Law School Discussion

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Poll

What should I do in my current situation??

Hope and prepare for FIU with Stetson as back-up
 1 (50%)
Hope and prepare for FIU with Ave Maria as back-up
 0 (0%)
Go to Stetson
 0 (0%)
Go to Ave Maria
 0 (0%)
Try to "negotiate" with both Stetson and Ave Maria for better deals
 1 (50%)

Total Members Voted: 2

Author Topic: Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU  (Read 2004 times)

Coffeebean12

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Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU
« on: May 29, 2012, 08:54:46 PM »
Hi everyone! I was wondering if you guys can help me with a sticky situation I'm in. I know this is long, but I would really appreciate some advice!

First, A Little About Me:
I live in Southwest Florida and I do want to stay and practice somewhere in the state of Florida, so going to a law school in Florida is my best bet. My applications took FOREVER to result in a reply of any kind and they all just got back to me fairly recently, so now I'm in a time crunch. I was really hoping for UF (or at least FSU), but I got rejected at both. :'(  After getting those rejections, Stetson and especially FIU (because of its location and economical tuition rates) were my next two top choices. Ave Maria was honestly just a back-up/"I just applied for the heck of it" option. I also live close to Ave Maria, though not close enough to commute, but I know the area. Big law isn't really THAT important to me, though it might be nice to have as an option after graduating, but honestly I'm not even sure if I'd even want to do that anyway. My family has offered to help me out some financially. Money is important to me; I don't want to get myself up to my eyeballs in debt and if possible, I'd like to avoid loans all together. However, even more important to me than money is my future job prospects at graduation.
**Also: retaking the LSAT, reapplying to schools, and waiting another year is not something that can be considered as I have already done this, so it is not even an option.

And Now...The Situation:
I got accepted at Stetson (sadly, with no scholarship), accepted at Ave Maria (obviously, except that I was also offered a scholarship for $28,000/year), and waitlisted at FIU (quite probably because I applied so late due to an issue with one particular LOR). I'm still hoping for FIU, but in the meantime I have to make a decision between Stetson and Ave Maria...in the next 5 days!  :o :-\ So now I'm facing a dilemma: should I go for the money, or for the school with a slightly better reputation? And does it even matter in the long run?

The Pros and Cons:
STETSON
Pros- Slightly better reputation (it's a T3 with a couple national rankings in specific programs), it's located in Tampa so it would allow me to finally move out of the Southwest Florida region and live/experience a different (and bigger) city, there are fairly large scholarships available for incoming 2 and 3Ls (though I realize that I cannot count on this possibility)
Cons- I wasn't offered a scholarship which means I'd be paying the ticket price of somewhere around $35,000/year for tuition alone (and I wonder if that's truly worth it for a school like Stetson), I don't know the area well so finding a living arrangement may be a little more difficult with the time crunch I'm in

AVE MARIA
Pros- $28,000/year scholarship, I know the area so figuring out living arrangements this late in the game will be significantly easier, I have family and friends in the area so I will have a form of emotional support
Cons- It doesn't have a very good reputation (T4 school), I'd feel "stuck" in the same region (Naples/Fort Myers area) that I've lived in my entire life (I also went to undergrad in this region), the $28,000 scholarship is contingent upon me maintaining a 3.0 GPA at the law school (which makes me very skeptical because I haven't found anywhere where they publish what their grading curve is), I worry that if I have a difficult time adjusting my first year and lose my scholarship that I'll then be trapped paying $35,000/year for a T4 school and that will make me want to kill myself

FIU
Pros- Economical (for a resident like myself), it's been moving up in the ranks and reputation I believe (currently a T3), located in Miami which would allow me to venture out from Southwest Florida, plus Miami is a big city with (maybe?) lots of opportunities
Cons- I was waitlisted and may get a reply anytime between tomorrow and the end of summer, I don't know the Miami area that well so figuring out living arrangements so late might be rather difficult, I've heard that the school has a tough grading curve to "weed out" weaker students and it had (as of a few years ago at least) a high attrition rate

The Decision:
So, what should I do? Is Stetson worth it at that price? Is Ave Maria too sketchy of a deal or should I just go for the free money? Is there a big enough difference in job prospects between all three of these schools? Which one (or more than one) of these options should I do in my current situation?
1. Hope and prepare for FIU just in case (while having a back-up, of course!)
2. Choose Stetson (either for certain, or as a back-up until I hear back from FIU)
3. Choose Ave Maria (either for certain, or as a back-up until I hear from FIU)
4. Attempt to "negotiate" with Stetson and Ave Maria and try to get some money or some kind of incentive at Stetson or more money and better scholarship stipulations at Ave Maria

Anti09

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Re: Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2012, 09:27:59 PM »
None of those schools is worth what you would be paying.

legend

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Re: Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2012, 09:35:44 PM »
Before I begin first thing to realize is that all advice on the internet including mine is from an anonymous source that doesn't know you or your situation so take everything or anyone else says with a major grain of salt.

