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FSU in-state vs. Nova Southeastern scholarship

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LawOwl:
So here's my dilemma.... I am choosing between Nova at a total Cost of Attendance at $70k (scholarship stipulation is stay in top 60%) or FSU at in-state tuition with total Cost of Attendance at $120k. I currently work at a public interest firm full of Nova grads in the area where Nova is  located and would love to stay in the area as I am from the area and my family is there. Also, I'd be able to commute from home. On the other hand, I have a strong interest in working for the public sector and FSU does an excellent job of placing their students into those type of careers because they are steps away from major state agencies in Tallahassee (FL capital). Therefore, I think there may be more opportunities to work in government coming from FSU but is really worth $50k more? I am hesitant to make the move because 1) Nova is $50k cheaper and I've made some very solid connections with Nova grads in the area and even found myself a mentor that is a Nova grad. 2) I know I'm going to miss my family and my fiance just got a job in the Ft. Lauderdale area and wouldn't come up to Tallahassee with me for at least a year and commuting from home allows my family to help me out with a little more.  What are your thoughts on this situation?

Citylaw:
This is always a tough decision and I have posted on this board before that I believe any 0L should consider the following factors in this order when choosing a law school. (1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal Feelings about the School; (4) Understanding the reality of legal education; (5) Last and least U.S. Rankings. Here is an article explaining these factors http://www.legalmatch.com/choose-the-right-law-school.html.

In addition I will apply these factors to your decision, but remember to take any advice you receive from anonymous internet posters on this board or other my post included should be taken with a grain of salt.

1. Location:
From your post it is my understanding you live and work in Ft. Lauderdale and your fiance just got a job in Ft. Lauderale. Your family is in Fort Lauderale and you work at a law firm in Ft. Lauderale, which leads me to heavily favor you staying in Forth Lauderdale.

You have family, friends, a fiance and connections where you are so why move six hours away?

Many law students myself included back when I was a 0L forgot to use common sense and assume law school will be so difficult that they will not have time for anything. As a law student, however doesn't go anywhere you will want to socialize with friends, be with your fiance, have the support of your family, and be around a supportive environment. 

If you really want to move to Tallahasee and that is your ultimate goal then go to FSU, but it sounds like you think it might open a door to some government position. This does not sound like a good reasoning to turn your life upside down.

Your fiance is also an important consideration and in all honesty long-distance relationships are hard enough without the strain of law school and everyone I knew that started law school in a long-distance relationship either broke up or ended up transferring back to a school where their partner was. If you break up with your fiance during law school it will obviously impact your academic performance and again life happens in law school so based on the facts in your post I would lean heavily in favor of Nova.

2) Cost
Now the scholarships can be a little misleading finishing in the top 60% of the class is not as easy as it sounds. Everyone in law school is smart, hard-working and motivated and not one person believes there is any way they will not finish in the top 60% of the class, but 40% are wrong. This means there is a 40% chance you will lose your scholarship years 2 and 3. Here is a solid NY times article on the subject. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

With that said you are in a great position to use your FSU acceptance to negotiate for more scholarship money and more favorable conditions. Tell Nova you are really torn between FSU and Nova and would like additional assistance and more favorable terms possibly simply good academic standing to maintain your scholarship. You have nothing to lose by asking for this and everything to gain and with your acceptance into FSU it is not unforeseeable that you could choose FSU providing you with excellent bargaining power. However, if you do not use this bargaining power the school will not do it for you.

Assuming nothing changes I do not think paying 50k more to move away from your friends, family, fiance and support network is a good idea.

3) Personal Feelings about the School:
This is a very important factor and perhaps FSU would win out on this one. Each school has a unique culture to it and whether that culture is a fit for you is a question only you can answer. When I was a 0L I visited a number of school some I hated others I loved, but those were personal opinions you may have hated the ones I loved and loved the ones I hated.

I strongly encourage you to visit both schools talk to professors, admins, students, walk around the campus, walk around the neighborhood etc and see how you feel about the school. On campus visits are an invaluable experience and can provide far more insight than an anonymous internet poster like myself. This is a 3 year, $100,000, career and life altering decision and for such a large decision taking the time to visit the school is a good idea.

