Negotiating Law School Scholarship Offers: Some Best (and Worst) Practices

Todd Rothman, Senior Associate Director

Merit scholarships to law school seem to be abounding these days and, as a result, more and more admitted students are negotiating the merit-based scholarship package they were initially awarded.  Although there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for how these negotiations ought to proceed, it is becoming an increasingly common practice among scholarship awardees.  And while some law schools make it abundantly clear that these negotiations are unwelcome, many law schools will indeed engage in these conversations to provide admitted students with the most attractive financial package.

Since many admitted students understandably find these conversations to be challenging – and a little awkward – I thought I would provide a few best (and worst) practices as you attempt to navigate the sometimes thorny process of scholarship negotiation.

Best Practices

1. Before you contact any law schools for additional merit-based funding, you should have a full understanding of what the real costs of attending each law school will be.  Rather than merely comparing merit awards, you need to consider the full financial picture of the next three years.  This includes, but is not limited to, analyzing differences in sticker-price tuition costs (public vs. private), overall cost of living (housing, whether or not you will need a car), and the fine print of renewing your merit scholarship each year of law school.  Some law schools will provide the merit-based scholarship without any stipulations, while others might require you to maintain a certain GPA each year or finish in a certain percentile of your law school class.  When you consider all of these factors more comprehensively, it isn’t always the law school with the highest award that will be the most affordable.

2. Since every law school will likely handle these negotiations differently, it is always best to inquire with the law school directly – either by email or phone – about if/how they are interested in proceeding with this process.  In order to make the biggest initial impact, many law schools will start with their best offer and, if that is not substantial enough, their hands are essentially tied at that point.  If that is the case, it is best to find that out before you assume that they are open to further negotiations.  Many law schools will prefer you to start this process in writing – either a hard copy letter or an email – and will often ask that you also send (or attach) copies of the award letters from the other law schools to which you have been admitted.

3. Your correspondence with law schools should be professional and polite, but must also be undemanding and grateful in tone. Remember that applying to law school is the first step in your career as a lawyer and that includes, of course, all of these types of negotiations.  After all, this law school has not only admitted you to their incoming class, but has further incentivized you through merit-based awards.  Clearly, this is a law school that thinks very highly of your talents and potential contributions to their law school, so you should approach this process with care, caution, and appreciation.  Make sure that you reiterate in all correspondence how much you like their law school (and why), so that there is a bigger picture to your financial negotiating.  Keep in mind that you are asking for additional funding and that, much like anything else, you will get more bees with honey.

4. Only engage in negotiations with law schools that you would realistically attend, so that your conversations can be based on honesty and a genuine desire to make your financial package at a given law school work so that you might be able to enroll.  Otherwise, you are wasting everyone’s time, including your own.

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How to Get the Most Out of Virtual Career Fairs

by Fatimah Williams Castro, PhD., Associate Director, Graduate Student/Postdoctoral Team.

Virtual career fairs are similar to traditional career fairs that take place in person, except they are held online. Employers attend career fairs to network with and actively recruit new hires. Job seekers have the opportunity to meet employers and briefly discuss the company, job opening, and job seeker’s profile.   Virtual career fairs are a great way to meet employers that might not otherwise travel to campus, and to do so in a low pressure environment without the long lines.

The Graduate Student/Postdoctoral Fellow Unit is excited to be participating in the Ph.D. & Master’s Virtual Career Fair, sponsored by the Graduate Career Consortium, on February 17, 2015.   More than 25 employers are gathering in one virtual place to meet job seeking Master’s and Ph.D.s.   You just need a computer with internet access and an updated resume to participate in a virtual career fair.  Once you register online, submit your updated resume in advance of the fair. Employers may review your materials and determine if there is a potential fit between your qualifications and their hiring needs.

Employers from a broad range of industries participate in virtual career fairs, and they seek job candidates at all career stages – not just master’s students and Ph.D.s. Here are a few other virtual career fairs that may be of interest to you:

Prepare for the Fair
You may be concerned that you will not be able to stand out or interact with employers because of the online format of this career fair. Most virtual career fairs host online chat forums where employers and job seekers can get to know each other.  There may also be a video conferencing function that will allow you to virtually meet employers face-to-face. These live, interactive communication functions give you access to employers from the comfort of your home or office. Just be sure to prepare your background, lighting and camera angles, and dress as you would for an in person career fair, if you decide to meet with employers via video chat.

