I also have unique internship experience that may help me stand out from other applicants).

Anyway, I have about 70k in debt as of right now from Vassar (I paid for my entire undergrad education myself, my parents would not contribute and thus I accrued a lot of debt). I'm on my own for law school as well.

I know that if I get into a first tier law school, I most likely could not get a full scholarship anywhere because of the competition. I am thinking that it may be wiser for me to go to a school that is cheaper (such as CUNY law) to avoid going into even more debt.

What do you all think about this? I've been told time and again that the education will pay for itself. People have told me to just take out more loans for law school and I will be able to pay it back when I'm a lawyer. However, people told me the same exact thing about Vassar. I was told I should go there instead of a state school and just take out loans, which I did and so far that has done me more harm than good (I'm having a tough time getting a job and paying back my student loans).

Thanks to anyone who responds to this for your feedback!

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billyez
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby billyez » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:36 pm

This question really can't be answered at this point. Go through your cycle, see your options in full and then come back.

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Sell Manilla
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby Sell Manilla » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:36 pm

Search function. Use it. You are not the first person to ponder this question.

dakatz
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby dakatz » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:38 pm

70K of undergraduate debt is a huge amount. I'd be VERY wary about taking on a big load of debt for law school. With your GPA and LSAT, you can certainly get into some solid Tier 1 schools, but I'd look around to see what places will offer you large scholarships. I just think it would be suicide to put yourself 270K into debt unless you somehow get yourself into a T6 school, which your numbers obviously won't allow you to do. So go the other route and go someplace that will give you serious money.

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Sell Manilla
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby Sell Manilla » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:40 pm

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=234 for starters. Scan the employment section for the harsh reality of the current legal market.

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manbearwig
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby manbearwig » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:43 pm

Unless you're willing to retake the LSAT and study your ass off to get 170+, I think the smartest thing to do is to go to a top regional school in a region you wouldn't mind practicing in and could get lots of scholarship money. This might be an issue if you're set on NYC. Because it's such a saturated market, only the top top schools are worth going into any large amount of debt for.

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wadeny
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby wadeny » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:48 pm

Ideally, you balance the school's rank/quality with the cost. Your #s should get you into a few T1s with some $$, but if I were you, I wouldn't pay much more than $100k for anything outside the T25. If you're really debt averse (which pretty much everyone should be ITE), though, your best bet would probably be to retake and aim higher. If anything, a few more points would you get much more money at lower ranked T1s.

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Lawquacious
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby Lawquacious » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:12 pm

I don't think there's one clear answer to this, so the following is just some guiding principles and reflections that may or may not be helpful. Like some of the other posters indicated it's kind of hard to help you when you don't have the school results yet.

I think the wisdom on here is generally to try and avoid paying full-price at any law school that is not fairly high in the rankings (perhaps T14 or T20). However, attending a tier 3 or tier 4 school is also often discouraged unless it is on a full or near-full scholarship, and even then it is given the condition that you are o.k. working in the immediate area you are going to school (and o.k. with the possibility that if you don't do fairly well there you may simply not get a job as a lawyer).

In your case I think you could get some nice partial scholarships at lower tier 1 schools (ranked 40-50 for instance), and have a shot at some considerable money at some tier 2 schools (50-100 rank). You'd still be taking on a lot of debt, but the school quality and job prospects would probably be considerably better than at a tier3 or tier4 school. Keep in mind that even at these schools your employment options would be regional (unless you very top of the class perhaps).

If you do get a full scholarship to a low-ranked school in an area you want to practice I don't think it would necessarily be a bad idea to go for it. It would keep your debt load more reasonable, and you would still be able to sit for the bar in the state you want to practice in.

Even going to a mid- or lower- T1 at full-price isn't a necessarily a bad investment IMO (though I know many TLSers would dispute this) as long as you realize you will be indebted for a long long time and may struggle to find a job initially. There are protections against student loans overwhelming a person financially (in terms of max amount of monthly income they can demand etc), but having a ton of debt is not desirable and can be quite stressful.

angioletto
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby angioletto » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:46 pm

My numbers are similar to yours and I got into my top choice school, ranked T50-60, with about a 75% scholarship. I didn't apply any higher up simply because I have local ties and wanted to stay in the area. But the school I chose is pretty well respected in the area.

It's not too hard to do some good-ole cost benefit analysis here. Figure out which schools you would like to go to, in all tiers, check out their financial aid page and make a spreadsheet of what your total debt (including UG) would be if you paid sticker, had a 25% scholarship, 50% scholarship, 75% scholarship and full tuition scholarship. Make sure you include their estimate cost of living. Keep in mind that the lower ranked schools are probably regional, so decide how certain you are that you want to live in that city after you graduate. It may take a few weeks but having this sort of info in front of you can make it easier to compare apples to oranges. In the end you may choose a school that leaves you with a little more debt, but if it is higher ranked and well respected in the city you want to live in that is better than less student loan debt for a school that is competing with 2 or 3 "better" schools in the same city.

