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Be careful with tuition waivers.

Written by Brett McKay

Be careful? What do you mean be careful? It’s free money! True, but there are few things you should be aware of when accepting money from certain law schools, particularly lowered tiered schools.

Law school, like all of American higher education, is a business. Competition among schools can be fierce. Flaming the fire of law school competition is U.S. News’s annual rankings. Each year, schools attempt to go up in the rankings, so they can attract more students. These students bring prestige and money to the school.

The schools that are battling the hardest to go up in the rankings are usually the third and fourth tier schools. One of their best tools is tuition waivers. Here’s how it works.

Two of the criteria that U.S. News and World report uses to rank schools are students’ LSAT scores and undergrad GPA. Third and fourth tier schools often have low averages in both criteria. So, in order to attract high scorers, these schools offer very lucrative scholarships. An applicant who may have had a high enough score to get into a first or second tier school without any scholarship offers can often get full rides from tier three and four schools. Thus, many financially savvy law students pick the school that, while ranked low, offer them the most money.

Remember, if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. In order to maintain your scholarship, you usually have to maintain a 3.0 gpa while in law school. This doesn’t seem too bad. The problem is that most lower tiered schools have wicked 1st year grading curves. At most, the average grade is a 2.75. That means most students won’t even get a 3.0 average. For example, at my school, only 30% of students will have a 3.0 at the end of their first year. Yikes.

What does this mean to your scholarship? Well, think about it. The law school can afford to offer several well funded scholarships, knowing that only a few of the students will actually keep them because of the curve. So, if you don’t maintain a 3.0 you’re stuck with several problems. First, you can’t transfer to a better school because of your GPA isn’t good enough. Second, you’re stuck picking up the entire bill for tuition. And third, you’re going to have a tough time finding an internship during the summer. How do you explain a bad GPA at a low ranked school?

Does it suck? Well, yes, but it’s an incredibly smart business move. You might be thinking, “Aw, third and Fourth tier students are a bunch of dummies, I can handle it.” I wouldn’t be so sure. Sure, what third and fourth tier students lack in LSAT and GPA, they make up with it in hard work. Also, one thing a friend (who was also offered a huge scholarship from the school) and I have noticed is that almost everyone in our section has really good scholarships. We might be completely paranoid, but we think the school has put all the scholarship students in the same section, so they can weed each other out. It’s like Survivor!

Anyway, just remember if you get offered an awesome scholarship from a lower tiered school to make sure and check what their grading curve is. It might be better to go somewhere else.

Save money on law school applications

Written by Brett McKay

Applying for law school can get expensive. Most schools require application fees that range from $25-$75. You might want to check with the school to see if there are waivers available if you can’t afford the fee.

Also, many schools offer application fee waivers if you apply on-line or by a certain date. Over at Law Student Paradise, they’ve compiled a list of schools that don’t charge application fees if you apply on-line. Word of warning, these lists change year to year, so make sure to check with the school to make sure they still offer they’re waiver.

Save Money Preparing for the LSAT: Part V

Written by Brett McKay

  1. Miscellaneous advice. I found that taking a symbolic logic class helped me out a lot on the logical reasoning section. The questions on the LSAT are VERY different then what you’ll be doing in a logic class at school. However, it helped me think more analytically and deductively-skills that are essential for the LSAT. To get ready for the reading comprehension section, read stuff like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, or the New York Times. (Don’t buy them. That wouldn’t be frugal. Just go to Boarder’s or the library to read them.) The passages in the LSAT are very similar to the writing styles in these publications. In fact, the LSAT often uses articles from these publications on their test.

NOTE: According to LSAC, in June 2007, reading comprehension will be changed to comparative reading. Instead of one long passage as in past LSAT’s, you’ll be given two short passages. You’ll be asked questions on how the passages relate. Keep this in mind as you use older tests. What you’ll be facing on the reading comprehension section in June 2007 is very different from what past LSAT’s have been.

If you have any questions or you just need some motivation, feel free to email me at frugallawstudent@gmail.com

Save Money Preparing for the LSAT: Part IV

Written by Brett McKay

This is Part IV of the LSAT Series. (Read Part I, Part II, Part III.)

