Transcript

Tajira: In most instances, as we've been saying throughout, schools are not looking to match. We're looking to try to get you the best possible that we think is comparable to what you're receiving from our peers. We're looking to try to make sure that it's a fair award and that we are putting you in a good position, but we're not necessarily looking to get into the business of being used car salesmen who are going to try to, and you get this and you get, that's not what we do.

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and today we're presenting part two of a double-header on scholarship reconsideration requests. We held our first discussion about financial aid on Clubhouse and released it as episode 70. Today's episode presents a follow-up webinar with a slightly different roster of admissions officers. They start by talking about the basics of merit aid, then cover a few questions we didn't get to last time. Please enjoy.

David: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the webinar. Thank you so much for coming. We are really pleased to have you. So I'm David, I'm a partner at 7Sage admissions, and I'm joined today with three of my colleagues.

Tajira McCoy worked in law school admissions for 10 years, most recently as the director of admissions and scholarship programs at Berkeley Law. And, Tajira, I hope I don't embarrass you, she also just published a novel, came out two days ago, _Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell_, so go to your local bookstore. Tracy's holding it up.

I'm also joined by Elizabeth Cavallari, who spent six years as a senior and assistant dean of admissions at William and Mary Law School, and Tracy Simmons, who's the senior assistant dean for admissions, diversity initiatives, and financial aid at the University of San Diego School of Law. Welcome, all of you. Thanks so much for joining us.

And my first question is super basic. I'm hoping that one of you can clarify a big question for me. What's the deal with financial aid? What's the difference between merit-based financial aid and need-based financial aid? I don't get it. Anyone who wants to speak, you're welcome to.

Tracy: The basic difference is that merit is literally what it says, and I know that seems silly, but it literally, generally speaking, is based on your academic indicators, you know, generally speaking, that's your LSAT score and your relative GPA as calculated by the Law School Admission Council, not necessarily the GPA that's on the transcripts from your degree-granting institution.

I think it's important to note that there are some law schools that will actually consider things like your major, on the rigor of your major and things like that in the actual calculation, but for the most part, traditionally speaking, merit is literally just your LSAT score and GPA.

And the need is traditionally based on your actual need as calculated by the government when you submit a FAFSA. There are institutions that will use other tools for international students, for DACA students, et cetera, to kind of get that same type of calculation, particularly for institutional funds and donor-related funds that require an actual need calculation.

And so it generally is based on your income, assets, number of people in college, and things of that nature, very, very traditional calculation, but again, they can differ by school because each school will have their own criteria in terms of how they determine what is the most needy student, particularly with limited funding on the need-based side. They're just, you know, that, unfortunately still in 2022, there are not tons of schools that have need-based aid, but those are the basic differences.

David: Okay, Tracy or whoever else wants to jump in, how do you get merit-based aid? Who do you ask for it from?

Tajira: You know, at a lot of schools, you're automatically considered for merit-based aid, and for most schools, that ends up happening at the time that you're also considered for admission. Depending on the school, there are, you know, kind of a subset of schools that do that consideration a few weeks to a month out after admission, but the vast majority of schools, I would say, do both admission and merit-based considerations at the same time.

And so for a lot of students, they'll know at the time that they get their offer whether they're receiving merit-based awards or not, right at the onset, and then they have the opportunity to then make some requests if that school allows it.

David: Elizabeth, can you tell me more about how you can make a request for more merit-based financial aid?

Elizabeth: Sure. So this will often depend on the school. So the first thing you want to do is figure out what the instructions are, often on an admitted student portal. Some schools will ask you to submit a formal request, a special form. Others will just ask for general information. And someone asking for additional aid, my general advice is looking at it in terms of cost of attendance. So not simply the amount of a scholarship, but how that scholarship amount affects your bottom line.

So when you're asking for additional aid, it's comparing bottom lines from one school to the next and not simply the scholarship. So if you're in state at one school and out of state in another, the scholarship amounts might be vastly different, but you still could be paying very similar at the end of the day.

So when asking for that scholarship request, I think it's important that it shows that you've done your due diligence, that you've looked at all the numbers, and that you're asking not simply for a higher dollar amount, but you're asking for something to lower your overall cost of attendance compared to other schools.

David: Right. And Elizabeth, just to fill in some context, I think when you ask for more merit-based aid from a school, you're usually sending the school another offer, and you're telling the school, "I'm strongly considering attending this other institution, and if I did, my overall cost of attendance would be lower. Is there any way you could make this decision easier for me by making my cost of attendance at your school lower?"

Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely.

David: Okay. So tell me how you can phrase this letter and, frankly speaking, not to sound like a jerk. So Tracy's nodding. That either means you know how to sound like a nice guy, or you really know how to sound like a jerk. Maybe you can tell us about each.

Tracy: I was going to say, I could probably, I think all three of us can talk about each, but I think the biggest thing is that you want to be honest, you want to be thoughtful. I think the advice that Elizabeth just gave in terms of actually thinking through your request and actually doing the work, doing the math is really, really important.

Being thoughtful about the fact that you're comparing one school to another, you have to pay attention to things like what are the median LSAT scores and GPAs for one school A versus school B, because oftentimes that is something that is not thought about by the candidates, and it really is disappointing and it's frustrating for the institutions because you really are comparing apples to pears, and there's a thoughtfulness around that is kind of lacking.

