Funding a law school education is not an easy feat. There are many expenses that go into attending law school such as tuition, fees, books, boarding, travel costs, and any extra expenses for organizations and extracurriculars. Also, law school typically lasts about three years for most students so all your costs are really multiplied by three. While a legal education is extremely beneficial for your future, it can be a detriment when it comes to finances.
Although each law school sets their own tuition and fees, a legal education costs upwards of $150,000. This amount can seem pretty daunting especially considering you are only allowed to work twenty hours a week while enrolled in classes. Going to law school is a large monetary decision that can be made easier with financial assistance. There are several merit-based and need-based scholarships and grants that are available to incoming and ongoing law students in order to ease the burden.
Initial Admission Merit Scholarships
Typically, law schools offer some sort of scholarship based on merit. These awards are based off your undergraduate or graduate GPA and your score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). These differ from need-based scholarships because they only take your achievements into account rather than your financial situation. Some law schools even offer scholarships to transfer law students based on their achievements at their previous law school. For these awards, you typically automatically apply for them when submitting your enrollment application. After your admittance to the law school has been confirmed, your presented information goes to an admissions scholarship board where they allocate funds to specific students based on current enrollment and the student’s qualifications.
While these awards are determined by your specific rankings, law schools have a limited number of scholarships to divvy out. Thus, it is important to apply to your intended law school early, in order to be considered for full awards based on your achievements. Most universities have a set application date in order for you to have full scholarship consideration. Overall, these scholarships are students’ best bet for ensuring their financial situation for law school. Not only is there usually no additional scholarship application, these scholarships tend to yield large awards. Some students are lucky enough to receive half or full tuition scholarships. Normally these awards are renewable as long as you maintain a certain GPA and enrollment status. To secure your merit scholarship, take your undergraduate/graduate studies seriously and work hard at achieving a high score on the LSAT.
Additional University Scholarships
On top of initial merit and transfer scholarships, most universities have other forms of financial aid such as endowed scholarships. These awards are specific to the university that are available to students that meet a certain criteria. Each scholarship is unique and provided by a distinctive donor. Since the awards vary, there are a limited number per scholarship and have a range of specific dollar amount. The qualifications for these also differ. Some scholarships are for a specific ‘grade’ level (1L, 2L, 3L), others focus on a specified legal field, and a few are even designated for a certain club or organization. Many of the endowed scholarships take financial situations into account, making some of them need-based but there are several merit-based awards as well.
In order to be considered for these scholarships, law schools usually have a scholarship application for additional awards. Each university is different, some have one application that you attach to each award you are applying for, while others require you to have a specific application for each different scholarship. However, the typically, law schools require a transcript, some sort of personal statement or essay that gears towards the specific award, and a resume. Additional university scholarships are an excellent way to get more financial aid in addition to initial merit awards. These are relatively easy to apply to but only a certain amount of students receive these scholarships.
External and Local Scholarships
While law schools offer a large amount of financial assistance for law students, there are other resources for scholarships and grants. Some law schools provide portals via their financial aid websites for other outside scholarships that could be beneficial to their students. These are considered ‘outside’ or ‘external’ because they are not directly related to the law school and are typically application-based through private resources. Many law firms and companies create a fund that is dedicated to scholarships for law students in order to ease some monetary burden. Typically, these awards require transcripts, a resume, and a small essay of some sort. These scholarships are usually community-based, meaning only a specific population can apply for them. However, these awards range in qualifications and monetary amount so it is best to look around in your law school community or website to see if there are any that are applicable for you.
Another possible option that are considered ‘external’ are local scholarships from your hometown or community. There are several resources that provide scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students assistance in achieving their degrees. These organizations range from rotary clubs to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These scholarships normally require your GPA and a small essay about your involvement with the community. Ultimately, external and local scholarships are easy to find and apply for and can be beneficial for your law school finances. Even if the amounts are small, every scholarship can assist you in easing your fiscal burden. The best way to locate these awards is to visit community websites and search for scholarship or community funds. As long as you are willing to commit the time to your scholarship shopping and applications, you will be able to successfully receive these awards.
In addition to university scholarships and external awards, there are several scholarship search engines and websites. These portals are perfect for finding specific scholarships that have a certain set of requirements. Scholarship Owl is a website that hosts portals to several awards from all disciplines. Law students can find and apply for scholarships by submitting their one application for all awards and specify their discipline. Scholarships.com is another general scholarship website that has a section dedicated to law students. After you search for specific scholarships, you can submit your application by compiling the required documents. Admission Dean has a search engine specifically geared for law students. All you have to do is fill out your background and interests, and the website will provide you a list of scholarships that you qualify for. Discover law is a website that specializes in diversity scholarships for law students. These scholarships are specifically for minorities in order to provide monetary aid to succeed in law school. The American Bar Association (ABA) also has some scholarships available for law students. The ABA has several sections and group so it is relatively easy to find a specific award that is applicable for you.
Overall, there are many scholarships that can be accessed by utilizing search engines. While these awards take more effort and time to receive, they can be very beneficial for financing your law school education. There are many scholarships and search engines out there, it is only the matter of finding the right fit for you.
While scholarships are the best form of financial aid, there are loans and grants that are awarded by the federal government to help students continue their educations. Filing a FAFSA is the first step in order to receive this aid. You must apply for FAFSA in order to receive any federal assistance. Some universities require students to apply for FAFSA to receive any of their endowed or merit-scholarships. All graduate students are considered independent from their parents when filing the FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education also provides a useful guide on federal financial aid to assist students in planning out their budgets for college. This is also useful in determining how much money you should take out in loans. While you may have to pay back some federal aid, the FAFSA is an easy application that can help you pay for the remainder of your law school fees and help you be successful in school without being stressed about finances.
Scholarships Are Out There!
Scholarships for law school are out there, as long as you are willing to take the time to search and apply for them. A legal education is a serious financial investment, so it is wise to invest the time in shopping for scholarships. Financial aid is available to all different types of students, it is just the matter of finding what fits for you. Your best option is to look what your law school has to offer and familiarize yourself with their financial aid portal. Ultimately, if you are worried about paying for your law degree, then scholarships can ease some of your stress. If you did not get a full-ride or large initial scholarship, there are several avenues to get monetary aid for your education.
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Other helpful pre-1L posts:
- Pre-1L Summer Checklist
- The People You Will Meet in Law School
- Want to Get Good Law School Grades? Become a Self-Starter
- How to Think Like a Successful Law Student
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deborah j chitester
looking specifically for law school for child welfare focus
Hi Deborah, I don’t have any specifics about that specialty but I’m sure if you look at some of lists of law school rankings there will be information on specialty focus.