  1. Allocate your tests. Save the more recent tests for your full timed tests. The LSAT has evolved over the past 10 years. In the 90’s the games sections were super hard, while the logical reasoning and reading comprehension were pretty easy. Today the games are pretty easy, and the logical reasoning is bit harder and the reading comprehension is much harder. So, to be ready for what the real test is like, save the more recent tests for your full practice tests. Use the older tests to practice each section individually.
  2. Get to work. Stick to your plan and you’ll start seeing improvement. You might see some pretty rapid improvement immediately, but then you reach a plateau. Keep working and don’t get discouraged. You’ll break through it. This happened to me. I went from my measly 148 to a 155 in just two weeks. However, for the next 5 weeks, my practice test scores stayed at 155. I kept working and plugging away, but nothing happened. I started to think that maybe a 155 is the best I can do. But, I had a break through and scored a 160. After that, I started improving slowly, but steadily for the next few weeks. So, don’t get discouraged if improvement doesn’t come quickly. Stick to your plan. Review WHY you got answers wrong, and learn from your mistakes.

Deciding which school to go to

Written by Brett McKay

Picking which school you go to can help in saving money during law school. To help you with your decision, I suggest using a multi-attribute optimization chart. A multi-what? It’s easier then it sounds, but can be very helpful when deciding which school is best for your.

  1. Think of list of the important attributes you’re looking for in a law school. Don’t list too many or your score in the end will be diluted. But don’t be skimpy either. When I did this, I listed 10 attributes. They included: cost, location, cost of living, job opportunities for Mrs. FLS, facilities, and employment rate after graduation. If you’re in a relationship, you can also include your partner’s attributes.
  2. Next, rank each attribute from 1-10. 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. Again, if you’re married, have your spouse rank as well, but do it separately. After you’re both done, average your scores together. (If you’re single, don’t worry about the averaging thing). You should have something that looks like this:

Preference Order of Attributes

 

 

 

  1. Next, create a chart with the schools you’re choosing at the top and the attributes on the side. Rank each school on that attribute, like this:

 

Big U

State

SmallU

PU

ASU

StateU

  1. Multiply your number from the first chart and multiply by school’s score from each given criteria. For example, take the score from your first chart for location (9 for Mrs. FLS and I) and multiply by each location score for each school. So, multiply 9 by 5 (Big U), 9×4 (State), 9×8 (Small U), and so on. Do this with each criterion. After that, total the numbers under each school. In the end, you should have something like this:

 

Big U

State

Small

PU

ASU

StateU

So, it looks like Small U is the best pick. There’s not much difference between PU and State U, so I would probably be happy with either school. Of course, there is a possibility that you come up with some false positives doing this. Even though you try not to be biased, there’s a tendency to give the school you really want to go to higher scores, even though it really doesn’t warrant that score. You also might be thinking this is a lot of work. It is little involved, but its fun.

I think it would be interesting to see this done with purely financial criteria. Such as scholarships offered, cost of living, transportation, books, ect.

Save Money Preparing for the LSAT: Part III

Written by Brett McKay

This is Part III. (Read Part I, Part II.)

  1. Sign up for the test. I suggest you take the test in October. That way you have all summer to prepare for it. Additionally, if you don’t do as well as you like, you can retake it in December and still get your score back in time to apply to schools for the next year. Also, check and see if you’re eligible for a fee waiver.
  2. Make your study schedule. After taking the diagnostic test, you’ll know what sections you need to work on. Allocate more time for your weak areas. Set aside one day to take a full timed test. After the test, review the answers you got wrong. Focus on why that’s the wrong answer and why the right answer is right. To give you an idea of a possible schedule, here’s what mine often looked like:

Monday- Logic Games, Tuesday- Logical Reasoning, Wednesday- Reading Comprehension, Thursday- Logic Games, Friday- Logic Reasoning, Saturday- Full Test, Sunday- Nothing.

Check back tomorrow for Part IV.