I also think that it's important to ask questions if you cannot find the information on the website. Each law school has, as Elizabeth pointed out, general instructions, if that's something that they do, outlined for you, because we want to make this easy for you, but you also want to make it easy for the law schools to kind of entertain this kind of request.

I think the other things to think about, really, is that you have to have a tough skin, and you have to be prepared for the no. There are a number of law schools that do not negotiate and never have, and I've noticed in the last year and a half, I did a quick survey last spring, and there are a number of schools that were actually moving from the general idea of reconsideration and negotiation altogether.

And so the flip side of that is that in terms of being a jerk, I think it's important to understand that if they are telling you no, those are generally institutional policies, not just some individual in an admissions office or financial aid office telling you no. Those are institutional decisions based on the budget, based on their goals and parameters and things of that nature.

The last point I'll make for now is that I really do think that the candidates who come across as genuinely thoughtful, even for the schools that don't negotiate and/or reconsider, oftentimes if there is additional funding that may come your way, oftentimes we will often ask about those students later on or those candidates later on, because you were polite, thorough, thoughtful, and you actually were not belligerent with the staff when you actually were told we actually don't do that.

And so I think those are, to me, that's kind of how you avoid being a jerk, but there are tons of other things that I'm sure my colleagues here can kind of expound upon a little bit.

David: Tracy, before we do, so you said don't compare apples to pears. Does that mean that if you are asking school A for a little bit more money and you're showing them another offer from school B, school B should be a peer school? Is that what you mean?

Tracy: Yes. I mean, I think it's really important to be thoughtful about the fact that if you are submitting a request to ask for more money or trying to negotiate your scholarship, and you're looking at a school that the median score for the LSAT, I'll just use that as an example, is literally six points below school B, that means that, you know, generally speaking, school A and school B are really kind of targeting and focusing on very different candidates.

And I don't mean that to be disrespectful, but the focus of those merit scholarships is often tied directly to U.S. News rank. And so I know we don't always want to talk about that, but that's the reality of the circumstances, and so if you're applying to one school and you're saying, "I really want more money and I really want to go to your school, but school B gave me X amount more," well, at the end of the day, you were at the top of their pool.

You're not at the top of the pool for the school where your LSAT score is five or six points below, and so your scholarship is comparable. And so you just want to be, this is where, again, I think, Tajira and Elizabeth were talking about earlier, in terms of just doing the math, doing the homework, and being thoughtful and strategic in your request. I'm not saying don't ask, but I think how you frame it will be different if you're comparing a school that is right here and a school that's right here. That's just the reality of the situation.

Elizabeth: Absolutely what Tracy is saying, and I think there's, I mean, there's exceptions to every rule. So I think about some of my experiences, that if it's a school that isn't as highly ranked but they have a super specialized program that a student's interested in, I've seen students say, "I'm really interested in your school. I understand you're more highly ranked. However, this school has this program I'm really interested in. It's more specialized, and here's where I'm struggling."

And so having the student just being like really forthright about what their decision-making process is. I also think about if someone's moving across the country, where to go to my school versus living at home, where even though the rank might be slightly different, that there's some really strong financial considerations that students are considering.

And so while it's not necessarily comparing apples to apples, but understanding the student's personal circumstances helps. And if it's someone I really want and knowing that how they're thinking about scholarships and loans and their debt load upon graduation does make a difference in how I would consider them for additional aid.

David: That's super helpful. Here's what I'm taking away so far. First, you have to follow a school's instructions. If they tell you how they want you to petition them for more merit-based financial aid, obviously you have to listen to them. If they tell you that they don't entertain those offers, you're probably wasting your time.

Number two, if you have questions about a school's process, try to find them yourself before you ask the school. That's actually probably true for everything in your whole life. And it's certainly true for everything in law school admissions, not just financial aid, I think.

Number three, in an ideal world, you want to compare pears to pears, which means that if you go to a school that has an LSAT median of 166, it's not going to be all that compelling to say that you got a full ride from a school with an LSAT median of 145. It's a lot more compelling to say that you got a big scholarship offer from a peer school, a school that also has an LSAT median of 166 or 165 or 164, something like that.

This next one I feel like is a little more counterintuitive. Be honest about your situation and your decision-making process. I sometimes think of law school admissions officers as professional BS detectors. Your job is to read through the lines and try to suss out the people who are trying to play you, and you're probably pretty good at it.

So if you are asking for more merit-based financial aid, it really goes a long way, I'm gathering, to say, "Here's my decision-making process. I'm really attracted to your school because of X, Y, and Z." And you don't have to necessarily lay it on, I think, by saying, this thing that I read on your website really attracts me, this clinic that, you know, anyone can list.

You can say, I have family in the area. You can just tell them the truth. You can say, my wife, you know, wants to move there, or whatever has a job offer there. But if you are honest, and this is the next point, even if you're rejected in the short term, you may be a candidate for aid later on, if more opens up. You can make a good impression on admissions officers by telling the truth.