4) Reality of Legal Education:
You will receive a quality education at FSU, Nova or any ABA law school. The reality is that for all intents and purposes you learn the same exact thing at any ABA school. Your first year will consist of Torts, Civ Pro, Property, Contractors and LRW. In these courses you will read supreme court cases and the supreme court does not write seperate opinions for different schools.

You will learn proximate cause by reading the Palsgraff case in Torts, Notice requirements in Pennoyer v. Neff in Civ Pro, contract remedies in Hadley v. Baxendale etc.

In addition the law does not change from school to school it is the same thing. After three years of law school whether you attend Nova or FSU you will enroll in a bar prep course likely BarBri or Kaplan and be packed into a room with hundreds of other law grads from across the Country all freaking out about the Bar Exam. After months of intense studying you will be in an auditorium and take the bar exam along with students from every law school in the Country and if you pass your a lawyer if you do not pass your not a lawyer. Any ABA school will provide you with the tools to pass the bar exam, but it will be up to you to execute it.

(5) U.S. News Rankings:
Remember that U.S. News is nothing more than a for-profit unregulated magazine offering an opinion, which ranks everything. According to U.S. News Albuquerque, New Mexico is the best place to live. http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/best-places-to-live . I imagine your not planning on moving to New Mexico based on a magazine article, but many law students think making a life altering decision based on what a magazine ranks X school is a good idea. Unless you were talking about Harvard, Yale, Stanford all schools you do not need U.S. News to tell you are good schools it is not a good idea.

Conclusion:
Knowing nothing about you other than your post I would strongly encourage you to attend Nova. The primary reason is the location it sounds like you have an excellent network there and no particular desire to live in Tallahassee. If your ultimate goal is to live in Tallahassee then I would vote for FSU, but I get the impression that you think FSU having a higher ranking is the real reason you are thinking about moving 6 hours away from your friends, family, fiance and paying $50,000 more in tuition. In my experience this rarely turns out well, but it is your life.

If I were you I would use the FSU admission to my advantage and negotiate for more money with Nova and better scholarship conditions.

Good luck whatever you decide I know it is a very tough decision, but remember to use common sense when making your decision and in your legal career. Many law students and lawyers over complicate matters, which leads to bad results. Do not let a bunch of numbers and stats distract you from what is right for you. Whether you succeed in the legal profession has a lot more to do with you as an individual than the name of the school on your diploma.

Burning Sands, Esq.:

--- Quote from: LawOwl on June 01, 2014, 09:32:23 AM ---1) Nova is $50k cheaper and I've made some very solid connections with Nova grads in the area and even found myself a mentor that is a Nova grad.

--- End quote ---

I've said it before and I'll say it again: connections are everything in this profession.

If you already have a strong base of connections for what you are trying to accomplish in the Nova area market, then Nova is the logical choice.  This isn't to say that you can't establish connections that are just as strong in the Tallahassee market if you went to FSU, but your current connections are worth their weight in gold. 

You have to ask yourself what you'd rather do.  If the end goal is to work in Tallahassee in a state agency then FSU is where you need to be because it will allow you to establish those network connections.  If that's not the end goal then Nova sounds like where you need to be.

LawOwl:
Thank you both so much for the informative responses. I believe I am prepared to stay home and attend Nova. The cost works out in my favor and I love South Florida. My family is going to be a great support system as well. Thanks again.

LawOwl:

--- Quote from: Burning Sands, Esq. on June 02, 2014, 08:46:38 PM ---
--- Quote from: LawOwl on June 01, 2014, 09:32:23 AM ---1) Nova is $50k cheaper and I've made some very solid connections with Nova grads in the area and even found myself a mentor that is a Nova grad.

--- End quote ---

I've said it before and I'll say it again: connections are everything in this profession.

If you already have a strong base of connections for what you are trying to accomplish in the Nova area market, then Nova is the logical choice.  This isn't to say that you can't establish connections that are just as strong in the Tallahassee market if you went to FSU, but your current connections are worth their weight in gold. 

You have to ask yourself what you'd rather do.  If the end goal is to work in Tallahassee in a state agency then FSU is where you need to be because it will allow you to establish those network connections.  If that's not the end goal then Nova sounds like where you need to be.

--- End quote ---
Update: FSU refused to offer scholarship money and Nova declined a request to increase my award. I still feel like I will be getting a quality education at a steep discount (around $70k for three years of study combined) so I will be sticking with Nova.

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