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What's more important for prospective law students, a school's rank or its cost?
Test-prep company Kaplan's latest pre-law survey tosses out the following hypo: Your mailbox is stuffed with acceptance letters and financial aid offers, three of which are particularly compelling: a top-tier school that is being stingy with scholarship funds, a mid-tier school on a discount, and a free ride (and maybe a pony) if you go to your local lower-tier joint (the legendary third-tier toilet or "TTT").
Prestige or paper? Penny wise or pound foolish? Profit potential with risky debt or a life philosophy of mediocrity?
Going solo out of school? Spend more time developing practice skills and leave the marketing work for the experts.
A Friend Faced a Similar Dilemma...
Why did this dilemma connect with my relatively ancient (Class of 2011) self? Because a friend faced this same choice just a few months ago -- a couple of lower tier schools were offering full rides, while a mid-tier school was offering a partial scholarship.
Obviously, it isn't as simple as "straight cash homie." Nor is it like the old days, where you'd pick the highest-ranked school. There are a lot of factors to consider, such as:
In the end, my friend chose the mid-tier school: moderate debt, decent job prospects, and the campus felt like a good fit.
Back to the Survey...
Surveys are swell because the decision is simplified. Gun to their head, how did the respondents respond?
Why? If you look at the soft factors mentioned above, a case can be made for each choice. The mid-tier choice is good for everyone, as you'll probably have decent job prospects (especially in 2017 or so, when you graduate) and only a middling debt load. Top-tier folks have far better job prospects, and let's face it -- BigLaw money makes student debt totals irrelevant.
And lower-tier? Hell, it's a free diploma -- don't look a gift horse in the mouth, even if the horse has two peg legs.
I have to say: I'm a fan of these Kaplan surveys. As a cynical, disillusioned law graduate who's a few years removed from the legal education system, I sometimes wonder if I'm still in touch with the pulse and plight of the student, especially the pre-law student. At least on this survey, I was with the majority, torn between top-tier prestige (T-15? Money ain't a thing!) and mid-tier frugality.