And then the final point, and this really goes hand in hand with the idea of not trying to play games, you are not just comparing two numbers. You're not just, well, you are comparing two numbers, but you're not just comparing the amount of scholarship that one school offers you with the amount of scholarship that another school offers you, because if one school costs a million dollars to attend and they're giving you $50,000, you're still on the hook for $950,000.

It's not really that compelling to say school B, which has a tuition of $10,000 and it's giving you nothing, should give you some money. You want to compare what it would cost you to attend each school, and maybe not explicitly, but at least implicitly, ask them to make up the difference. So, Tajira, did I get that right, or...?

Tajira: You absolutely did. That was great, and what I love about it is you actually have been touching upon some of the questions in the Q&A section that have been asked anonymously. In particular, there's one that's kind of saying, you know, I have this offer from Cornell and, you know, they have a $200,000 cost of attendance. I also have an offer from UT Austin and they have 120K cost of attendance.

And they're saying, you know, would it be sensible to use the offer from UT Austin to negotiate with Cornell? It's going to depend on what those offers look like. It's not just about the cost of attendance, it's not just about the award you receive, but it's also about, you know, the ratio. And so in making thoughtful requests, some schools are going to expect that you're going to do that math, right?

And so if the award from UT Austin covers 50% of your tuition, and the award from Cornell covers 25%, you know, like, are you asking them to give you pears for pears, or are you asking them to kind of find something that makes your cost of attendance more equal? And I think that those are going to be very different conversations.

And one is a much bigger ask than the other, given the amount that these costs of attendance differ. And you have to remember that schools, as they're thinking about awarding scholarship, you know, most of us cannot award based on cost of attendance. We can only award based on what tuition costs are.

David: Can we do a little lightning round? I have so many little questions. So you don't actually have to be lightning quick as you answer, but it's okay to answer these questions with one-word answers. So Tracy, lightning round question number 1. How long should a request for more merit-based financial aid be, if you're writing it?

Tracy: I think, you know, a page or so. I mean, I think you should get to the point, and if they require documentation, make sure you submit the requisite documentation.

David: Elizabeth, can you ever ask, or should you ever ask, for more merit-based aid over the phone?

Elizabeth: No, it should always be in writing.

David: Tajira, can you ever use an offer from a higher-ranked school as leverage, even if the higher-ranked school didn't offer you any money or offered you less money?

Tajira: If they didn't offer any money, it's a very weak thing to put forth, and most of the time it's not going to be given any consideration. If it's a smaller offer, will we consider it? Yes, but again, it's not necessarily going to be given all that much weight. Typically, when you're asking for people to give you more, you're showing them that you've gotten more from some school that is right there with them.

David: And then this one's open to everybody. I've heard that you should avoid the phrase, "can you match?" So, everyone, is that true, and are there other phrases you should avoid?

Tracy: I agree. I don't think you should use that terminology. Please state, you know, looking to increase my scholarship. I'm looking to, you know, I'm looking for you to help me make a stronger decision because I'm committed, you know, things of that nature. But I wouldn't say "match" because for most of us, there's a reason that we're not, we're unable to do that for a variety of reasons.

Tajira: Other things to avoid are "I deserve," "you should give me." Anything that kind of crosses into the entitlement realm is going to be kind of a hard sell. And I think it's also something where it's like when you're comparing schools and you're like, this one's actually better, so you should match, don't do that. People do that, and I don't really know what the reasoning is behind it, but it does happen more often than I'd care to even express.

Elizabeth: And people might feel different, panelists might feel differently about this, I actually don't like the term "negotiate." I would much rather have someone say, like, "I respectfully ask to be considered for additional aid."

Tracy: Amen.

David: Write that down, everyone. At this point, I'm going to invite everybody in the audience to raise your hand if you have a question. We really enjoy hearing your voice, so we can answer questions that you type, but more fun if we can talk to you.

In the meantime, I want to run this by you panelists. I'll tip my hand. We actually had a meeting about this last night, we already talked about this, it's old news for us. One thing that came out of the meeting that really struck me is this idea that when you're asking people to reconsider you for aid, you're telling them a story. You're not an agent negotiating a Hollywood deal.

You're telling them, I have a really hard choice to make. I really like your school, but I am also considering this other school, and it may make more sense for me financially, and I am asking if there's any way that you can, you know, find a way to make this choice easier for me to say yes to something that I really want to say yes to. You know, is that an accurate summary? Are we telling a story about a hard choice that you have to make? Tajira's shaking her head.

Tajira: I think it depends. We get those messages all the time, and yes, it's incredibly hard to take very similar offers from two great programs and choose. And the hard part is a lot of times money makes those choices far more difficult. You know, if you are looking at those schools without any consideration of money, what would you do? What are your priorities?

And so, especially in my position at Berkeley, I would get these kinds of questions all the time. And we end up having these conversations and I have to remind candidates a lot, you had a list of priorities that you were considering when you picked the schools that you applied to. And have you gone back to that list and looked at that at all?

Because especially in the spring, everything starts to center around money, and we forget about all those other priorities that really mattered to us, and fit is about so much more than money. And so, like, at the end of the day, trying to make sure that you're considering not only the financial aspect but also repayment aspects, also support and resources aspects, also faculty and representation aspects.

There's so many things that kind of fall out of the brain as we're talking about money, and a lot of times, reintroducing those priorities into the conversation actually helps you know what decision you're going to make regardless.

