UCLA vs Columbia

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HelpNeeded

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UCLA vs Columbia

Post by HelpNeeded » Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:04 pm

Currently looking at around $282K total COA at Columbia and about $184K at UCLA (with interest included for both). Feeling very torn right now, I think that I like the vibe of UCLA better and I'm not sure I see myself in New York long-term, but I am worried it would be stupid to turn down Columbia. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit either school due to the pandemic. I'm interested in Public Interest work eventually, but I have been thinking about starting out in Big Law. I'm hesitant about Columbia due to the huge focus on Big Law if I do end up deciding to do PI. But on the other hand, I'm worried that it's harder to get good outcomes from UCLA, especially if I do want to do Big Law. The prestige of Columbia is hard to turn down and I don't want to close any doors since I don't 100% know what avenue I want to take yet. I'm struggling to feel confident in either choice and keep second-guessing myself. Any input is appreciated!

QContinuum

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by QContinuum » Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:31 pm

What are your other options? Did you apply to the schools ranked between Columbia and UCLA - specifically, NYU, Michigan and Berkeley, which are particularly PI-oriented and (in the case of NYU and Michigan, but not Berkeley) particularly generous with merit aid? When did you apply?

If you applied early in the cycle and blanketed the T13, and these are your only options, then as between the two, I'd choose Columbia. It's worth an additional $100k over UCLA, for the better LRAP and the (much, much) stronger overall placement power. A solid ~10% of the class at Columbia is diehard PI; the community's there, if you want it. You can also reach out to the admissions office and ask them to put you in touch with a current student who's going into PI. (You could even specify a particular PI niche - say, if you're particularly interested in becoming a local prosecutor, you could ask to speak with a CLS student who's looking to join a local DA's office.) Current students really have no incentive to lie to you. Sure, the admissions office won't put you in touch with a disgruntled student, but even a happy student should be honest with you about the school's PI offerings and the amount of support they had.

If you were 100% all-in on doing local public interest work in southern CA - like, say, you were 100% committed to becoming a local public defender, or joining a local legal aid outfit - then UCLA would become more attractive (though even then the $184k cost would give me pause). But you say you're unsure and want to keep your options open, particularly for BigLaw. That points strongly to CLS.

(Also: Congrats on your offers! Getting into CLS - and getting a substantial scholarship at UCLA - is no mean feat. You should justly be very proud of your accomplishments. I hope none of my advice above sounds too downbeat.)

vbalenciaga

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by vbalenciaga » Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:35 pm

For either of those options, you will need a high paying firm job or a public interest loan forgiveness program. Columbia is a much better choice for either.

Imo ucla would only be a good call here if you had a full ride.

HelpNeeded

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by HelpNeeded » Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:59 pm

QContinuum wrote:What are your other options? Did you apply to the schools ranked between Columbia and UCLA - specifically, NYU, Michigan and Berkeley, which are particularly PI-oriented and (in the case of NYU and Michigan, but not Berkeley) particularly generous with merit aid? When did you apply?
I was accepted to NYU but strangely did not receive any aid so it's not an option for me, I was waitlisted at Berkeley and did not apply to Michigan. I have ruled out my other options due to geography, aid, program strengths, etc. Thanks so much for your insight! I am leaning towards Columbia as being the better option because the outcomes and placements are so much better and this helped me towards finalizing my decision. I appreciate your help!

plurilingue

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by plurilingue » Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:07 pm

It would be extremely inadvisable to pick UCLA over Columbia at this cost differential. If there were a full ride from UCLA, then maybe it would be worth having a discussion based on your subjective goals and finances. But even then, probably Columbia.

UCLA is three or four tiers below Columbia. There is substantially zero overlap in the quality of the students between these two schools. CLS has a completely different feel due to the life experiences and undergraduate records of its students. It also has materially better outcomes for the vast majority of the class. I am not convinced that a top 10% student at UCLA in 1L would have made median at Columbia, and the hiring practices of legal employers reflects such a difference in legal acumen. If you are not sure what you want to do in this field, but you are sure you want to be in it, go to CLS.

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trebekismyhero

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by trebekismyhero » Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:18 pm

HelpNeeded wrote:
QContinuum wrote:What are your other options? Did you apply to the schools ranked between Columbia and UCLA - specifically, NYU, Michigan and Berkeley, which are particularly PI-oriented and (in the case of NYU and Michigan, but not Berkeley) particularly generous with merit aid? When did you apply?
I was accepted to NYU but strangely did not receive any aid so it's not an option for me, I was waitlisted at Berkeley and did not apply to Michigan. I have ruled out my other options due to geography, aid, program strengths, etc. Thanks so much for your insight! I am leaning towards Columbia as being the better option because the outcomes and placements are so much better and this helped me towards finalizing my decision. I appreciate your help!
You should have applied to Michigan, it is one of the best schools for PI and if you're in at Columbia, you likely would have gotten some money from Michigan. If you are not willing to wait and to re-apply broadly to the t13, go to Columbia.

