A law school education can exceed $150,000. If you finance your law school education with loans and graduate with $80,000 of debt, the monthly payment on your loan(s) for a 10-year repayment plan will be about $1,000 per month. Thus, it is very important for many applicants to begin early to identify sources of financial aid.
There are three basic sources to look into: the law schools themselves, government loans and independent (or private) loans.
- Law school websites: The first place to begin is with the law school's financial aid section of their website or the school's office of financial aid. Financial aid regulations change and law school financial aid offices are the most up-to-date sources of information.
- LSAC: The Law School Admissions Council site is an excellent website for financial aid information. On this site you will find information on FAFSA and guidelines for applying for financial aid step-by-step.
- FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a need-analysis form developed by the U.S. Department of Education. (You MAY NOT submit the form prior to 1 January of any year, but have it completed and ready to mail or submit online right after the new year.)
- Grants, scholarships and work-study: Grants and scholarships provided by law schools are generally based on need. Work-study opportunities are also often available; however considering the academic demands, first-year students are discouraged from working. The financial aid programs of schools vary and deadlines often come early. Therefore, information regarding such opportunities should be gathered early on in the application process.
- Fee waivers: LSAT, CAS, and law school application fee waivers are available to the truly needy. For LSAT/CAS fee waivers, go to the LSAC website for waiver forms. If an application fee waiver is sought, it should be requested from all schools applied to. Such requests do not affect admissions prospects. When considering fee waivers, many law schools like to receive a supporting statement from an undergraduate financial aid officer. In pursuing any waivers, start early and plan ahead.
Points to consider:
- Timing: If you anticipate wanting or needing financial aid, start looking into it early.
- Budget: Make a realistic budget for yourself including food, rent, insurance, books, transportation, educational expenses and beyond.
- Documentation: Keep a copy of everything you submit to various lending institutions and agencies.