David: Thanks so much. Angie, we'd love to hear your question.

New Speaker: Hi, everyone. My name is Angie. So my question is, is that merit-based scholarship same for the international student too? And, or is there any other way, like, you know, international student can appeal for the scholarship or something like that? My question is that. Does that make sense? I'm sorry.

Tajira: No, that absolutely makes sense. Thank you so much for your question. And yes, for most schools, it's going to be the exact same process, the exact same considerations. There are very few schools that cannot do the exact same for international students. And typically, that's going to be at a public institution. It just depends on the source of their funding when it comes to the awards that they're granting.

David: Thanks, Angie. Good luck. Hi, Fisher.

New Speaker: Hey, guys. Thanks so much for doing this. I've gotten a lot of helpful information so far. The question for you guys is, I've heard that scholarship funds are meted out after the initial award as seats are filled and people say, I'm going to another school, that kind of opens up funding. Is that true, and if so, is there a process where students who have already accepted get additional scholarship as July and August rolls around?

Tracy: I think it depends on the institution, how their budget's structured. It depends on how they award. I think Tajira in the beginning was speaking directly to the idea that for most law schools, you may hear about your award right when you're admitted, but there are other schools, literally, I mean, I know one school here in California that it literally, it's March 20-something and they haven't awarded any scholarships yet at all, which is very different, right?

And so, in that instance, not sure if that's going to work out in terms of candidates who are applying and they have not heard anything yet. And so I think it's really, I mean, I guess I'll say this: one, my first thought, like if we were meeting one-on-one, I'd say that is something that you don't control at all, and so don't put your eggs in that basket. You do what's best for you in terms of asking questions about how do I improve my chances of obtaining a scholarship?

What is your largest pool of funds? Is it merit-related, is it program-specific, or is it need-based, and how can I, you know, do whatever I need to do to obtain those funds from your school? And then the next question will be things like what you exactly just asked, is there an opportunity later in the cycle to obtain more funds as the class settles in, as your seat deposits come in, as people submit their permanent request, as people kind of make, formalize their plans, et cetera, et cetera.

And the school will let you know their specific process. But I think it's important to note that, generally speaking, it's very, very different and you literally have no control over that. So don't focus on that. I think your job is to get in, one, and then, two, do everything you can to kind of inform yourself about the additional scholarships that that specific law school may be offering you, in terms of how you obtain them, how you apply for them, et cetera, et cetera.

David: All right. Thanks, Tracy. Great answer. Good luck, Fisher. Natalie, we'd love to hear your question.

New Speaker: Hello? Thank you guys all for your patience and time in doing this. So, in the request for reconsideration, do you find that students that ask for a specific amount find more success, or should we just kind of lay out the facts and the offers that we have and see what happens?

Elizabeth: I would recommend laying out the facts. I think that tends to be better, but some schools will ask specifically, what kind of aid are you asking for? And so I think that really does depend on the school. So making sure you have, like, that information ahead of time, but generally what's been most successful is, here's what I have.

We have an idea of what you'd like just by seeing the numbers in front of us. And sometimes I feel like students try to push their luck a little bit by asking for specific dollar amounts, and that could rub the admissions officer the wrong way.

David: Elizabeth, is that true even if you ask for a very modest amount?

Elizabeth: I would, I'd say even in that case, I've had some people say, like, if you, like, I've seen people compare like apples to pears before, and they're like, I understand this other school isn't comparable, but even if you could give me a little bit more aid, that would make the difference.

And so while it wasn't a dollar amount, like they knew I wouldn't be able to match, but explaining their circumstances, I'm like, there's no way I'm going to give you an extra 15,000, but I can do an extra 5,000. And that was a good-faith effort to the student that we wanted them, even though they knew that their offer wasn't necessarily comparable because of the difference in kind of ranking and LSAT numbers of the two different schools.

David: I will say this also just underscores to me the importance of asking in the first place, so long as you're very polite. You know, if it's the case that a pretty modest offer on your part is an extra $5,000 a year, that is great news for the student. That's still $15,000, but that is real money. Well, good luck, Natalie. We're going to go to Charlotte.

New Speaker: Hello. What leverage do we have if our scores or GPAs are significantly above that median point of the admitted student with regard to additional scholarship funds? And related, how do we advocate for ourselves without showing our hands? Thank you.

Tajira: Without showing your hand in terms of other offers you have? Because we already know your numbers.

New Speaker: Thank you. That's helpful. I think without saying too much, but it sounds like transparency is very helpful in this situation.

Tracy: You want us to be a partner with you in this, and so I think, you know, it's really important that you be thoughtful about the why behind your question, because we are professionals and our job is to try to do our best to give as many opportunities to as many students as possible.

And so, you know, we have institutional responsibilities, but we have responsibilities to the entire applicant pool. And so, to the extent that a school is requesting that you provide information about your other offers, that is for a reason. I mean, sometimes it's because they want to understand, like, are we underawarding? You know, and that might have them consider, reconsider the entire scholarship policy.

