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As we near the end of the law school application season, some of you may have already made a decision on an offer. However, before finally submitting your acceptance, you’re probably second guessing whether you’ve made the right choice. Yes, Cornell was always your dream school and they offered you a $40,000 scholarship, while Columbia only offered you $15,000, but are you making the right choice deciding on Cornell? Is $40,000 even a high enough offer to justify not attending a top-five school?
Perhaps your scenario is a bit different. Maybe you’ve decided to go to Columbia although they only offered you $15,000 but you wonder if you’re making the right decision turning your back on a $40,000 offer from Cornell? Law school is extremely expensive so is it financially smart to take out more loans just to attend a higher-ranked school? While I can’t answer whether you made the right decision, I can possibly help you justify your decision! Have you thought about using an offer to negotiate a scholarship from another school? While negotiating a scholarship does not guarantee an increase, it’s certainly worth it to try. Especially when you have an offer from a comparable or higher-ranked school to use as leverage.
When Can You Use An Offer To Negotiate a Scholarship?
If you are pretty much set on attending a particular law school I highly recommend using other offers to negotiate a higher scholarship from your school of choice. As the deadline comes closer for you to commit to this school, consider negotiating when:
1. You Have A Higher Scholarship Offer From A Comparable School
If you have a higher scholarship offer from a school other than your school of choice, then you should definitely use this offer as leverage to negotiate the scholarship from your school of choice. If this higher scholarship offer is from a lower-ranked school, it’s not guaranteed that your school of choice will be willing to increase its scholarship offer. However, if this lower-ranked school is essentially comparable in location and ranking to your school of choice, then you definitely have the perfect recipe for a negotiation.
So, for example, in the scenario above, although Cornell and Columbia are arguable in a somewhat comparable location, it’s not likely that Columbia would automatically increase its scholarship offer to match Cornell’s, considering Columbia’s higher ranking. However, it’s a lot more likely that Columbia will be willing to match a higher scholarship offer from NYU, considering the similarity in location and their comparable ranking.
2. When You Have An Offer From A Higher-Ranked School
If you have a scholarship offer from a school ranked higher than your school of choice, even if this offer is lower than the scholarship you’ve been offered by your school of choice, I would suggest using the offer from the higher-ranked school as leverage to negotiate the scholarship at your selected school.
So, for example, in the scenario above, I would recommend using your offer from Columbia as leverage to negotiate your scholarship with Cornell. Now, it’s not guaranteed that Cornell will increase your scholarship, especially since they have already offered you a higher scholarship amount. However, there is a possibility that they may consider increasing the scholarship if they knew they were at risk of losing you to a top-five school. So, give it a try! (The risk here is that they’ll ask to see the offer and see it’s for less money. But maybe you can convince them that it’s sufficient money to cause you to accept elsewhere!)
So How Exactly Do You Use An Offer to Negotiate a Scholarship?
In person: I think the best method is to negotiate this offer in person and then follow up with an email. Because, let’s be real, it’s much harder to say no in person. I am aware that as we near the end of application season this option may not be a reality. However, if you haven’t visited your school of choice as yet, now would be the time to set up a campus visit. Make sure to set up a meeting with the admissions dean during this visit to begin the negotiation process. During this meeting, make sure you let the dean know that X school is your first choice and that you would love to attend, however, you have another offer that is also just as enticing. Also be sure to let the dean know if there are any financial hurdles or personal issues that may prevent you from committing to X school. Once the meeting is over, be sure to follow up with a thank you email for the meeting and also provide the dean with any supporting documents such as an award letter from the competitor school to assist him/her in making a decision.
Send a negotiation email/letter: If you’re unable to set up a campus visit then consider sending a negotiation email/letter to the admissions dean. Be sure to emphasize all the points you would have in an in-person meeting, such as your desire to attend X school, but make it clear you are weighing this offer against a competitive offer from another school. Be sure to be extremely cordial and resist any urge you may have to sound demanding. At the end of the day, it’s a privilege that you were accepted to X school, especially considering that they may have already given you a scholarship. So please tread very lightly as you try to request more money from them. A sample email might look like this:
Dean Dean Smith,
I am excited about the possibility of attending Columbia Law School and it is my first-choice school. However, I’ve received a generous scholarship offer of $40,000/year from Cornell, and – given my financial situation after spending two years in the Peace Corps – the prospect of graduating with less debt is appealing. Is there any possibility Columbia could re-examine my file and make a revised scholarship offer? I would greatly appreciate any consideration you could provide.
So get out there and give these negotiation tips a try before you run out of time!
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