Scholarship Deadlines: Truth is Power
Originally posted April 6, 2011.
In my last post, I referenced some law schools' practice of giving "exploding" scholarship offers, requiring students to accept a major, full-tuition scholarship offer within a matter of days. Well, as usual, we've been inundated in the past few days with panicked applicants with these offers, who have not yet heard from us and are for some reason under the impression that by accepting such a scholarship, they will need to withdraw their applications from Yale.
Now I am sure it has not been any law school's intention to mislead you, but this is where you can start honing your lawyerly skills by carefully reading what your offer says and doesn't say. You see, believe it or not, as law applicants you have some rights, of sorts. Specifically, the Law School Admission Council publishes a Statement of Good Admission and Financial Aid Practices, by which all member schools agree to abide. If you read the Statement carefully, you will see that item number 6 under "Application Procedures" states the following:
After April 1, except under binding early decision plans, every accepted applicant should be free to accept a new offer from a law school even though a scholarship has been accepted, a deposit has been paid, or a committment [sic] has been made to another school. To provide applicants with an uncoerced choice among various law schools, no excessive nonrefundable deposit should be required solely to maintain a place in the class. (Emphasis added.)
What that means, 203 readers, is that you may accept a scholarship offer -- even one that requires you to place a deposit, sign a contract, or make some other symbolic gesture of commitment -- and still keep active any applications at schools from which you have not yet received a decision. Further, if you subsequently receive an offer from one of these other law schools, you may accept that offer, any prior commitments notwithstanding.
I will add that my understanding of this portion of the Statement is that it extends to offers made off the wait list. That is, if you are placed on a wait list at a law school, you may remain on that school's wait list even if you have deposited or accepted a scholarship somewhere else -- because a wait list decision is neither an offer nor a rejection, it's effectively a "no decision." If at any point you are offered a spot off the waitlist, that would be a "new offer" that you are free to accept -- again, notwithstanding any scholarships you might have accepted at another law school.
I hope that this will help those of you facing some difficult choices as a result of not having heard from us yet. We are expecting to have all (initial) offers of admission finalized this week, so a few more people will be hearing from us shortly!
UPDATE: For more on reading the fine print in scholarship offers, check out this New York Times article by David Segal: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?pagewanted=1