Connect in Real Time
Do your homework by researching employers before the fair begins. Virtual career fairs will provide a list of participating employers along with a description of their job openings. Review company details and the job opening. This information will help you have meaningful interactions with employers when you meet in chat forums or via video conferencing, and when you follow up with employers of interest after the fair.

If you would like a career advisor to review your resume prior to posting online you may stop by for Walk Ins (15 minutes) or make an appointment (30 minutes) by calling 215-898-7531. You can also take a look at these resume samples from UPenn undergraduate, graduate students and postdoc alumni to help you get started on your resume.

In addition to these tips, expert career blog, Brazen Life, also offers “8 Tips for Making Meaningful Connections at Virtual Networking Events and Online Career Fairs.”

Follow Up
Just like any other career fair or information session with employers, be sure to follow through after the event is over: send thank you messages to recruiters, and continue to express your interest in those companies or firms you found to be a good match for your job search and career goals.

Consider the Value of Joining and Participating in LinkedIn Groups

By: David Ross, Associate Director

A very popular tool that some candidates use in their internship and job searches is LinkedIn. Perhaps you have created a personal account or utilized the “Find Alumni” feature. While both are great starting points, consider joining and participating in LinkedIn groups to discover additional advantages of the system.

Identify a network of individuals with a shared interest.
One approach to search for networking contacts with professional experience within an industry is to input search criteria or use filters to generate a list of individuals. Another approach would be joining a group that may have dozens or hundreds of members with a shared interest, educational background or work experience. Depending on what type of individuals you are trying to identify, joining a group may be a faster or more efficient way to identify a network of individuals you are looking for.

Demonstrate your expertise in an area.
Once you have joined a group, you may notice individuals pose questions on occasion in search of feedback from group members. Responding to questions on topics you have insight can signal your expertise. It can also build goodwill and possibly open the lines of communications with others you may not have connected with in the past, expanding your network.

Uncover job and internship leads – before they are posted on job sites.
Sometimes individuals will post job or internship leads within a group with the idea that a targeted forum with individuals that may work within a field can be a source of referrals for strong candidates. Occasionally, these job and internship leads are mentioned in groups before they are published publicly elsewhere. Thus, being a member of a relevant group can lead to insights on additional job and internship leads.

Receive insight, advice or assistance from other professionals.
There may be a topic or question you would like perspective on from other professionals. Or perhaps you are working on an event or program and are searching for volunteers that have a certain background. Leveraging group forums in some instances may be very helpful in these instances.

Ultimately, when you search for Groups in LinkedIn, you may notice an overwhelming number of possibilities. You may want to start by joining a small number of groups first. Try to become actively involved as you never know when your participation can lead to unexpected benefits.

Oh, The Places They’ll go! First Destinations for Class of 2014 Penn Grads in the College

By Dr. Claire Klieger

Working with liberal arts students, I love looking at the data of what our students do after they graduate. Each year, the paths embarked upon by our students are as diverse as they are impressive and continually go to show that you can do anything with a liberal arts degree from Penn!

We’ve just finished our report on first destinations for the Class of 2014 and it’s really interesting to see all of the neat things members of that class are doing. You can see the full report on our website, but here are some highlights:

  • Most CAS grads from 2014 are working full-time (61%), in 29 different countries. The most popular industries were financial services (18%), consulting (16%) and education (14%). Top employers included the University of Pennsylvania and Teach for America, as well as top banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays), consulting firms (BCG, Deloitte, Bain&Co.) and a range of other name brand employers (NIH, NBCUniversal, LinkedIn, IBM and Nielsen to name a few).
  • Slightly fewer students went straight on to graduate school (17%) as compared with the Class of 2013 (20%), which is likely a sign of the improving economy. For those entering graduate or professional school, Medicine (22%), Law (16%) and Science (16%) continue to be the most popular fields of study.
  • While many students had offers in the fall semester (38%), the majority of College students received their offers of employment in spring semester of year senior year (39%) or even after graduation (23%). This stat reflects the diversity of hiring timelines that coincide with the breadth of industries into which liberal arts students enter.
  • Students continue to heavily use the resources of our office. 68% of those working full-time or attending graduate school reported using Career Services and 40% of employed students received their offers through OCR or other career services leads.