I am a senior in high school (short time reader, first time poster) and I would really love to hear some advice from people with perspective and insight--neither of my parents went to college, so they have no idea about this process.
I have wanted to go into law or careers requiring a law degree since I was 7. I have interned at a large law firm in my city and I still love the idea and practice of law.
My parents can pay for either 2 years of HYP/tuition-equivalent or all 3 years of law school (non-negotiable). I can't really get into why.
The nexus question I have is:
Should I go to the top-ranked colleges I have gotten into (UChicago, Georgetown-Walsh School of Foreign Service; still waiting on H, Y, D, and Amherst), or should I go to undergrad with a scholarship (full-ride plus @ Wake Forest, half @ Univ of Southern California, full-ride plus @ University of Kentucky (resident), waiting on scholarship offer from UNC)?
I am aiming for T14 law schools.
Should I try going immediately to law school or go for a post-grad fellowship/scholarship then law school?
Thank you so much, I would really appreciate any help you guys could give me!
Some people might differ on this regard, but I truly believe your undergraduate institution matters very little if you're planning to pursue a post-graduate degree. I still regret, to this day (I'm a college senior), not having gone to a lesser prestigious school that had offered me a Regent scholarship (full ride). I TRULY wished I would have had someone telling me what I'm telling you. My parents also didn't go to college, and my counselors were all for me attending the highest ranked institution.
You should ask yourself what place you'd like to practice law already. The reason? Say for example you go to UNC for undergrad. By the time you are applying for law school, you will be considered a NC resident, which will give you a leg up in UNC admissions and it will also make your tuition cost be reduced.
Now, I know you mentioned your parents might pay for it, and that you want T14 schools. In that regard, you want to go to a school in which you will be able to excel academically, and you will NEED to take a good LSAT course. To do this, you really don't want to be the kind of student who works ~30 hrs/wk (like me). Or who needs surgery during LSAT season because of financial stress, lack of sleep, and family drama (also like me). The funny thing is that for T14 schools (not all of them), if you have a great GPA and LSAT, you will get in, and they will offer you money to go. Essentially this is a system that rewards those who come from more affluent families. But, there's always the stipulations that come with the scholarships, which some (not all) people lose at some point, and that's when your parents money may come in to question. And since you get scholarships for tuition, not living expenses, that's also when your parents money can be useful.
Because of the nature of the loans, I think in my humble opinion it is better to take some loans during undergrad than taking any for law school (the interest rate are different). So basically this will take a lot of planning, but given the fact that you are already asking about this, sounds like you're in the right track. Too bad that I couldn't afford a computer until I was 20. But hey, I still get to go to the school I want to go to, even if it will put me in financial uncertainty.
I wish you luck and I hope this helps.
P.S. If this were my particular situation, knowing what I know now, I would either pick USC or UNC (based on their offer though). USC is professionally-oriented, meaning that they are gearing you towards a professional career. Also, if you do the right things, you could become a CA resident (pay less) soon enough. Also, since it sounds like you might be going to law school right after college, and law schools are looking for maturity in candidates, it'd be good that you go away from your family to show that you have done so. I strongly believe that this not always leads to maturity, but I guess having to confront the world when a parent isn't right next to you to help you will make you a different person. In my situation it was having to come up with rent when knowing you couldn't turn to your family for it. It makes you age internally like crazy. Works like a charm.