Then other times, they literally are thinking through their budget and their goals. And so there was a response I typed to one of the candidates, I'm going to chat about, all these things are so tied to things like, things that, again, you don't control, but things like, one of our goals related to net tuition revenue. Our school may say, our, you know, budget dean may say, we need a class of this size because we want to offer this many more scholarships. Or they may say, you spent way too much money last year. We want a class that same size, but we don't want you to spend as much money.

All those things are part of this. And so to the extent that you can be as transparent as possible, but also kind of view us as, we're not your adversary. We, literally, our jobs are to kind of help you find the law school that's going to be best for you, and as Tajira pointed out, for some of you, you get very, very focused on the money. And while we all understand how important that is, at the end of the day, we've seen too many candidates make the wrong decision for the wrong reason.

And so we want you to be thoughtful about that in the context of, is this school really where I want to be? Will the difference of $2,000 or $5,000, or, you know, the conditions in terms of the scholarship, will that make a difference, or will I ultimately know that, irrespective of any of that, I really want to be at this school because they have the right programming, the right mentoring opportunities, and the right alumni connections for me?

And, you know, for some of you, at the end of the day, it's going to be like, nope, that $5,000 makes all the difference. But for a lot of you, when you're, in your heart of hearts, when you're sitting by yourself and you have to make this really, really tough decision about your law school home, you want us to be in a space where we can help make a great decision, because we all want you to have a really good law school experience.

Tajira: And I think it's really important to note, you know, when it comes to this whole transparency thing, playing things too close to your vest means you're probably not giving us the information that we need to make an educated decision. And in doing so, you may have shoot, you may shoot yourself in the foot, because then our offer's probably going to be relatively conservative, and it's not going to take into consideration all of those things that you could have shared with us.

It's best to be really transparent in this process. It's best to tell them, you know, if they're your number one choice, if that's where you want to go, if you have a family history there, all of those things, it matters. And just being genuine and telling people what it is that you're looking for and hoping for, we're understanding that, you know, we're doing our best to touch as many people as we possibly can with the budget that we've been allotted, but we're going to try to do our best to really try to encompass as many really strong and worthy candidates as we can.

David: That was really helpful. I think it's worth underlining Tracy's point. Seems like it might be a takeaway or should be a takeaway. Tracy, correct me if I'm wrong, but what I'm hearing is that you're going to have more success if you do not approach this in an adversarial way. You are not trying to beat more money out of a school. You're trying to forge a connection with a partner in your education that's going to be mutually beneficial.

Tracy: Absolutely. And again, you know, ultimately, what you want is that you want us to be in a situation where, in July, if our development officer comes back and says, "Guess what? We just got this amazing scholarship, and we have five people that we need to award it to before school." You want to be on that side of like, oh my goodness, hey team, who's been in touch? Who made requests for more money, and who's been super engaged, and who's been super helpful and nice in terms of their interactions with the office?

And you want to be on that side of that because, honestly, this does happen. And so that kind of goes back to Fisher's point about, like, you know, does money come available later? It's different types of money that comes available. It's not necessarily the same money, but there are times when we're given an opportunity to, all of a sudden, award something different.

Many law schools will have their development team who will regularly and frequently go back to existing donors and say, is there any way that we can change this scholarship, or can we take some of the scholarship for continuing students and give a little bit to, you know, to entering students? You just never know, and so you want to be on the side where we literally are, we're on your team.

Lastly, when you come to that school, you also want to be that person who we think of very highly in terms of that level of respect and camaraderie and transparency, because, again, we are often, in the admission space, asked, who should we kind of nominate for this? You know, alumni that we're connected to will say, I'm looking for a clerk. I'm looking for, I'm going to refer to the people who I know were candid, honest, and earnest in their dealings with us throughout the process.

And so I know it sounds trite when we say, be thoughtful, be nice, be respectful, be transparent, but it really is not. You're literally starting your reputation in this process and it will carry you through. And I have students who, 10 years later, come back to me. I would write a letter of recommendation for them, I would offer up anything for them because of how they handled themselves in the process.

Tajira: Absolutely. And I think it's so true, when those extra funds come up, you know, as Tracy mentioned, I used to keep a running list of people who either I wasn't able to touch with money or who like needed just a little bit more and I just couldn't do it at the time. I always went back to that list to see, okay, I've got 5,000 more dollars. Who can I touch with this? And it always came back to those folks that just had such a great rapport with me in the office.

David: Okay, Samantha, we'd love to hear from you.

New Speaker: Hi, everybody. Thank you for doing this. You mentioned that we should be honest about our situation and decision-making process. Can you talk about the type of contexts that would be appropriate to share with schools? Like what have you all seen? Are there things that aren't appropriate? Just what type of things should we include there?

Elizabeth: So we've seen it all. There's definitely things that are too much information. So that's why I'd probably have someone you trust look over your request, to be like, does this come across as professional, even though you're sharing personal information, that it feels like this would be a compelling reason.

So I've seen that some went from a full-time job and where they're helping care for family members to stepping away from that and then going to law school full-time. So in addition to taking on loans, they're not providing for their family. So looking at that bottom line cost of attendance wasn't just impacting that individual.

So in that case, there was a larger thought process in how they're going to be looking at their financial aid. So I think the personal requests matter, but it's the way that you're putting it, that you're laying out the facts. I think sometimes people like, I want to give you my sob story, but sometimes with just budgetary concerns, I don't, we can't look necessarily at that, but more about the facts and the considerations just as they are on face value.

