Some Basics of Scholarship Negotiation

By Jayme McKellop, Senior Consultant at The Spivey Consulting Group and former Director of Admission at Chicago Law School

Scholarship negotiation can be a tricky process. As with many things in the world of law school admissions, it varies by school. There are wrong ways, and right ways, to do it, however. Some schools are very open to negotiation, others may do it reluctantly and view it as a necessity. Here are some basic tips on what to do (and what not to do) to help you navigate this process. These are meant to serve as a starting point only. For specific help, Mike, Karen & Derek offer a scholarship + wait-list package that I have seen firsthand tremendously help applicants.

• Follow the process in place. Some schools provide specific instructions on how to approach scholarship negotiation. There may be procedural steps outlined on the school’s admitted student website, such as a form and required information to submit. You should follow this closely and pay attention to any deadlines – if they have established a process, they want you to follow it. Others do not have a set process in place. In that case, it is appropriate to reach out to the individual handling scholarship correspondence to ask.

• Be extremely polite and appreciative in all of your communications. Always emphasize first how excited you are to have been admitted to that particular law school. Being polite, in and of itself, can get some applicants considerable scholarship consideration.

• Be realistic. Schools are often only interested in considering scholarships from what they consider to be “peer schools” and it undermines your credibility to ask a school to consider an award from a law school that is not comparable in reputation. Also be realistic about your own qualifications and what you add to the class to manage your own expectations.

• Be cognizant of your true financial need. If you have completed the Need Access form, the school will have some knowledge of your and your family’s assets. You will hurt your effort if your family has substantial financial assets/net worth and you are asserting that you are financially needy without compelling circumstances.

• Don’t exaggerate or lie. Be truthful and honest about the reasons you are asking to increase your scholarship award and how scholarship aid will factor into your decision.

• No ultimatums. You should, however, be honest about your deadlines at other schools. If you have a deadline at School X, you can politely let School Y know that because you are so interested in School Y, it would be extremely helpful to have all of the information about financial aid available before School X’s deadline so that you can make a fully informed decision.

• Often, if a student really wants to be at a certain school, the law school wants to make that happen for you, particularly if money is the only hurdle. If a school is truly your first choice and money is the only thing holding you back, tell them. They can’t always make it work, but usually like to try.