(This post was originally from 2012. I’m updating it on June 18, 2019 with changes marked in bold because times have changed yet again).
When I was a Director of Admissions at a law school in California twelve (19) years ago, one of my peers from another school told me he hated when students tried to negotiate scholarships. Let me tell you, times have changed. (ACTUALLY, they have changed again: schools are getting fed up with the requests and many schools are flat out telling people they won’t negotiate scholarships. However, some are still doing it
Negotiating Scholarships is No Longer Taboo
In the last few years, I’ve seen a change – applicants are asking and law schools are responding, some even with official policies that let you send them a copy of one scholarship offer from a competing school for their review. And now, the Wall Street Journal (notoriously anti-law school and anti-lawyers, but at least they make sure people are seriously considering their decision to attend law school) has published an article all about how law schools are negotiating with admitted students.
The University of Illinois offered EVERY member of their entering class a scholarship (that’s certainly a smart way to make sure they get good people after the bad press their admission office has been getting in the last year or two).
You Should Negotiate
For those of you starting law school this fall, you can expect that every one of your peers is calling or writing the school they hope to attend and asking for more $$$$. Phones at admission offices are going to be ringing off the hook today. Those poor, poor unsuspecting souls. Especially since they like to pretend so much of the admission process is a secret. There will be some Advil popping today.
How To Ask For More Scholarship Money
To effectively negotiate a scholarship with a law school:
- Show them an offer from another comparable law school that exceeds your current offer.
- Analyze the cost of attending one school versus another.
- Explain why an increased scholarship offer would make all the difference in choosing where to attend, and agree to withdraw other applications if they give you what you’re asking for.
- Be sure to understand the terms of renewing your scholarship and keep this in mind when determining a scholarship’s value.
- You can continue this after submitting your first deposit to a school if you get more information that changes your circumstances.
- If you apply binding to a law school, they have little incentive to give you a scholarship or increase your award, so keep that in mind.
- Some schools are notoriously flexible (Georgetown, for example) and some are notoriously not (George Washington, for example).
If you want to share your story of how you negotiated a scholarship (and I know my clients have been very successful at this in the last couple of months) I’m sure my readers would be very interested!
For more about the nitty-gritty details of why law schools award scholarships and the methods behind these decisions, read this article by Jim Chen.