First thing I am noticing from your post is an unnecessary focus on rankings. The reality is most people don't care about the distinctions between Tier 2,Tier 3, Tier 4 schools. There are the top schools and the rest. The exclusive firms hire Harvard, Yale, Georgetown only. If a firm is hiring from Stetson they are likely to hire from FIU or Ave Maria as well. Furthermore, the rankings change drastically year by year. I went to a Tier 2 school that has been in the tier 3 almost into Tier 1 and last year was in an 11 way tie for 84th place. I haven't even bothered to look at the rank this year because I finished law school a few years ago and it doesn't matter anymore. All these schools are in good standing with the ABA as far as I know and that is all that really matters when dealing with schools of the caliber you have mentioned. 

AVE MARIA
As to the individual schools be wary of one thing regarding the Ave Maria Scholarship and that is the conditions. Many schools will require you to maintain a 3.0 GPA or be some percentile to maintain your scholarship. The vast majority of people getting into law school and particularly one getting scholarships received a 3.0 in undergrad with little to no effort and were usually in the top of their undergrad classes. This is not how it works in law school. Usually only 35% of the class can receive a 3.0 and this means there is a 65% chance of you losing your scholarship this is no knock on you, but 100% of law students on the first day of law school will truly think they are going to be in the top 10%. You don't need to be a math genius to realize 90% will be wrong so be very careful about any conditions related to teh scholarship. This New York Times article does a better job explaining the conditions than I can. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?pagewanted=all . If there are no conditions then Ave Maria might be a fine choice debt free is great.

So in summation it is possible after the first year you will pay sticker year 2 & 3 so be careful.

FIU:
Schools with in-state tuition are great. The main reason is you do not have to worry about maintaining a certain class rank to keep the tuition low it is guaranteed.

Stetson:
May not be worth the sticker price when you have these other options, but I know nothing about any of these schools. I do know that student loans are hefty and on top of the large amount they accrue interest and if you get 100k + in loans you are going to be accumulating 8k in interest alone. So just be careful of costs.

Since I know absolutely nothing about any of the schools these are the things every law student should consider.

LOCATION:
It looks you have this narrowed down, but I know FIU is in Miami not sure about the other places. The location is very important because if the courthouses, law firms, and so on are nearby it will be easier to get internship experience. If Ave Maria is in the middle of nowhere you simply will not be able to extern for a judge while in school if there are no courthouses nearby. I also know Florida is a big state, but again nothing about the locations or individual schools, but over a three year period your going to get an apartment, start a romantic relationship if your not in one yet, make friends and so on. Three years is a long time and wherever you go is likely where you will end up after graduation just human nature. It is true people do move on, but many don't so just be sure you can commit to a certain location.

I mentioned cost & ranking already above.

REALITY OF LAW SCHOOL EDUCATION:
No matter where you go you learn the same thing. The law is the law and at any ABA school first year consists of the MBE Subjects Torts, Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, Con Law, Property, Contracts. You read Supreme Court cases and these are identical no matter what school you do the case method/Socratic method happens at every ABA school and you learn the same things so there really isn't much of a difference as to what you actually learn. The professors may be more engaging and connected at certain schools, but the substance is the same.

PERSONAL FEELINGS ABOUT THE SCHOOL
Every school has a culture to it and whether you fit into it or not is a highly personal decision. When I was going to certain schools some just gave me a bad feeling and others I felt comfortable in and that is completely subjective. What I enjoyed about one school you may have hated and vice-versa. If you hate a place during a visit it will be a long three years. So talk to professors, students, admins, and not just on tour dates it is easy to put on a show, but see the day to day since your in Florida and these are Florida schools it shouldn't be to difficult to setup a visit.

SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS:
This is not a huge issue, but if all other things are equal if you are into a particular area like Trial Advocay for example one of these schools may have more mock trial teams etc. I believe Stetson does compete in a lot of competitions actually more than the other two and if that is something your interested in it could be a selling point, but again this factor should only be used in a tiebreak situation as most 0L's change their minds about what they want to do or simply have no idea what they want to do after first year.

CONCLUSION:
There is no right answer to this question no matter what you decide there will always be the "what if' in the back of your mind and that is just the way it is. Every lawyer has had to make this decision and no right or wrong answer exists, but at the very least consider the factors I mentioned they shouldn't be conclusive because this is your decision, your life, your money and anonymous internet posters cannot possibly no your own individual situation. Go with your gut when making the decision and good luck to you whatever you decide.



Coffeebean12

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Re: Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2012, 09:36:17 PM »
I added a poll! Please vote! I would appreciate any advice!

Anti09: Thank you for your input! I appreciate you being so kind to read my long post and reply!

Coffeebean12

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Re: Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2012, 10:43:17 PM »
Legend, thank you so much for your very thorough and incredibly helpful advice! It is much appreciated! I will most definitely consider everything you said!

