The opportunity to attend law school is a special endeavor many students dream of. To gain a rigorous and empowering education that puts one on the path to working in the legal arena is desirable for many students. However, the flood of expenses and costs turns law school from a dream to a nightmare for many considering attending. Countless students are left flustered asking themselves and others, how to afford law school?
There are many options for you to make law school more affordable, including scholarships, grants, student loans, work study / side jobs and more. Of course, finding ways to save and attending a low cost law school will only help as well.
Law School is Pricey
Law school is expensive for many reasons. Because of this, potential law students need to be careful as they consider which law school to attend and even consider if going to law school is really for them. The debt from law school can be in the high tens of thousands of dollars and it is not unusual for some law school graduates to have loans and debts over a hundred thousand dollars.
Despite the large costs of law school there are many options available for students to afford the education. There are a plethora of ways how to afford law school. These options range from working, to financial aid and much more.
Related: Why is Law School So Expensive?
Scholarships are some of the best ways to pay for law school. They provide financial aid rewards that are awarded to students to help them further their education. Scholarships are financial gifts for a set amount that are not required to be paid back.
Essentially, scholarships are free funds that are provided to students to help with the costs of their studies. Scholarships can be created by different parties within and outside of a school, although most scholarships are from within schools themselves.
In order to receive a scholarship, students will need to visit their schools financial aid office or website and see what options are available for scholarships. Scholarships are not hidden, they are out in the open and available, often all that a student needs to do is just apply for them. Just because a student applies does not mean that they will be given a scholarship, as it is a competitive process and there is not enough funds to go around.
A great aspect of law school scholarships is that there is a wide variety of them available to students. There are scholarships that are merit based, need based (given out based on students financial background), and even scholarships for underrepresented groups such as minorities and women.
Grants are similar to scholarships in that they are financial aid that is not required to be paid back. The way that grants and scholarships differ is in their function. While scholarships function as financial aid for many different reasons, grant’s serve as financial aid for one reason alone. Students’ needs.
Grants are need based, meaning they are dispersed to students depending on their financial background and need. So for students who are coming from financially unstable or hard circumstances like a single parent home with that parent’s income on or below the poverty line, then they may be eligible to receive grants to help them out.
The one drawback with grants is that there are tighter restrictions on them than scholarships. A lot of grants cannot be used for law school. Most of the time grants are given out more frequently for undergraduate studies rather than post secondary education opportunities such as law school, however there are some grants available for law school.
3) Student Loans
The option that no one wants to hear, but it is an option nevertheless. Student loans are loans that are dispersed to students via federal student aid or from the private sector. Student loans, unlike the options above, must be paid back in full with interest. In order to receive student loans a borrower must first apply and then be awarded.
For the two options of student loans there is key information that potential law school students need to be aware of in order to make the best decision as to choosing their loans.
Federal Student Loans:
- Dispersed and managed by the government
- Eligible for income-driven loan repayment plans
- Sometimes eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. (PSLF)
- Federal loans Tend to have high interest rates
Private Student Loans:
- Dispersed and managed by private lenders
- NOT eligible for income driven repayment assistance
- NOT eligible for public loan forgiveness
- Depending on your credit, they can have low interest rates
Student loans are probably the easiest way to afford and pay for law school, but they are required to be paid back with interest. As you evaluate law school loans be careful in how much you borrow. Student loan debt is not something to be trifled with.
Only Take What You Need
One huge hole in the student loan process is that oftentimes the government will offer students much more aid than actually needed.
Be careful to not take out excessive loans. Remember to review the costs of the school as well as calculate the costs for your living expenses to find out how much you will need. If your loan offers you an amount that exceeds the amount you need then you are more than able and welcome to decline the excess amount and return the unused loans.
Related: Do Lawyers Get Student Loan Forgiveness?
4) Work Study
Work study is a program that schools offer to students to help them pay for their schooling in exchange for them working. The work that students do in work study is directly under the school either on or off campus.
Work study jobs are academically related, tending to be roles such as working in the library, helping professors as assistants in their research, or working in an office doing administrative tasks/work.
What makes Federal Work Study great for students is that the money students make during the program is not counted as traditional income, therefore it is not included in fafsa. If a student is working a regular job then they will have to report that income on their fafsa when applying for loans and depending on how much they make they may not be able to borrow enough money needed. But with work study students can make money to spend on school expenses while still being able to borrow funds needed.
5) Work On The Side
There are many options available for students to work on the side as they attend law school. This money made on the side can be used to pay for the high costs of a legal education.
The type of jobs students can work in law school can range from part time positions on or off camps. Some potential job options for students are:
- Work in the school library
- FInd a paid internship
- Work as a student tutor
- Find employment in a regular job outside of the university like a grocery store cashier or a barista
Remember that there is an abundance of jobs that are available for students to work either full or even part time to help pay for school. Whether it’s getting your foot in the door at a prestigious law firm through a paid internship or flipping burgers, any job that pays and allows you to get an education is fine.
Related: How to Make Money While in Law School
6) Find Ways to Save
Students will no doubt be surprised at how much money they can save by cutting out needless expenses and costs.
That late night craving to go and get ice cream…forget it! The six dollar latte’s every day on your way to class…no more! Not saying that students can’t have fun or treat themselves, but there is a great potential to save money by cutting back on things such as eating out and non-essential expenses.
A great practical way to do this is to replace expense treats with cheaper alternatives. So instead of going to a coffee shop and spending six dollars on coffee, maybe make coffee at home instead. Another option could be instead of driving everywhere, use your bike instead or take public transportation.
Another option to consider is to sit down and make a budget. By making a budget you can see where all of your money is going and if possible, plan to redirect some of it away from needless expenses and spending to more productive means like helping to pay for school. It’s hard to save and redirect your money if you are not tracking where it goes, so make sure that when you make a plan to save you also make a plan to budget as well.
Related: Do Law Schools Have Dorms?
7) Attend a Low Cost School
Nearly every school has a tool or calculator that shows how much it costs to attend for students including law school tuition, fees, room and board, etc. Compare and contrast the cost for each school to determine which school is the most cost effective for you.
Also be sure to pay attention to other factors as well such as how much aid you have and any potential scholarships you may come into. While you can still go to an expensive law school for cheap with the right amount of aid and scholarships, don’t neglect schools that have a lower tuition / overall cost of attendance.
How to Afford Law School? There are Many Options!
Make no mistake about it, law school is expensive. All students who are considering attending need to make a proper evaluation and discern if they are truly ready to take on the large financial obligation that law school presents, and think about how they can tackle it in the best way. However, as seen above, with much planning and work law school can become affordable for many students.