« on: April 15, 2005, 01:28:45 PM »
This whole process is so complex, and it's coming down to the wire for a lot of us. Reading how other people came to their final decisions helped me in choosing my school, and I figured that maybe a thread full of such posts would help those out who are still deciding. I'll volunteer my choice, in a *somewhat* compact format:
Goals: Leaning toward biglaw to pay off loans, but it's not a necessity. Want to work preferrably in San Francisco, with DC as a solid secondary option. Prefer a school in a city. Debt vs. rank ratio is important, but would pay full price for a school that's consistently in the t20.
Contenders: BU (no $), W&M (in state + $5k), Hastings
BU - Pro: rank, in a city, placement in biglaw, have many friends in Boston and housing already set up. Con: tenuous rank (I think they'll cycle back toward mid-20s soon), climate, cost (most expensive), not biggest fan of Boston-NYC region for placement.
W&M - Pro: cost (half as much as both BU and Hastings because of Virginia residency), unique program, non-competitive, proximity to friends and family in DC, beautiful campus. Con: small town, low placement numbers in California, really small town.
Hastings - Pro: nearly guaranteed placement in San Fran, located in San Fran, externship and clinical opportunities, have friends in Bay Area. Con: cost, low ranking.
The Decision: W&M.
Over the last two weeks it seemed like I changed my mind by the hour on where I should go, but ultimately it came down to the debt vs. ranking ratio. Had Hastings thrown me money, as most lower-ranked schools do, then I probably would have gone there given its location and pull in my target market, San Francisco. But they didn't, and I just couldn't justify incuring that much debt (approx $120k total) at the risk of screwing up in school and falling out of competition for biglaw jobs (which would be almost necessary with that much debt). At approx. $140k total, BU offered a much better ranking for slightly more debt, which was appealing. But BU's rise to #20 this year seemed a bit tenuous to me, especially given the fact that just two years ago, in 2003, it was tied at #28 with W&M. Those schools in the 20s seem to churn around quite a bit. BU's urban location was also a draw for me, as was its decent placement and alumni network in California (I spoke with alumni in CA about this). But if I did not get into Cali, my second options out of BU were Boston and NYC, which are personally undesirable. W&M seemed to offer a comparable education to BU, but differed in five areas, some good and some bad: competition within the student body, placement in California, placement in DC, location and most importantly cost. The cost is the biggest plus, at half the price because of my residency and small scholarship. The location is the biggest drawback because I prefer a city, but I can also see myself studying law in a quiet town -- and getting the hell out of dodge and up to DC anytime I get cabin fever. Placement is a sticky issuse, being lower in Cali but much higher in DC. However, I think the low Cali numbers are due more to student self-selection than Cali firms not being interested; a small handful of CA firms visited campus last year, so they do give W&M a look. Besides, if CA doesn't work out, I wouldn't mind being in DC. Finally, the environment of the school makes for a less competitive, more collegial community within the student body, which would be nice.
Anyway, that was my decision-making process. I'm waitlisted at both GWU and USC, and have yet to hear from UCLA, and if any admit me I'll accept. In my opinion, all offer better location and placement opportunities than any of the schools I've been accepted to, and I'll be able to handle the debt.