That New York Times article you posted was absolutely terrifying! And honestly, that is my biggest fear with choosing Ave Maria because the scholarship they offered me does come with a stipulation that I maintain a 3.0. I know that there's a decent chance that I may lose that scholarship if I take Ave Maria up on their offer. I don't know if I want to go to a school like Ave Maria and pay full price.

So I'm wondering a few things. First, should I attempt to negotiate with Ave Maria for better stipulations on that scholarship offer? Is it even possible that they'd budge on that? And would it make any difference if I go to Ave Maria and lose my scholarship and then end up paying full price or if I go to Stetson and pay full price from the beginning? Would I be better off in the long run in one of those circumstances? Or does it honestly not matter because the rankings, you say, don't truly make much of a difference (outside of the Top 14)?

This is really stressing me out. :'(  I'm really hoping that I'm lucky and that FIU decides to give me a spot because that would make this decision a lot easier, I feel.

Maintain FL 350

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Re: Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2012, 12:34:01 PM »
As usual, legend's post is spot on.

Personally, I'd narrow it down to FIU or Stetson with a strong preference for FIU. Ave Maria's scholarship is attractive, but the stips might be brutal. At full price I don't think either Stetson or AM are a better bet than FIU. Actually, even with substantial scholarships, FIU might be a better choice than Stetson or AM.

FIU is relatively new (est. 2000), which has something to do with it's ranking. Very few law schools are able to establish much of a reputation right off the bat. UCI is one of the few examples to the contrary. But if you look at FIU's underlying fundamentals, they're pretty solid. FIU is a large, reasonably well respected public research university. In my experience, large respected universities tend to produce decent law schools. FIU has the highest bar pass rate in FL, and is 3rd for scholarly output. Those are all good signs. Combined with the lower tuition, FIU seems like a deal.   

legend

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Re: Stetson vs. Ave Maria vs. FIU
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2012, 04:26:36 PM »
Thank you Roald

To the OP:

Remember before anything I and anyone else is an anonymous poster I personally don't think the rankings mean anything, but there are people that care it is a case by case opinion. To me U.S. News is nothing more than a for-profit, unregulated, magazine offering an opinion. As an example they rank more than just schools. http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/real-estate/articles/2009/06/08/best-places-to-live-2009 . U.S. News ranked Albequre New Mexico as one of the best places to live does that make it true?  In my estimation no, but there are certainly plenty of people that think ranking matter and plenty that do not.

As to the Ave Maria situation there is absoluetly nothing wrong with asking for better conditions or least asking how many students lose the scholarship. In that article none of those students asked question and in my opinion the school was not at fault. If your are being offered 100,000 dollars you ask some question particularly if you are bright enough to get into law school. Worse case scenario Ave Maria doesn't give you anything best case they do.

 I have never heard of a school penalizing someone for requesting more. Ave Maria has seats to fill and your numbers are above their media so they want you. Remember you have leverage until you enroll that first day to negotiate with anyone, but once your in your in period. Law school is a business and your a customer never forget that and this applies to every school in the country from Harvard to Cooley law schools and educational institutionas are businesses first and foremost and you are making 100k investment. If you were buying a 100,000 dollar car would negotiate, ask  questions, and so on. Law School is no different.

Is Stetson any better than Ave Maria I really can't answer that I truthfully know nothinhg about any of the schools you mentioned other than they are ABA approved. I also know FIU is one of the few in-state ABA schools which are always a good buy. I am certain the education is fine at all these institutions. The professors at almost every ABA school usually went to Harvard, Yale, NYU, Georgetown and Ave Maria is no different. http://www.avemarialaw.edu/index.cfm?event=faculty.profiles .

CONCLUSION:
Truth to be told none of these schools are going to open the floodgates for you, but you can certainly have a good legal career if you graduate and pass the bar. I encourage you to watch a move called LAWYER WALKS INTO A BAR it is about 6 law students from different caliber schools going through teh bar process. You see enough of these people throuhg documentary and after 10 minutes of seeing their personaliteis you don't care about the school they attened. You also see lawyers don't need to be rocket scientists either.

Then finally there is no right answer to your question nobody can say what will happen. Maybe you and the Dean at Ave Maria will become best friends and he/she will hook you up with numerous opporutnties. You get into a terrible romantic relatonship at FIU that ruins your law school experience there are so many varialbe in what could happen that there is no way to determien what could happen. This is your decision and yours alone and to be an effective lawyer you need to be decisive and listen to your gut. You also need to take criticism and I am sure you have noticed a slew of negative comments about law school, but I assure you they exist in every profession. You are taking the first step into a challenging, demanding, sometimes exciting and sometimes tremendoulsy boring profession. I wish you the best no matter what you choose and remember this decision invovles three years of your life, your money, and your educatioanl experience. Don't let me, a private magainze, or any anonymous internet poster make your decision for you it is yours and yours alone.