ALSO - THIS IS IMPORTANT - be aware that scholarships often come with GPA requirements. 2 different schools may require a 3.2 to keep your scholarship, but due to varying curves in law school that 3.2 can be top 10% of your class or top 40% of your class. This is very important info when accepting a scholarship. A lot of lower ranked schools I looked at offered me a full scholarship, but I had to be in the top 10% to keep it. Meaning I had a 90% chance of losing it. So I passed up a full scholarship with a top 10% GPA req for a 75% scholarship with a ~45% GPA req. (I'd prefer no GPA req at all, but it is what it is.)

Then apply to your schools of choice, wait to see your actual scholarship offers and you can match those up to your spreadsheet to decide which offer is your best option.

Don't listen to those who say not to worry about the debt. Chances are they don't know much about job availability in the legal field in this economy.

You have plenty of time to re-take the LSAT. I would definitely consider that. If you ook at studying for the LSAT like a "job" and your scholarships as a "salary" you can ake a ton of money for just a few months of hard work!

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gdane
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby gdane » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:53 pm

Where do you want to work? Thats more important than rankings. Just because a school is ranked higher, doesnt necessarily mean that it'll give you better employment prospects. Many, if not most, law schools are regional and rankings give people the false perception that they greatly matter. Compare Iowa and Fordham. The University of Iowa is ranked 26 and Fordham 34. However, there is no doubt that Fordham will give you much better employment prospects in NY. This is just one example, but it can be made with other schools.

If you get into a highly ranked school in a region in which you feel comfortable working in after graduation, go. However, if you are offered a lot of money, or a full ride, at a school thats in a region that you feel comfortable working it, then it would be wise for you to go to that school. Again, apply to schools youre interested in, see what happens and decide from there. DO NOT make your decision solely based off of rankings.

Good luck!

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MoS
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby MoS » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:03 am

You will get scholarship money in places besides TTTT schools, and probably with better stipulations than TTTT schools.

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Sell Manilla
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby Sell Manilla » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:07 am

I hate to be a negative nancy, but by continuing to have this conversation when it could have quickly been edited out & redirected to an existing thread with the exact. same. topic., it is now slightly harder for the next in line to do the research.
/ranting. Promise.

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gdane
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby gdane » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:17 am

Sell Manilla wrote:I hate to be a negative nancy, but by continuing to have this conversation when it could have quickly been edited out & redirected to an existing thread with the exact. same. topic., it is now slightly harder for the next in line to do the research.
/ranting. Promise.


I also have an issue with people that dont use the search function. It screams laziness. However, people feel like their cases are special so they feel the need to ask TLS for advice. Its fine. Just tell them what we have to offer and leave them be. There are always going to be people on here that post things like "What are the best books for LSAT prep" or "I got a 165, am I screwed?". Just flow with it. :mrgreen:

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Sell Manilla
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby Sell Manilla » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:19 am

Perhaps I wouldn't care if this wasn't my single largest point of interest.

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traehekat
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby traehekat » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:28 am

As other have alluded to, there is a middle ground between best-school-possible-with-no-money and low-ranked-school-with-full-ride. Again, there is a balancing act that must be done when choosing a law school between the price, rank, and location. Pretty much all things come back to that. Do you want to be in a warm climate? Well, you better pay attention to location. Do you want to work in a large firm? Well, you better pay attention to rank. Do you want to work in public service? Well, you better pay attention to money. So many things come back to these three factors - money, rank, and location.

My advice is to figure that out, then apply to law schools accordingly.

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macattaq
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby macattaq » Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:38 am

Re: legal employment:

WE'RE ALL FUCKED!!!!

I'm only 50% kidding.

I'd take less debt. If you do well, transfer up. That saves you a year of more expensive tuition. If you don't do as well, then you're not incurring any cost (other than opportunity cost) to get your J.D. But as an above poster said, see what your options are before thinking about this question. Also, retake.

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thecilent
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby thecilent » Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:19 am

Sell Manilla wrote:I hate to be a negative nancy, but by continuing to have this conversation when it could have quickly been edited out & redirected to an existing thread with the exact. same. topic., it is now slightly harder for the next in line to do the research.
/ranting. Promise.


I don't know why you are so against people making threads. Yeah this guy could have searched, but probably would not have found a perfect thread. He even gave his numbers and is getting answers tailored to those numbers.

Stop worrying so much about a new thread.. jeeze

mattedor
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby mattedor » Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:21 am

thank you all for your responses, they are immensely helpful!

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Grizz
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby Grizz » Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:30 am

Lawquacious wrote:Even going to a mid- or lower- T1 at full-price isn't a necessarily a bad investment IMO (though I know many TLSers would dispute this) as long as you realize you will be indebted for a long long time and may struggle to find a job initially.


That sounds pretty bad to me.

Total Litigator
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Re: Is it better to go to a higher ranked school & be in debt?

Postby Total Litigator » Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:03 am

thecilent wrote:
Stop worrying so much about a new thread.. jeeze



This should be at the top of every new thread.




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