Choosing Between Scholarship Money and Law School Rankings

Pre-law students who do well on the LSAT often face a very difficult decision: should you (1) accept an offer from one of the higher ranking law schools that accepted you, or (2) take a larger, merit-based scholarship from a lower ranking law school? While there is no universally correct choice, there likely is a correct choice for YOU…and it depends on numerous factors. Here are 10 thoughts, in no particular order, that may help guide your decision:

  1. Big vs. Small Differences in Ranking And Scholarship Money. How big is the difference in ranking and how big is the difference in the final price tag for law school? Obviously, smaller differences are less important than larger ones.
  2. Rankings Will Change, Money Won’t. Rankings are subjective and change year-to-year. While it is true that law schools at or near the top tend to stay there, you will still see variance in rankings over time. In contrast, the money you save is the money you save.
  3. Law School Rankings Shouldn’t Be Your Only Consideration. While a law school’s reputation may impact your future job options (especially at the beginning), other considerations (location, internship opportunities, etc.) may be as or more important than rankings.
  4. Money Matters More To Some People Than Others. We all want to save money. Every one of us. But saving $10,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more is going to have a bigger impact on some people than others. Ask yourself how important the extra cost savings is to YOU.
  5. Rankings Matter More To Some People Than Others. Modest differences in the rankings between two law schools are unlikely to dramatically impact the quality of your law school education or future job prospects. But saying where you went to law school matters more to some people than others – evaluate for yourself this potentially important but intangible factor.
  6. Likelihood Of Remaining A Lawyer. Not all lawyers are happy. If you think there is a reasonable chance you may want to change professions after graduating, saving money on law school may be more important. On the other hand, if you plan to be a lawyer for your whole career, your initial law school debt may not be as big of a factor.
  7. Good Grades Can Compensate For A Lower Ranking. If you attend a lower-ranked law school, you may wind up earning better grades, get on law review, etc. Those factors often can compensate (or even surpass) the impact of a lower law school ranking.
  8. Law Students Care More About Rankings Than Employers Do. Law students often pay close attention to the ranking of law schools. Employers don’t. Employers will know and appreciate the difference between a Tier 1 vs. a Tier 3 or 4 law school, but they are unlikely to know or care about modest differences in law school rankings.
  9. Alumni Connections Often Matter More Than Rankings. Employers enjoy interviewing applicants who went to their law school – an instant sense of camaraderie is often developed. Attending law school in the area you want to work can help you get hired, and may be more important than a modest difference in rankings.
  10. Always Trust Your Gut. When I have tortured myself with decisions like these, I find that my gut typically has better instincts than my conscious mind does. Go ahead and do the cost-benefit analysis. But in the end, when you think of the options in their totality, what do your emotions tell you to do?

If you would like to discuss your personal decision or situation with me, please feel free to contact me at mark@scoreitup.com. Good luck!