Santa Clara University

Pre-law

Financing Your Legal Education

As noted previously, the cost of attending law school is quite high and variable. About 75% of law school students rely on educational loans as their primary source of financial aid. It is very important that you have a good credit history; failure to pay your financial obligations in a prompt and timely manner while an undergraduate at SCU may seriously jeopardize your eligibility for law school loans. Although scholarships, grants, and fellowships are available, they are quite limited and are usually awarded by the law schools themselves. The first step in applying for financial aid for law school is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available at the financial aid office at SCU or the law school to which you are applying. For complete information on financing your law school education, contact the financial aid office at the individual law school(s) to which you apply. Read more advice on financing law school below, and visit these helpful pre-law sites from Fordham University and the University of Virginia.

  • Begin your research at LSAC's overview of financial aid, and then contact or visit the website of your prospective law school's financial aid office.
  • Maintain your grades in law school. Often schools require that you maintain a specified GPA to renew merit-based and even need-based scholarships.  Remember that many law schools have mandatory grading curves for first year and bar courses and that you'll be facing stiffer competition on law school for high grades.
  • It is generally recommended law students, especially 1Ls, work limited hours (i.e., part time) during the academic year.
  • There are two main sources, other than your personal funds, of funding available to you: loans (federal, institutional, and private) and scholarships (institutional and private).
  • There are also two federal assistance programs: the Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Program (Federal LRAP) and the Federal Work-Study Program (FWS). Law schools also offer institutional loan repayment assistance to graduates working in the public sector.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online, in order to qualify for federal loans and the FWS. Law students are eligible to receive the Stafford loan (subsidized or unsubsidized), the Perkins loan, and the GradPLUS loan.  Due to constraints on the federal budget, be aware that federal loan programs might change dramatically and suddenly.
  • Contact the financial aid offices from the schools to which you're applying to find out what kind of financial aid they offer and when they notify accepted students of their aid package. Your personalized financial aid package may be sent to you with your offer of admission or later. Keep in mind that your correspondence and submissions during the application process will not only affect whether or not you are admitted, but also determine the size of your financial aid package. Your LSAT score and undergrad GPA will also affect your package.
  • Research scholarships online.  Even in small amounts, scholarships add up and can be earned on all sorts of criteria, from ethnicity and religion to area of specialization.
  • Many ethnic and religious groups offer low-cost or interest-free loans to their members.
  • Treat private loans from banking and lending institutions as your last resort, as interest rates tend to be high.
  • For an estimated cost of your total law school education, use this cost calculator from Admissions Dean. Calculations take into account schools' tuition and living expenses most recently reported to LSAC.
  • LSAC also offers guidance in this recent video, "Paying for Law School," featuring a lecture by LSAC educational consultant Jeffrey E. Hanson, Ph.D. All topics regarding law school financing are covered, including loans, scholarships, federal aid, student expense budgets, and resources for further research. 

Sources

http://www.career.virginia.edu/prelaw/financing.php

http://www.lsac.org/jd/finance/financial-aid-overview.asp

http://www.lsac.org/jd/Choose/Canadian/financinglegaled.asp

http://law.nd.edu/admissions-and-financial-aid/financing-your-legal-education/

http://www.ehow.com/how_2139757_finance-law-school.html

http://www.clarku.edu/departments/prelaw/financing.cfm