David: I hope that's helpful, Samantha. We're going to go to Hannah.

New Speaker: Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for doing this. This really feels great to see such nice people like yourself like sitting on the other side of the occasion and reviewing our applications. I have like two quick questions. First, I want to know if you could elaborate more about the diversity and minority component, like how that would be effective, if at all or not.

And then the second is somehow a silly question, kind of like upside-down question. I was wondering if you are being waitlisted for, let's say, for your, from your dream school, and you feel like you don't have any chances to get out of the waitlist. Is it helpful to mention to them or just like, as you said, honestly tell them that you might not be asking for scholarship if you get out of the waitlist, or that's not a thing? Thank you.

Tracy: I will attempt to start with the diversity piece. Please, Tajira, Elizabeth, David, jump in if I'm going the wrong direction. But I think it's important to note that, generally speaking, with merit scholarships, again, because it's generally based on these academic credentials, diversity doesn't come into play for those scholarships.

I think the playing field is very, very clear in most instances and for many, many law schools that it literally, these funds are based on those numbers, period. Your admissions decision, you know, is often based on the adversity, diversity, and things like that, that you might bring to that specific program, that law school, that city, et cetera, et cetera.

But those are very different things. If a law school has diversity-related scholarships, you know, for example, you may have a donor who said they really want to support women coming into the profession, there may be a specific scholarship related to, you know, being someone that identifies as a woman, there may be a scholarship for folks that are LGBTQ+ and/or allies, you know, so be on the lookout for those types of scholarships.

But the reality is that, generally speaking, you are, you know, your diversity and things like that that you bring to the table are often used in the actual review process for your application in being admitted to the school. The merit scholarships are the biggest pool of money, and that's just generally very, very separate.

And so, again, each law school, as you do your homework, you know that as we talked about viewing what's on the website, if there are other scholarships that you can apply for, generally speaking, those will be listed. If not, schools may send out a newsletter and/or provide updated information in an admissions-type portal after the fact, once you're actually admitted, that will allow you to apply for other types of scholarships. And those will be identified in the definitions and terms, and things like that will be laid out.

David: Okay. Hannah, let's come back to your question, just to make sure that everybody here gets a chance to ask one question. And so if we do have time, we'll come back to your second question.

Elizabeth: And I just put a link in the chat. AccessLex has a database of scholarships and fellowships that I think is helpful for outside aid, but there's also a fair amount of diversity scholarships and fellowships in there that include work between like 1L and 2L year.

David: Thanks, Elizabeth. Angelo, we'd love to hear from you.

New Speaker: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for your time. I had a quick question regarding kind of how to interact with admission officers when you're in that negotiation discussion, I guess. So let's say that I'm asking a school for a certain amount of money or for a bit more, essentially they come back with an offer. Is it ever appropriate to go back and say, is there any chance you could give me just a little bit more, or is that completely just something that we shouldn't do? I'm just wondering.

David: Can you ask twice?

Tracy: I cringed a little bit and giggled only because this comes up a lot and it's a really tough call. You know, I always say, if you don't ask, you never know, but I think you have to be able to kind of read the room and pay attention to what the school is saying. If they say specifically, you can only ask once, that is not an institution that you can go back to again.

Many of us don't have that specific language, and so to the extent that you want to try it, I think all the same rules of engagement apply: thoughtful, detailed, you know, enough, follow instructions, be humble and be honest.

But again, I just want to caution everybody, don't be offended if, in fact, you're told no or that we've already given you this one update, and we want to kind of make sure that we're spreading the wealth and wait for other people to submit theirs. Don't be surprised by it.

Elizabeth: And this is related, I think, also to a question that was in the Q&A about when to ask for aid. Do you do it right when you get an offer from a school, or do you wait til you collect all your offers? So generally I'd recommend waiting til you collect all your offers. I've seen people ask once, and then they get a scholarship offer from another school and come back to me and ask again. And so waiting for that and doing kind of one thoughtful ask and maybe a follow-up, but based on having as much information as possible for that first ask.

David: Elizabeth and Tracy, I have a follow-up question for each of you. I'll just start with you, Elizabeth. When is it too late to ask? Waiting for all your offers is all well and good, but, you know, sometimes people don't know if they're going to get another offer, the seasons are changing, and people are getting anxious.

Elizabeth: So I'd probably say like a couple of days before deposit deadline, that's kind of under the gun. I know now is tough because some schools haven't given all their scholarship offers, and April 1st is coming up very quickly. And so, in that case, like I would probably say now's probably a good time to ask for those April 1 schools, and it's okay to say, I'm still waiting on a couple of schools, but here's the information I have right now.

So if that person were to come back, it's not like, well, where were these before? No, you told me you're still waiting on some schools, and I have an idea of the schools they're waiting on. And so I know it's not necessarily the student, but it's kind of the institution. So for April 1st, I would say, tomorrow, do that ask. April 15th, probably around April 1st. So giving like a week or two lead time, so that schools have time to come look at the other offers and then be able to come back to you with a decision.

David: And then this is for Tracy or anyone. What's the worst-case scenario here? If you ask and you're not very polite, a school can turn you down. Can it get worse than that? Can they rescind your offer of admissions?

