Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

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Dovaking

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Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

Postby Dovaking » Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:47 pm

I wanted to provide some insight for the 0L's who may be facing the dilemma of a higher ranked school vs. a massive scholarship.

As a background, I chose the money at a low t14 over 300K of debt at CCN. I will be graduating with less than 100K of debt from an amazing institution. Making that choice was insanely hard for me. I had no financial safety net from my family, I was super risk averse, and I simply could not picture myself working insane hours for four to five years just to break even. I didn't trust PSLF and I didn't trust the economy given the legal industry's slow recovery. (there is disagreement here - some say take the highest school regardless of debt BECAUSE the economy is bad. Keep that in mind.)

Things I have noticed so far:

Positives:

I am not sure I can quantify the comfort I feel being able to order supplements, fly home for break, buy nice professional clothes, go out to eat, and confidently choose an unpaid summer position. This is a direct consequence of my financial freedom. Some friends paying full freight are eating Ramen only, never going out, and putting all their eggs in the 1L SA basket (which is a ridiculous plan even for the average person at a HYS because the students per positions just doesn't add up). Is doing all of that possible? Certainly, and people excel doing that. But I am enjoying my experience more than I would if I were stressed about money constantly.

I have a strong interest in government work, and I could legitimately afford to do it after law school without even relying on PSLF. I could even comfortably go do local government work and work my way into politics. The scholarship for me meant flexibility in choosing a career I want. So far I have felt that flexibility.

While I obviously cannot compare as I am only at one school, the professors at my school are ASTOUNDING and well connected. Having visited the ASW of a T6, I know the faculty were on the whole more "famous" which has its perks. But, by no means are the professors at my school weak.

Similar to the last point, there are a surprising amount of interviews I have had already where I am told. "well your grades don't matter when you are at a school like X, we are looking for a proper fit at this point." That is not the rule, especially for biglaw, but it goes to show that you will be fine if you have very low debt at a T14 and aren't concerned with ONLY BIGLAWZ AND SCOTUS CLERKING!

I am largely considering big law because I could pay my debt off in a year, and save copious amounts of money for as long as I last in BL. I could afford to help my family, I could invest, I could drop a down payment on a house, I could save a nest egg to start a business. Had I not made the decision to take the $$$, I would be gunning for Biglaw only, just to get my head above water.

Negatives:
There is a legit prestige bias in the legal world (shocker). Friends are explicitly getting passed over at times on internships just because "the other person was from Harvard." I doubt that would be as explicit if the difference were between H and CCN, but that could still be true. That being said, even a low T14 pulls insane weight - IE those people still made it to the final cut against a massive pool of applicants. Being at a top program is "enough" to make it in the running no matter its comparative rank. But, for the highest levels of work, the margins matter a lot.

Believe the ABA required numbers on placement. Don't get into a fantasy that you will graduate at the top of your class. Literally. Half. The. Class. WILL. Be. Below. Median. Everyone even at a low t14 is astoundingly smart and motivated. Many could have gone to better schools but chose that school for personal or financial reasons. I am doing well, but there are gunners who are prep school to ivy league educated who are stuck at median. 1L grading can be almost comically subjective at the high end of the curve. Below median is legitimately shaky ground. While this advice may be more applicable to someone considering full freight without retaking at a low T14, it also applies for someone considering a scholarship over a higher rank.

At the end of the day, I will have to be in a much higher position in my class to have the same "prestigious" opportunities as I would at the T6. My final rationale for choosing the scholarship was this: "To have the best opportunities from the T6 (academia, SCOTUS chances, Bristow), I will need to be near the top of my class anyway. If I could do that at the T6, I could be top of my class at the lower T14 and have a marginally lower shot." That rationale certainly had various flaws to it, but it is true to a certain extent as well. Top 5% at a T14 is an amazing spot to be and the differences in rank at that level are (in my opinion) marginal outside of special connections. If you are there and motivated, you have your institution behind you. If you are at the bottom at either choice, you will need to hustle hard. Median outcomes are where the differences are glaring.

I do certainly feel regret on some days that I did not choose the T6. It may be my own shortfalls, it may be human nature, but regret happens. The biggest fear is that the higher school, while would have sucked in the short-term in paying off the debt, would have been much more powerful in assuring the longevity of my career. That degree sticks with you forever, even as the importance of your grades fade. But lower T14 is nothing to scoff at, especially for someone like me. Those who do are the type of people I don't want in my life anyway. Unfortunately, those are sometimes the people that "run" the top jobs in the world.

General Observations
There are a ton of rich people at my school. Being one of the few on a such a significant scholarship feels odd in some ways when you realize so many people around you are fully financed by their parents and this school was the top program they got into. Once again, this would be more demoralizing if I were paying full price, but if you are from a rough background like myself, this can be surprising.

There are also people who are uncomfortably mistaken about the prestige power of the school, the state of the legal industry, and how much they need to be hustling. Perhaps it is my pessimistic,intense, and cautious nature, but I am hustling hard. Some people are doing the opposite.

The talent pool here is amazing. I know I shouldn't be surprised, but law school choice is very personal and subjective(contrary to the formulaic sentiment on TLS). There are people who chose it over HSCCN. This goes to say: don't just assume "oh I am on a scholarship, I am already the top talent."

Final Point: Choose HYS if you get in no matter what given the brand power, connections, and loan repayment options. If it is between a T6 at astronmical debt and a lower T14 at a near or full-ride. Have an honest talk with yourself.

Also: Negotiate your scholarships persistently and with cordial aggression. This scholarship I am on came as a consequence of asking multiple times - it was eventually doubled.

I am happy to answer questions - though my responses may be delayed because I am deep in a pile of readings.

Cheers,

taxman128

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Re: Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

Postby taxman128 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:17 pm

"I could afford to help my family, I could invest, I could drop a down payment on a house, I could save a nest egg to start a business."

How are you going to do all that on a 200,000 dollar salary with about 100,000 dollars of interest accruing debt?

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Platopus

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Re: Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

Postby Platopus » Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:24 pm

Dovaking wrote:Final Point: Choose HYS if you get in no matter what given the brand power, connections, and loan repayment options.


This seems like awful advice.

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Clemenceau

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Re: Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

Postby Clemenceau » Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:05 pm

Dovaking wrote: Literally. Half. The. Class. WILL. Be. Below. Median.


Wrong.

Dovaking wrote:Final Point: Choose HYS if you get in no matter what given the brand power, connections, and loan repayment options.


Wrong.

You're a 1L. Go back to your pile of readings. Share your perspective in a few years.

taxman128

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Re: Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

Postby taxman128 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:54 pm

'I am told. "well your grades don't matter when you are at a school like X, we are looking for a proper fit at this point."'

Good to hear!

181plz

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Re: Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

Postby 181plz » Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:09 pm

Clemenceau wrote:
Dovaking wrote: Literally. Half. The. Class. WILL. Be. Below. Median.


Wrong.

Can you elaborate?

UpandDown97

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Re: Perspective: Scholarship at low T14 vs. Higher Ranked School

Postby UpandDown97 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:08 am

181plz wrote:
Clemenceau wrote:
Dovaking wrote: Literally. Half. The. Class. WILL. Be. Below. Median.


Wrong.

Can you elaborate?


It's a bell curve. There will be people at median. Percentage wise, it'll be the highest amount.



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