Thursday, March 27, 2008

The $$ Shell Game

Life the Universe and Everything asks: Appropriate question??What percentage of your applicants receive scholarship offers. I'm curious here because at the school I'll be visiting, you have to be in the top 25% to retain your scholarship. Top 26% gets you bupkiss. So if say 50% of applicants walk in with $$$, that tells me they're trying to attract students with higher numbers, and plan on screwing them once they're in the door. Obviously in that scenario, half the folks would lose their scholarships. Is this an appropriate/hot button question to ask? I would also want to know how the sections are allocated. I've heard of school stacking a particular section with scholarship students to make it next to impossible to be in the top percent of the class.


This started as a comment in the last post, but got long. See the comments of that post for Useless Dicta's take.

The first question is absolutely a question you should be asking. You may not get the whole truth on the answer but how they handle it might tell you a lot. My school screwed so many people that was it wasn't even funny. I emerged unscathed with my scholarship in tact, but I was one of the few.

Also, if your numbers are *much* better than the school average and you have other reasons for choosing the school besides scholarship money, I would absolutely negotiate, though not at admitted students weekend of course. Applications are down across the board this year. Leverage that knowledge if you can.

Example, you're offerred full tuition if you maintain top 25%. Ask for that if you maintain top 50% instead, or 3/4 tuition for top 50%. A friend of mine really did that -- she said "thanks, but I can do better at the the cheaper higher ranked state school" and talked her way to a better deal. Took balls and a good back up plan -- she had a good BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement), acceptance at a higher ranked cheaper school that she would be happy enough going to. It was worth it for her. Might work for you if you've got the #'s, a good back up plan, and good reasons why the lower ranked school is otherwise attractive.

I would NOT ask about the section stacking -- they won't own up to that and anything you get from the students will be based on hearsay and conjecture.

I would ask about the curve. Is it a B- median? Or a B- mean? The latter could mean wider distribution and greater chance that if you do land below the curve in one class, it will kill your chance at keeping a scholarship.

Also at my school, 26%-50% still get money, but much much less. Make sure you really get "bupkiss."

But I *would* ask how many people receive scholarships in relation to the rank they have to achieve. And what is the NUMBER of people that you're ranked typically against . . . if there are only 75 full time students, #19 in the class is out of luck.

Good luck.

4 comments:

Prue said...

I have a similar question. I was awarded a scholarship at a top 20 school (private) that covers a third of the cost. On the other hand, I was offered a full scholarship to a top 50 (state) school. Another top20 school (private) offered me a scholarship that covers 40% of cost.

Do I have any leverage to ask for more money from the top20 school? If so, how do you go about doing that?

Life, the universe, and law school said...

Good news from the "scholarship stacking" question.

I asked the admissions director, the financial aid director, and several students (some non-ambassadors) about the number of scholarships handed out and section stacking.

I got consistent answers from all of them (so if they're lying, at least they're well coordinated). The directors both said the top 25% of the class is awarded a scholarship based on a strict numbers ranking system. This makes me feel better about the "must stay in the top 25%" requirement. At least the odds aren't already stacked against you no matter what section you end up in.

The students all said that there were never more than 20 scholarship kids in a section (of about 80). That will let me sleep easier. At least the school isn't luring me in under false/unlikely hope, only to stick me with thousands of dollars in unexpected debt.

It was a really nice ASW besides that treat as well. The Con Law class was such an unexpected treat. Thanks for the advice!

Butterflyfish said...

Ahh, Prue, if I could answer that, really, I'd go into private consulting and make a mint of $$.

I'm sorry I can't be more help. Do keep us posted on what you do, and what you decide, etc.

Life the universe and everything -- that may happen yet. I hope it doesn't and my fingers are crossed for you, but so many law students start school and fail to keep that first year scholarship because of the curve. I hope you are not among them and I wish you well. Glad you enjoyed the weekend.

Useless Dicta said...

Prue: like butterflyfish said, if I knew the answers I'd be on the outside of law school making lots of $$$$

That being said it sounds like you have some great scholarship options which is a lot farther than many prospective law students get by this time of year. I frankly would not be afraid to call the top 20 school that only gave you 1/3 and tell them you have a better offer from the other top 20 school, I think that one probably has more leverage than the top 50 state school, but I could be wrong. If the school with the 1/3 scholarship has been having current students call you to answer questions or has otherwise been courting you then I would definitely let them know you have better $$ offers elsewhere.

At the end of the day this is all a business and schools do sometimes up the ante to get certain students to attend. Good Luck!