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Below, an accepted law school student, Chelsea, reaches out to PowerScore's Dave Killoran for some admissions advice.

Chelsea: "Hi Dave!

I’m so glad I stumbled across this resource. You are the voice of reason I need right now!

Similar to a PowerScore student from a couple of years ago, I am down to the wire between Georgetown with the full ride Blume scholarship (dedicated faculty mentorship, ability to do 2 clinics, small cohort of PI folks) or Harvard with their max financial aid, which is rare and amazing (though is it really amazing that I grew up dirt poor? lol). At HLS I would still need to take out $20k per year in tuition loans and $30k per year for living expenses, ending up at about $150k in loans total. At Georgetown, I would start in the part-time evening program and keep my high-paying policy job for the first year then switch to full-time for years 2 and 3, so max loans there would be about $50-60k. I also have $35k in undergraduate debt. I am interested in environmental law and wholly committed to public service/govt work, but would consider a plaintiffs/public interest law firm at some point as well. Just know for sure I can’t do big law. DOJ Honors and/or a clerkship are on my radar, which seem easier from HLS, but because of my background and connections in DC, I think those things will still be possible at Georgetown.

I’m also in my 30s and debt is utterly terrifying to me. I worry HLS is a financially irresponsible choice given my career interests, but the prestige and more than that the transformative educational and social experience it seems to hold is tempting. I don’t have much tying me in DC other than a well-paying but boring job and some good friends, but I do feel settled after about 8 years here. I imagine I’ll be back in DC for summers and post-grad if I do go to HLS, so wouldn’t have to cut off completely from my life here. And a change of scenery could be good, but Boston was never on my radar as a place I’d want to live. Going back into a transient/financially unstable phase of life feels a little scary too. But it’s Harvard! Is there an obvious answer here I’m not seeing? This is the toughest and biggest life decision I’ve ever made.

I appreciate any wisdom you can provide!"

Dave Killoran: "Hi Chelsea,

Thanks for the question and congrats on the fantastic offers! So, if I’m tracking you here, HLS is $150K debt on top of $35K debt (total = $185K you’d be carrying), and GULC is $50-60K debt on top of $35K debt (total = $85-95K you’d be carrying). One of those is obviously half the other, so I’d first go take a look at the monthly debt payment on those because without any mitigation, it takes a significant monthly salary to service either one, but especially the HLS number.

Normally the offset here is that HLS grads can count on a biglaw salary to pay that off, but in your case your job goals won’t be paying a biglaw salary. And that means you need to get into the details of the LRAP programs at HLS (where they call it LIPP) and GULC, and see if one of those will allow you to carry these debt loads while you work at a job that likely won’t cover the monthly payment, and then to make sure you know how long you have to stay in a public interest job and the terms of forgiveness, and so on. Depending on the LIPP details, HLS might be completely viable here, but it will require some research to unlock those details and how they apply specifically to you. In my opinion that’s the best place for you to start here.

Good luck and please let me know what you decide :)

Thanks!"

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