Graduate Fellowship vs. Merit Money?

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Merit money or graduate fellowship?

Merit money (20k) off 38k tuition
Fellowship (21k) = 29k tuition minus - TAXABLE 4k stip + 8k merit
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Graduate Fellowship vs. Merit Money?

Postby Err26 » Tue Jun 04, 2013 4:24 pm

Hey I'm heavily leaning W&M Law because of the generous aid package, low COA, and my desire to work in DC but I have a small internal dilemma. Initially I was awarded a $20,000/yr merit scholarship (total tuition is 38k since I'm out of state) with a 2.3 stip. I know some other applicants received Graduate Fellowships and I felt like I was at a disadvantage in terms of research positions during my 2 and 3L years because I wasn't given one. So I appealed my offer because I wanted a graduate fellowship and they told me I could keep my merit money OR get a graduate fellowship + 8k year in merit. Here's how it works:

W&M Graduate Fellowships make you work for your 1L year in the law school's administration or library for 8 hours a week and work as a research assistant to a prof for 10 hours a week in your next two years. These hours are cut to 2hrs/wk during finals. You make a "salary" of 4k per year AND you receive in-state tuition (a cut of $9k/yr). The total value of my graduate fellowship is $21,000/yr. I need to maintain a 3.0 to keep the fellowship.

The Graduate Fellowship is more prestigious. I can list it on my resume and work as a research assistant, but it takes up 8-10 hrs a week. I had been asking for a graduate fellowship all along and now I finally got the offer, but I can't help thinking I'm foolish for giving up 12k in free money for money I have to work for.

Things to consider:
1) Williamsburg is BORING - it might be good to have this keeping me busy. On the other hand, won't law school already do that?
2) I have an SO in DC and would like to visit as much as possible. The fellowship will likely cut into my time for this and possible externships during my 2 and 3L year.
3) The fellowship will allow me to work on individualized research and develop a closer relationship with faculty.

Thoughts please? Have any current students or alums do fellowships like this? Was it a valuable experience or do you wish you hadn't done it and just taken the free money? I must pick one or the other!

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Re: Graduate Fellowship vs. Merit Money?

Postby cinephile » Tue Jun 04, 2013 4:54 pm

Extra work for marginal prestige doesn't seem worth it to me, but I'm not a W&M student so maybe I don't appreciate how much of a boost this could be. But it seems like you value your freedom to go to DC more. You won't be bored during 1L, there's plenty of work to do and plenty of law student parties to go to. And if you really want to be a RA, you can just apply with a professor you like during your 2L year.

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Re: Graduate Fellowship vs. Merit Money?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:52 pm

Why do you want to work as a RA during 2L and 3L? Shouldn't you do actual legal practice-type positions (internships/whatever) if you want to work then? I would much rather take the unnamed money that doesn't require work, so I could get jobs doing whatever worked best for my career plans. You do individualized research and work with faculty through other means if you really really want to.

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Re: Graduate Fellowship vs. Merit Money?

Postby banana$$stand » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:17 pm

OP reminds me of a random LSAT writing portion question.

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