Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

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OmbreGracieuse
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Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:39 am

So... I am in a little bit of a dilemma. Here's the quandary:

Do I go to a lower tiered school, and strive to be the top of the class (I am looking at a few that I am confident I'd be in the top 5%, mostly tier 3/4 schools). Since I am above the medians, quite a few are offering scholarships which makes it more affordable. It will also be harder to get a decent paying job though, so while it is less debt, it is also less pay.

Or... Do I go to a bigger named school (Tier 1/2) where I kinda blend in the middle with the medians and *hope* that I am somewhere near the top of my class. Since I would be in the medians, it would most likely be more of a struggle to be the top, as there is a lot more competition. Since I am at the medians as well, there would be less scholarships. If I could swing it though, it is possible to get a better paying job than the tier 3/4. Better job, less scholarships.

What do you think? I've given it a lot of thought but am not sure what is best from a family perspective. I have a husband and an 18 month old daughter, and we don't make a lot of money now. My goal is to not live paycheck to paycheck, and I feel either way we might make it, but I am worried. Anyone else been in the same spot? What do you think?

Are there people who go to tier 3/4 schools, graduate at the top of the class, and then get great paying jobs? Is it better to be the big fish in a little pond... does it give you any edge with other students who were in the middle of their class at their tier 1/2 school?

Thanks for the advice! :)

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nealric
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby nealric » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:43 am

I am looking at a few that I am confident I'd be in the top 5%, mostly tier 3/4 schools


You and the other 95% of the class. :roll:


Don't go to a lower-ranked school thinking you will have an easier time- there is simply no way to predict your grades. The only reason to attend a t3/t4 is if you are getting significant money and you have strong geographic ties to the area.

OmbreGracieuse
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:56 am

So, you suggest unless there is a big scholarship attached, forgo the T3/T4 schools? How much of a scholarship makes it worth it, though? How does it impact the ability to get a decent paying job either way?

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4for44
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby 4for44 » Sun Oct 10, 2010 12:12 pm

Don't go to any schools outside tier 1 without significant money... (even the higher tier 1s are a gamble). You have to think about Return on Investment, and most students coming from those schools are not going to make 160 or even 70... (there will be exceptions... but they are just that... exceptions) If you don't want to be living "paycheck to paycheck," getting another 100k-150k in debt will not help you, when you are making 35k.

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plenipotentiary
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby plenipotentiary » Sun Oct 10, 2010 12:18 pm

4for44 wrote:If you don't want to be living "paycheck to paycheck," getting another 100k-150k in debt will not help you


This.

The time for taking ridiculous financial gambles has passed once you have a kid.

reverendt
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby reverendt » Sun Oct 10, 2010 12:19 pm

nealric wrote:
Don't go to a lower-ranked school thinking you will have an easier time- there is simply no way to predict your grades.

This is correct.

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OperaSoprano
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby OperaSoprano » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:18 pm

reverendt wrote:
nealric wrote:
Don't go to a lower-ranked school thinking you will have an easier time- there is simply no way to predict your grades.

This is correct.


Excellent advice from the people in this thread. OP, you should know that the correlation between entering numbers and 1L performance (especially your LSAT score, when viewed in a vacuum) is much smaller than people think. I could give you an exhaustive laundry list of friends and acquaintances who have vastly over or underperformed what their numbers would have suggested, and multiple studies have been done on this, so there is more out there than a collection of anecdotes.

Even at the school you do choose, your grades may fluctuate from semester to semester, reflecting events in your outside life. There are valid reasons to go to a lower ranked school, but the best and safest reason is generally a full scholarship that is not dependent on any GPA to be maintained.

Of course, by the same token, you should not assume you will do less well at a higher ranked school. Many exam strategies are learnable, and some of the top students at the best schools have been/are on hand here to dispense their advice. TLS has been a tremendous help and resource in the nearly two years (has it really been that long?) since I first came to this place.

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bk1
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby bk1 » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:26 pm

While some schools are absolute toilets, I would say the job prospects from a lower T1 aren't that much different than T3/T4. Also, T2/T3/T4 are pretty meaningless distinctions.

As others have noted, you can't really guarantee your performance 1L year. GPA/LSAT are supposed to correlate with roughly 20% of what your 1L grades will be and everything else is 80%. Remember that most of your classmates don't have to balance a husband or young child which is a burden that you bear on your time constraints. So don't assume that you will be anything other than median or even worse regardless of what the school is ranked.

If you are going to a lower ranked school, do it because you can get a large scholarship with no strings attached, not because you think you can do better.

r6_philly
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby r6_philly » Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:16 pm

plenipotentiary wrote:
4for44 wrote:If you don't want to be living "paycheck to paycheck," getting another 100k-150k in debt will not help you


This.

The time for taking ridiculous financial gambles has passed once you have a kid.


Actually having a kid prompts many people who are disadvantaged financially to take a gamble - by going back to school.

Getting another 150k in debt isn't really any worse if you are living paycheck to paycheck anyway. Federal programs and income guidelines are much more lenient when you have kids, and having 150k in student loan debt but having no income to repay it really isn't crippling because you can continue to get hardship deferments or do income based repayments.

You gamble with the debt for a possibility of higher income, it's a horrible idea for people who are making a comfortable living. But for many who are making this gamble, the current situation is just not acceptable.

09042014
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby 09042014 » Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:56 pm

While it is absolutely true that you can't rely on the LSAT/GPA to tell how you'd do in a class, you can use it compare different large populations, ie classes. So while it is true that OP can't know she'd get top 5% at a T3, if she couldn't do that, she couldn't get top 20% at a T1, so she isn't getting a good job anyway. But then she'd have little debt.

UIUC is harder than Loyola. Of course you can't say just because you have good numbers you'd do good at Loyola. However you can say with relatively high certainty that you will do better at Loyola than UIUC. That might be top 60th% vs 70% at UIUC.

There are some drop offs where taking the money might not be better, like WUSTL vs UChi. The difference in performance will be small, and the difference in placement huge.

But once you get below T17, the job placement difference become pretty small and it is worth just taking the scholarship. You might as well take St. Louis University fullride over WUSTL because your chances at big law are shit either way.

T17 or free IMO. And even then a fullride at somewhere like Fordham, or UC Davis is better than most T14's.

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Cupidity
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Re: Big fish little pond, or little fish big pond?

Postby Cupidity » Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:08 pm

Just to add my support to everything said above. I am currently at BU, and I have a friend at Florida Coastal, T20 vs. Tier 4.

She was in all the same classes as me through college, she is smarter than I am, and she would probably kick my ass if we were on the same law school curve. But she is there because of her LSAT score. People at bad schools aren't bad students.




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