Tracy: They could, right? Like, so the situation in which that might happen is when someone has been dishonest. Part of the challenge for candidates is a bit, as you can probably tell, I have known Tajira and Elizabeth for a very long time, but that also means that I've been in the business for a long time.

And so if I have a candidate that is presenting information and I'm like, that does not seem to be in line with what that school has ever offered, and, you know, again, we always avoid antitrust, you know, things of that nature, right? So I'm not specifically saying, "Hey, Tajira, did David apply at your school, and did you give him this much?" I'm not going to do that. What I am going to do is say, "Hey, Elizabeth, you know, did you all change your criteria for your top scholarships this year?"

So, for example, if I know that she's at a school that does not give full tuition scholarships, and someone comes to me and says, "Dean Simmons, I am, I want to negotiate, I want to request additional reconsideration, et cetera," and they say, "I have a full ride from school B," and I'm like, huh, I didn't know school B gave full tuition scholarships.

If, in fact, that comes out, that becomes a character fitness issue and what we call misconduct and irregularities. And so that is a trigger that will then notify all the law schools the candidate's applied to, whether they've been admitted or waitlisted doesn't really matter, and that kind of launches an investigation. So that's worst-case scenario if you don't tell the truth.

The other part of that is simply that we just say, no, you know, it's just a no, and we will be polite, we want you to be polite, we will be polite too. And we just say that we don't do that, we don't have any additional funds, or, you know, the window has passed. There are some schools that have a tight window of time that they will consider your reconsideration requests, and so once that deadline's passed for those schools, it's just done when it's done, and the worst they can do is just say no in that space.

David: So to be clear, if you're honest, if you're polite, and if you're following instructions, you have nothing to lose. Okay. Beverly, we would love to hear from you.

New Speaker: Well, first of all, thank you, guys, so much for doing this. This is, this has been super helpful. Thank you so much for the transparency. My question is for schools that have like an earlier deadline for scholarships, like the signing date for that, but it doesn't ask you to make a monetary deposit. How do you approach those if you are still undecided by the deadline? Does that make sense?

Tracy: It does, and, I'm sorry, please jump in, everybody else, but I was going to say that the challenge that you have is that our expectation is that you're prepared for that. If you've done your homework, if you've attended workshops and sessions on like this, with 7Sage and/or with the law schools themselves, you will understand that at any given point, you may have a decision from two schools that you applied to and you may not have heard from the other eight.

That is how it works. We are not beholden to what other schools do. And so the expectation is that you're applying to schools that you're really interested in and that you're willing to commit to, and that the reality is that you may have to hold a seat somewhere while you wait to hear from other schools. We know that it can be expensive, but we also expect that you are going to make the decision that's best for you.

And so if you contact Elizabeth and say, you know, "I'm really excited about your school. I need to make a deposit because school X is expecting their deposit tomorrow, and I haven't heard from you," that may not change what Elizabeth and her committee do. We all have our own individual kind of process in place, and so the expectation is that you be prepared to possibly make more than one deposit as you kind of wait to hear from everyone, unfortunately.

And so that's just kind of the nature of the process, and there's just not a lot, again, you know, there's not a lot you can do to control that beyond applying as early as you can, and early, meaning early with a competitive application, not early with a sloppy application.

New Speaker: Thank you, Ms. Simmons. I think I might have misexplained my question. First of all, I wanted to make sure that I'm understanding you guys correctly. It's that schools do understand that students might be depositing at multiple places and it's acceptable.

Tajira: It's not always acceptable. You have to be very careful and you need to look at the terms that each school provides to you, because there are some schools that do not require a paid deposit that do require you to withdraw from all schools that you're applying to. So you need to watch the terms very carefully because you can be found to be, you know, going outside of the rules if you're not careful.

New Speaker: Gotcha, gotcha. But for this specific school, the situation is they have a deadline for scholarships ahead of their actual deposit deadline, and this scholarship deadline is not monetary and it's nonbinding according to the school. Can we make, you know, can we say we commit to this scholarship but still continue to negotiate with other schools and consider other offers? Is that not super clear?

Elizabeth: I want to say maybe, but I would, I think going back to what Tajira was saying is look and see what the school is saying. Most places, if you're committing and placing a deposit without money attached, it's they're expecting you to fully commit. So I would double-check all of that first before even thinking about placing another deposit or trying to negotiate with other schools.

Tajira: I know one school in particular that does not require deposits, and when they make scholarship offers, it moves the date forward. And it happens to be a school that I worked at, which is Berkeley. And so if that happens to be Berkeley, you need to look again at those terms because there's absolutely terms on the commitment page in CalCentral that tells you you have to withdraw. So look very carefully.

New Speaker: Thank you.

David: So I want to end by posing one anonymous question to all of you that I think might be interesting, and then I want to ask you all for your final pieces of advice. The anonymous question is this: is it a good idea to state that if I received X amount of scholarship, I would definitely commit to your school? I see a lot of, a lot of silent nos.

Tajira: I knew you were going to ask that question. I saw that one in there and I was like, oh.

