How to negotiate merit scholarships

By Hillary Mantis

You have been accepted to the law school of your dreams, but without the same merit scholarship that another law school has offered you. You received a small merit scholarship from the school you want to go to, and a larger one from a different law school, which is not your first choice.

What should you do? Can you negotiate with admissions? Is that considered OK?

Here are some tips to consider when approaching admissions offices and making final decisions:

Consider attaching matching letters from other schools: If you are asking a school to match a merit scholarship from another law school, they generally want to see the offer letter from the other school(s) attached with your request. It most likely gives you more leverage if the schools are similarly ranked.

- Let them know they are your first choice: It is helpful if you can honestly tell them that their school is your first choice. Enthusiasm always helps.

- Let them know if you have had recent achievements they might not be aware of: For example, if you have an updated transcript with a higher GPA, or anything else that might make you a more desirable candidate, make sure to let them know.

Figure out the total cost of attendance: Even if a school is offering you less money, it may be in a part of the country that is less expensive to live in, so figure out your total COA and factor that into the decision.

- Check out the recent graduate employment stats for each school: You can factor in whether a merit scholarship at one school is worth taking, in part by the starting salaries and employment opportunities available post-graduation. Look at the ABA Standard 509 stats online for each school to see recent graduate employment information, as well as bar pass rates at each law school.

- Think about attending a law school in the part of the country you want to work in: Chances are, it will be easier to get a job and make connections if you are in law school in the region in which you want to practice, even if the merit scholarship at that school may be a little less — it’s definitely something to at least consider.

Hillary Mantis works with pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is the assistant dean for pre-law advising at Fordham University and author of "Alternative Careers for Lawyers." You can reach her at