Well, it's time for me to make a decision. With the exception of one school which I am seriously considering, I have all of the pertinent financial aid information that I need.
I want to hear all of your opinions on this. Feel free to give your take on the situation. I'd like to hear a variety of opinions. Interspersed throughout this post will be my rationale for my ranking of the schools which I would like to attend.
I was accepted to 10 schools, and waitlisted at three. (ND, W&M, and GW; Fordham still has me on hold, and W&L said they would WL me or accept me by late-April.)
Here is how I have them ranked in order of my preference:
1/2: Florida and Miami
The reason why they are over BU is simple: My wife and I like it hot, sunny, and humid. We've never liked the Northeast weather, and we're very active outdoors people. (basketball, tennis, running, hiking)
If the costs of Miami and Florida were exorbitant, we'd bite the bullet and stay in the NE. However, we have two attractive options that are affordable.
Florida just gave me a $8,000 scholarship, nonrenewable. In-State tuition is easy to get in FL, and it's cheap. It would cost me roughly $22,000+($11,000*2)=$44,000 in tuition for three years of law school. (My wife is working while I am in law school. She does NOT make major money, but she's not working at McDonald's, either. She makes money in the $30,000-$40,000 range.) COL in Gainesville is cheaper than the area from which I hail, and COL is considered very reasonable here.
UF is the best law school in FL, which is where we'd like to stay. It gives us close access to many big cities, and it still does decently in Miami if we chose to move down that far.
Moreover, there is less pressure to do well at UF, in terms of financial considerations. I cannot lose a scholarship and then pay tens of thousands of dollars, as would be the case at Miami if I lost the scholarship.
Miami has designated me as a Miami Scholar, which is a $25,000/yr. scholarship, contingent on maintaining a 3.0 (on their website, 85-90% of recipients of scholarships keep them; a 3.0 is about 50 percentile). A Miami Scholar, which is a public interest scholarship, is described well here:http://www.law.miami.edu/finaid/ofa_03_03.php?op=3
I'd play an active role in a school with a strong focus on public interest. If I decide to go this route for a career, this would be great for my resume. (At least I assume so.)
However, if I lose the scholarship, I'm paying $35,000/yr. That scares me. Best case scenario, I only pay $33,000 total in tuition. Worst case: $81,000. :eek:
Also, COL is higher in Miami than Gainesville.
3) BU: It's BU. It's a VERY good school, and it places well in Boston. It also does decently in NYC, among other major markets.
They gave me $15,000/yr.; all I have to do is remain "in good standing." Tuition is $36,000, so I'd owe at least $21,000 tuition. I say "at least" because the COL in Boston is rather high, according to COL calculators and a friend who moved up there a few years ago. (House prices there are some of the highest in the nation, supposedly.)
If I want a crack at "biglaw," this is probably the route to go. And my wife and I figured that if we are going to slave away in the cold NE, then we might as well go to the best school into which I was accepted.
However, Boston is cold, and I've heard from people on other forums that people at the bottom half of the class at BU have trouble with "decent" jobs. That IS a concern for me. I'm self-confident, but I'm also a realist. Somebody has to be in the bottom half of the class. There are many students just as qualified as I.
4) USD-After asking for more money, they gave me $23,000/yr., with $4,000 in fed. work study.
That's not bad, even considering that tuition is $39,000/yr.
1) COL is crazy in SD; I'd most likely have to help my wife brunt some of the COL
2) The $23,000/yr. is contingent on remaining in the top third of the class. That's actually generous for USD; many people on LSN received only $17,000 (which I originally received as the amount given) nonrenewable.
(I asked them to reduce the requirement, but they opted only to give me more money.)
So if I lose the scholarship, we're talking $82,000 solely in tuition. I'm guessing I'd need to take out at least $10-15,000 in COL expenses. That's close to 100 grand. (My wife and I owe about $28,000 combined from undergrad.)
The only reason why USD remains on my list is that they have a Childhood Advocacy Institute (CAI). The CAI is a major lobbyist in CA for children's rights and they have a great clinical program there. I've had a great email exchange with the lead professor of the clinic.
(He contacted me about the clinic because my PS was about my childhood experiences, which tied into my current job. I work at a residential treatment facility for kids with mental health issues.)
If USD had dropped the requirement to top-half of the class, USD would be up there on my list. However, it is a distant fourth behind UF, Miami, and BU.
5)Temple-I'm still waiting on an answer about a public interest scholarship for which I applied. It's full tuition for 1L, and half-tuition for 2L AND 3L. Since I'm in-state, that's only $15,000 in tuition for law school for three years!
However, I doubt I will get it. It would be nice, though, since my bro goes to school in Philly, and plans on staying there.
6) Pitt-Great school for its area, and they gave me $17,000/yr. (have to keep a 3.0) out of $22,000/yr. in-state tuition, but if I'm going to stay in the cold NE, I'll stick with Boston
7) PSU-They gave me $20,000/yr., when tuition is $29,000/yr. This is a good deal, since I have to stay in the top half and I wouldn't be too worried about that there. I also could stay where I am living and commute. (I'm from this area of PA.)
However, my wife and I want change. This area is nice, but we don't think we want to live here for our entire life.
UMD-I like UMD, but...
1) their out-of-state tuition is high as UF's, but I've heard it's next-to-impossible to get in-state status there
2) I asked them about potential scholarships, but instead of just politely informing me that they weren't going to give me any, they encouraged me to apply for scholarships that only apply to in-state students. This was after I told them that I WASN'T in-state.
3) I withdrew from UMD as a result.
9) Villanova-It's a good school, and I like that it's Catholic, but they've really been grilling me on my finances. I asked them to please give me a fin. aid letter since their deadline is fast approaching (it was yesterday), but I never received a letter. Villanova's too expensive to attend without a modicum of money, especially if one gets into Temple.
10) Widener-I withdrew from Widener.
Thanks in advance for taking the time to help me out. I really appreciate it!