Tracy: I didn't see that one, and it's a big fat no, because it's the same as, and you're my first choice, but you're submitting, you know, five other offers that you're like, you don't need to say that and you don't need to do that. Like, and again, I don't know necessarily if all my colleagues will want you to come to their school if that's the only reason that you're coming. And so again, you have to be thoughtful about what story you're trying to tell and what narrative you're trying to tell.

Tajira: It's all in how you make that request, and if you're giving us a condition, you're not actually making a request. It's really about how you approach a situation where it's a school you want to attend, right? Like there's a whole pool of people that want to attend this school. It's not like a situation in which losing a candidate means that the school doesn't meet any of their goals. They still have that opportunity.

Coming from a slightly more humble place can really help, because in this instance, you're wanting something from us, but, and if you're coming, I saw the question as both, like, is it a good idea to state this? And the second part of that question was, if you're asking for a higher amount than your other offers. So, not only are you asking us to beat everybody else, but you're asking us to still meet a benchmark, and that's unlikely.

In most instances, you know, as we've been saying throughout, schools are not looking to match. We're looking to try to get you the best possible that we think is comparable to what you're receving from our peers. We're looking to try to make sure that, you know, like it's a fair award and that, you know, we are putting you in a good position, but we're not necessarily looking to get into the business of being used car salesmen who are going to try to, and you get this and you get, that's not what we do. You want to be just kind of careful and, as Dean Simmons said, thoughtful in your approach.

Elizabeth: I think it can also come across as entitled, and getting requests like that make me question who you might be in our community, who you might be in the classroom, how you'll engage with your coworkers, how you'll interact with the experts in our career services office. And so for me, that is a question of judgment about, do I even want you in my class and would I want to yield you?

David: Well, speaking of wanting to yield, everyone, can you give us one final piece of advice, each of you, that would make you want to yield and shower with money one of these candidates? Maybe not shower with money, but just one final piece of advice as people approach you with reconsideration requests.

Tajira: I always felt like, in dealing with reconsideration, especially at Berkeley, the folks that I got to know, who I knew their story, I understood a lot about them specifically from their application file, because it was so exemplary, but also in their request, there were, it's like everything just kind of layers one upon the other, and I'm learning more about them and I'm just seeing more and more why they're such a great fit for my particular school.

And you see that in how they carry themselves and how they make their requests and how they communicate and how they speak to the team. All of that goes a really long way. And I think that the thoughtfulness, it sounds like something so simple, but I promise you, it goes such a long way in how you approach money conversations and, but at the same time, you know, we are also talking to admitted students about events, about housing, about roommates, about parking, about everything under the sun.

The aggregate of all of those communications can end up weighing into reconsideration. And so just keeping that in mind, all of those communications, all of those are opportunities for us to get to know you even better and how you're going to be on our campus and how you're going to interact with everybody in our community, and that matters.

David: That's helpful. Any last advice from Tracy or Elizabeth? You might've said it all already. That's fine.

Tracy: I was just going to add a little bit about how you interface with the office, kind of building on what Tajira talked about. I am often the person who will just answer the phone. It's not necessarily my job duty every day, but I will do it periodically just to kind of, if volume is high or everyone's kind of at lunch or something like that.

And I often find myself stunned in surprise at the tone candidates will take when they think they're talking to someone that maybe doesn't have the same type of title. That is not okay. And so that is something that will be held against you. And I think that, you know, I'm often thinking of not only the counselors and the coordinators, but I'm thinking about the dean, his assistant, I'm thinking about the faculty support staff.

Just like law firms, when they take young associates out to dinner, they're paying attention to how you treat the waitstaff, et cetera, because they live and die by their executive assistants. And so, again, these are all these intangible things that, you know, oftentimes candidates don't think about.

But I can tell you there have been candidates who, literally, I have been either admitted from the waitlist and/or given additional scholarship money to, because when I asked, my team is like, oh my gosh, they are so responsible, they're so respectful, they're so nice to us, on and on and on. It seems silly, but at the end of the day, I have to deal with our dean of students, and I don't want her mad at me because I've admitted someone who is, as David pointed out, a jerk.

And so it may not seem important to you in this space, but I'm letting you know that we want to help people that are thoughtful and kind, and, I think as Elizabeth pointed out, we are thinking of the three or four years are going to be with us, we're thinking about who you're going to be as alumnus, et cetera, and so in this process, you know, specifically related to scholarshipping, you know, you want to put yourself in a position that everyone is rooting for you.

You want us to basically kind of want to help you, want to find other funds for you. And so kind of be kind. It's just the right thing to do anyway, but you know, law school is hard enough, and so don't come in with that chip on your shoulder. Everyone's there to do the same thing, and so just be thoughtful, be polite. When you have deadlines, meet them. When you have questions, ask them. If the answer is no, don't hang up in our face. Don't send nasty grams, things of that nature.

David: Thanks, Tracy.

Elizabeth: Mine are just echoing what Tajira and Tracy said, like be thoughtful, be kind, be respectful. Generally be a good human and treat the people in the admissions offices how you would like to be treated.

David: That's a good place to end. So all of you good humans who attended, thank you so much. I wish all of you good luck. I hope you find a school that's a great fit, and thanks for joining us. Bye, everyone.

J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you're studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at 7Sage.com. We can help.

That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.


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