Pre-Law: Paying for Law School
Paying for the Next Three Years
Law school is expensive. Many people finance law school through loans, and on the positive side, loans are widely available.
Keep in mind that paying them back may not be so fun, however. More than one graduate has found themselves limited in the types of jobs they could consider, given the debt they need to service. Keep this in mind when choosing a school in the first instance: where do you want to be in five years? In ten years? Will your debt give you the freedom to make the choices you want? I can not stress this enough: you must ask yourself whether your dream school is worth the added debt.
In terms of learning more about financial aid, the best sources we can direct you to are on the web. Explore websites of law schools you would like to attend. This is the best place to start: see their website, talk to them. Usually they will have some monies available for scholarships or grants; this money is usually reserved for the most attractive candidates (high LSATs, in my experience). Thus, there might be some strategy to considering applying “down” instead of “up” — rather than asking “Will my dream school let me in with this score?” consider asking “Is there a school I would like to attend that would reward this score?”
LSAC on Financial Aid
The LSAC has a thorough discussion of financial aid; they are one of the main sources for the material that you see here.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
If you want Federal financial aid (in the form of loan guarantees, for instance), you will need to fill out the FAFSA forms. These should be available through the Student Financial Aid Office in McClain Hall, or on the web at www.fafsa.ed.gov/. The aid is need based, and will require that you have access to a lot of information about your financial condition.
Students can obtain up to $18,500 through the Federal Stafford and Ford Loan Program, which includes both subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. Up to $8,500 of this may be subsidized, depending on your financial status. The FAFSA will be important in determining your need.
There is also Federal Work Study money available at some, but not all, law schools.
Federal programs change almost annually, and not all schools participate in all programs. Thus, for good information, contact the school you want to attend.
The Access Group administers a program that takes the hassles out of borrowing money for law school. They are a good place to start in considering loans.
This is a private resource that helps students find financial aid. Finally, don’t feel compelled to enter law school as a full time student directly out of college. The following are alternatives:
- Evening divisions. You may want to earn your degree at night and work during the day. Many schools offer excellent evening divisions such as Georgetown, George Washington University, and Fordham University.
- Deferred admissions. Most law schools admit students for a particular entry time. However, some allow you to defer admission for good cause. Contact each school, after admission, to find out about deferral.
- Time out. Not everyone wants to go through seven years of higher education without a break. Don’t be afraid to take some time off. It won’t hurt, and could help. Working between college and law school can indicate motivation and maturity. You may also be more refreshed and ready for the grind.