Friday, May 8, 2009

Applying for law School

I’ve been meaning to write this before I forget how it all transpired.

Last fall Patrick began his law school application process through LSAC (Law School Admission Council). He began gathering the necessary documents and submitting them. These included grade transcripts, personal recommendations, a resume, and a personal statement.

Expecting to receive two B’s in his fall semester classes, P. made sure to submit his transcript before that semester’s grades were posted. He asked two of his professors to submit recommendations. One professor asked P. for his resume to aid her in writing a recommendation. This was a good impetus in prompting P. to update his resume.

When the fall semester grades were posted, P. was delightfully surprised to see he had earned all A’s, and he re-submitted his grade transcript that included these new, “improved” grades. He was now ready to submit his applications to selected schools. His list of schools was chosen from the many law schools which had offered to waive their application fees based on his excellent LSAT score. It was now January, and he admitted to me that he had waited kind of late to get his applications in.

So now the wait began.

The first school to respond was College of William and Mary. It arrived mid-February in a Priority Mail envelope. I was so excited. This had to be an acceptance. Why send a reject via Priority Mail? The envelope sat until I finally emailed P. and asked if I could open it. “Yes! We are delighted to offer ….” I was thrilled, and as I kept reading my excitement increased:

“I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to receive a William & Mary Graduate Fellowship.” This fellowship included a waiver of the out-of-state tuition supplement, and he would be billed at the in-state rate. Additionally, he received a $4000 stipend with the condition that he work within the Law School administration and Law Library departments. In other words, a guaranteed student assistant job.

Additionally, “your credentials place you among a select group of admits receiving scholarship funds,” and he was awarded a $5000 scholarship. “The value of your total award is $19,200.”

Oh my. This was exciting. A school with a prestigious reputation in a historically-interesting (from my point of view) location approximately 3 hours from Charlottesville where my sister Jane lives. I was so pleased and excited.

A couple weeks later, P. received a letter from Saint Louis University informing him that although he was not a finalist in their 1834 Scholars Program (he had written an essay the night before this scholarship application was due), the committee was “highly impressed by your achievements …. You have been awarded the School of Law’s second highest honor, the prestigious Dean’s Select Scholarship in the amount of $81,000” divided over 3 years.

Oh my, again. I quickly calculated and deduced that most of each year’s tuition would be covered by the scholarship. He’d still be expected to pay around $6000 in tuition each year, but the largest chunk had been covered.

My excitement was diminished when I checked the law school ratings and found that Saint Louis University was ranked 95. It further stated that this school was just fine if you want to practice in Missouri and have no aspirations to work in a large metropolitan area. Nonetheless, it was exciting and rewarding to see that P.’s undergraduate excellence was having a direct impact on financing a law school education.

A few days later the packet from the University of Illinois arrived. I knew what to expect when I opened it and read “Congratulations!” you are offered admission. P. had already told me that he’d received an email notifying him of their acceptance.

The packet from the U of I included a 70-plus-paged book advertising “come to our school, look how wonderful we are.” I quickly turned to the financial aid section and read that “Scholarship offers are made at the time of Admissions offers.” So I looked back through the packet of information that had arrived and thumbed through all the papers, but I didn’t see any offer. I looked back at the financial aid section and saw something about FAFSA. We hadn’t filed a FAFSA so I figured maybe we’d hear something after doing that. I set the whole packet aside.

A couple days later I was reviewing – and admiring – the offers from William & Mary and Saint Louis U. I then began reading the Congratulations letter from the U of I. That’s when I saw it. “In recognition of your exceptional academic and personal accomplishments, you are hereby offered a full tuition scholarship.” Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh. Does this really mean what it sounds like? Shouldn’t there be bells and whistles and confetti?

Guess not.

Confirmation arrived a couple weeks later when P. received an email from the U of I that included his estimated financial obligations, and sure enough, it included a deduction for $33,000 tuition scholarship for next year.

It is still exciting to contemplate. And makes me wonder just how we would have financed law school tuition without it.

By the way, a month later University of Cincinnati informed P. that he was selected for their College of Law Honors Scholarship valued at $10,000 for each of his three years in law school. I’m sorry to say, my reaction was “is that all?” Had he received that letter before the other offers I would have been so excited. But by now, it was clear that he would go with the best offer, and that was U of I with a “full ride” tuition scholarship.

Patrick received other acceptances and a couple of wait-listings from the other schools where he applied. Of those other schools, University of Georgia looked very appealing. Their financial “offer” was to help him gain state residency so he could pay in-state tuition. This seems humorous after P.’s other offers, but all of U of Georgia’s mailings put their school in an enticing light. (Although I couldn’t see him as a “Georgia Bulldog.”)

It’s hard for me to think about the financial packages that P. turned down, but it is such a relief to anticipate that tuition for the next three years will be paid. P. will still owe the University around $3400 in fees each year, and of course, there will be textbooks and “living expenses.” I would guess he’ll continue working in the Law Library. So it looks as though things are pretty well set for next year.

Next week is commencement weekend at University of Illinois. It seems like such a huge accomplishment. And the adventure will continue in the fall.