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Choosing between UCLA, UCI, GW, and Minnesota

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Below is a question from a student, Isaac, about his law school choice, and PowerScore CEO Dave Killoran's response.

Isaac "Hi Dave,

I'm in the boat of people who don't know where they would like to practice law after school. For that reason I want to go to a school with a more national reach so I can be flexible. Unfortunately I'm not in a position where I'm deciding between T14 schools. The highest ranked school that I've been admitted to is UCLA and I'm doing everything I can to make that option affordable for me. I think it's a great fit for me because I am interested in immigration/public interest law and they have a great program for that. They are supposed to come out with their scholarship offers at the end of this month, but based upon what I've read online my best guess is that if they gave me anything it would be between 40-60K total.

My options right now are between that and UCI at 67K, GW at 75K, and Minnesota at full ride. While I know Minnesota is ranked rather high and they've given me full ride, I'm not so sure I want to be stuck there after graduation. I'm using my full ride offer and an offer of 120K from UC Davis to negotiate for more at UCI and hopefully then using that higher offer from UCI to negotiate with UCLA. GW has stated explicitly that their offer is meant to be final but that there is an application I can fill out for them to reconsider the offer. However, they would only be able to tell me if they are able to increase my scholarship offer after the deadline to reserve my seat. I'm not sure if there is any way of getting around that to negotiate a higher offer, but I'm working with the assumption that that will be my final offer.

Given that, I was wondering your thoughts on, if it came down to it, ~100K in debt from GW vs. ~100K in debt from UCLA. I would be happy in either a CA or DC market, and from what I understand UCLA has some good connections to the DC market too. I am also wondering if that amount of debt is worth it for those schools or if I should take the money from UCI, Davis or Minnesota and run."

Dave Killoran: "Issac, Thanks for the message! We actually just did a podcast on this very topic (episode 5).

For the UCLA vs GW debate, I actually favor UCLA here. GW is a great school and I'm a fan, but the numbers favor UCLA across the board: https://www.lstreports.com/compare/gw/ucla/.

So, if UCLA emerges the victor there, how does it stack up against the other 3? First, let's separate those three, starting by comparing UCI and Davis, where Davis comes up a bit short (biglaw placement and clerkships are sharply lower than UCI, reflecting less of a broad pull). For UCI vs Minnesota, the comparison is closer but with around 70% of the class staying in Minnesota/Wisconsin, you are right to be concerned about MN. However, the full ride is hard to ignore and given how close these schools are, would likely tilt me towards Minnesota. It's close though, and I can see either outcome being completely reasonable.

So, it's UCLA vs Minnesota (or Irvine, depending): https://www.lstreports.com/compare/irvine/ucla/minnesota/. Given your goals I'd lean towards UCLA, but you are paying $100K for a numerical advantage that is not overwhelming and is at times even inferior (clerkships, for example).

That isn't a clear cut answer, but this mostly comes down to job outcomes and locations, which can be very hard to determine beforehand. Minnesota is the best "deal" financially, but you may well end up in that area; UCLA has more pull in bigger markets including LA/SF, NYC, and DC but it will cost you. Is it worth the extra debt to have the better option of getting out of the midwest? Only you can tell :)

Thanks!"