Sunday, May 15, 2011

Students can avoid the "scholarship scam" through due diligence

Remember that New York Times article a few weeks ago suggesting that law schools deceive applicants by awarding more merit scholarships than they know students can keep due to a grading curve that assures some recipients won't pass muster (here, here and here)? Here's an editorial laying blame at the feet of students for not doing their due diligence beforehand. From the National Jurist:

Virtually all law schools, with rare exception, use a standard bell curve in their 1L grading system. Schools set the median GPA ahead of time, and in different places. Some as low as 2.0, some as high 3.4. (The average median, or mean median if you will, is a 2.95 on a 4.0 scale – slightly below a B.) To be painstakingly obvious, 50 percent of students will be above the bell of the curve, 50 percent below. But here’s a key point that often falls in the “yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that” category: by virtue of gaining acceptance to your law school, every one of your classmates is equally as qualified as you to be there. You – and they – will be entering into a new realm of academia, with new challenges, new assignments, new exams and new requisite study techniques. At the end of the semester, 50 percent of all 1L students will be at or below the bell in the curve. If your school has a 1L grading curve with a median set at a 2.5, and you required a 3.0 to maintain your scholarship, understand your “odds” are going to be steep. Law schools aren’t trying to be tricky. They just know they’ll be able to offer a lot more scholarship awards and only need to pay out X percent of them on a continual basis through years two and three.
. . . .

[W]hile law schools must be responsible when offering hefty merit-based scholarships to applicants (the American Bar Association is actually discussing new rules right now,) responsibility is a two-way street. Aspiring law school students themselves have to ask the tough questions – a skill they will need as successful lawyers anyway.

· Is this scholarship guaranteed every year?
· If not, what does it depend on?
· What is the median GPA for students in your 1L class?
· What percentage of your students maintain their scholarships for 2L and 3L?

And let me tell you – schools will gladly give you the answers, if you ask the right questions. Handicap your law school list on a number of metrics – this being one of them – and you’ll be sure to end up a winner at the end of your 1L year.

You can read the rest here.


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