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cavalier1138

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by cavalier1138 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:34 pm

trebekismyhero wrote:
HelpNeeded wrote:
QContinuum wrote:What are your other options? Did you apply to the schools ranked between Columbia and UCLA - specifically, NYU, Michigan and Berkeley, which are particularly PI-oriented and (in the case of NYU and Michigan, but not Berkeley) particularly generous with merit aid? When did you apply?
I was accepted to NYU but strangely did not receive any aid so it's not an option for me, I was waitlisted at Berkeley and did not apply to Michigan. I have ruled out my other options due to geography, aid, program strengths, etc. Thanks so much for your insight! I am leaning towards Columbia as being the better option because the outcomes and placements are so much better and this helped me towards finalizing my decision. I appreciate your help!
You should have applied to Michigan, it is one of the best schools for PI and if you're in at Columbia, you likely would have gotten some money from Michigan. If you are not willing to wait and to re-apply broadly to the t13, go to Columbia.
This. I don't understand what geographic concerns would prevent you from applying broadly to the T13; you left money and options on the table in doing that.

But did you try negotiating with NYU? A Columbia scholarship should at least move the needle on that, and NYU is much, much better for PI. If you try negotiating a scholarship at NYU, you might be able to salvage this cycle; but the correct answer is to reapply next cycle and broaden your horizons.

dabigchina

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by dabigchina » Thu Apr 30, 2020 5:25 pm

The spread here is weird. Assuming you got some money from CLS, you should more or less be in full scholarship territory for UCLA. Can you negotiate UCLA up? If you want to do PI and don't mind or want to stay in SoCal, full scholly from UCLA is defensible, and may even be better than what you are paying for Columbia.

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by Joachim2017 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 6:06 pm

plurilingue wrote:It would be extremely inadvisable to pick UCLA over Columbia at this cost differential. If there were a full ride from UCLA, then maybe it would be worth having a discussion based on your subjective goals and finances. But even then, probably Columbia.

UCLA is three or four tiers below Columbia. There is substantially zero overlap in the quality of the students between these two schools. CLS has a completely different feel due to the life experiences and undergraduate records of its students. It also has materially better outcomes for the vast majority of the class. I am not convinced that a top 10% student at UCLA in 1L would have made median at Columbia, and the hiring practices of legal employers reflects such a difference in legal acumen. If you are not sure what you want to do in this field, but you are sure you want to be in it, go to CLS.
These statements are a little too strong and denigrate UCLA students a little too much, especially if you're talking about their actual "legal acumen" and "quality." Law can be a prestige-obsessed world, but not that much, and not so much that you can reach conclusions about students' actual legal acumen or quality. There are often at least some students at places like UCLA that are just as (if not smarter than) students at the Ivies -- yes, even Harvard and Yale, let alone Columbia -- that for whatever reason attend lower-ranked schools.

QContinuum

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Re: UCLA vs Columbia

Post by QContinuum » Thu Apr 30, 2020 7:51 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
trebekismyhero wrote:
HelpNeeded wrote:I was accepted to NYU but strangely did not receive any aid so it's not an option for me, I was waitlisted at Berkeley and did not apply to Michigan. I have ruled out my other options due to geography, aid, program strengths, etc. Thanks so much for your insight! I am leaning towards Columbia as being the better option because the outcomes and placements are so much better and this helped me towards finalizing my decision. I appreciate your help!
You should have applied to Michigan, it is one of the best schools for PI and if you're in at Columbia, you likely would have gotten some money from Michigan. If you are not willing to wait and to re-apply broadly to the t13, go to Columbia.
This. I don't understand what geographic concerns would prevent you from applying broadly to the T13; you left money and options on the table in doing that.

But did you try negotiating with NYU? A Columbia scholarship should at least move the needle on that, and NYU is much, much better for PI. If you try negotiating a scholarship at NYU, you might be able to salvage this cycle; but the correct answer is to reapply next cycle and broaden your horizons.
What were your other options, if you don't mind sharing? Were you a "splitter" (high LSAC GPA/low LSAT or low LSAC GPA/high LSAT)? And when did you send your (complete) applications in?

Did you run your numbers through MyLSN - https://mylsn.info/r/pre-law/admissions/search/ - to see your "expected" admissions and merit aid outcomes?

A candidate who gets $ at Columbia typically (though, admittedly, not always) gets $$ or $$$ at the "lower" T13. Accepting the $$/$$$ "lower" T13 offer is typically the best move, objectively. Typically, though again not always, Michigan will offer the most merit aid. Many folks seem to be allergic to attending law school in Ann Arbor, for whatever reason.

Finally, you should really not be ruling out any programs due to "program strengths" or "geography". The T13 are national in placement, and you're really only spending a little over 2 years on campus, since you can spend all of your summers elsewhere. (You start in August, say, and graduate in May - that's 2 years 9 months - then subtract 3 months for each of your 1L and 2L summers - you're down to 2 years 3 months - then subtract an additional month or two for winter holidays - you're down to a little over 2 years on campus.) You can shave it down even further if you study abroad or do a visiting student arrangement for a semester (common) or a year (less common, but still doable). Sure, geography can be a tiebreaker in choosing between peer schools that offer you similar COA - but otherwise geography really shouldn't be a major factor. Especially as none of the T13 are located in awful locales.

As for "program strengths", there's really no such thing - the only thing that matters is the law school's overall placement power, not whether it offers a particularly strong environmental law program (for example), or has a terrific human rights clinic (for example).

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