How to Pay for Law School
- Aug 29, 2019
- Law School, Law School Debt
Alright, strap in. Today we’re going to talk about how to pay for law school. Waitwait, come back. Get a fortifying beverage, because we need to talk.
Law school isn’t going to pay for itself. So how are we, the prospective law students, supposed to deal with the terrifying dollar signs that float ominously in the corners of rooms, casting cold shadows and humming with portents of financial doom (or is that just me…)? Let’s, uh … let’s look at some options.
I’m not gonna lie, this topic is a bummer. So to help break the tension, I’m going to try to keep things interesting by sprinkling some non-standard tips* (in green) for financing law school every couple paragraphs, okay? Okay.
This topic is huge. We’ve written about it before. We’ll write about it again. For now, we’re going to go through a bit of a greatest hits approach.
Alternative financing method break #1:
• Come into a massive trust fund. No, a bigger one than that.
• Become a wildly charismatic cult leader.
Before jumping into how to pay for law school, let’s talk about how much your legal education will actually cost. There are a number of ways to try to figure this out, but a loan calculator is going to make the math much easier. A loan calculator will help you tally up any current student loans (including interest), cost of attendance, tuition and fees, and living expenses. A good loan calculator will also let you factor in some of the more “hidden” costs of law school, like books, parking and transportation, and prep classes for the bar exam.
When considering the total cost of law school, it’s important to consider the value you will be getting in return. Make sure the payoff is worth the cost – do some research on expected starting salaries and job placement rates.
Take a deep breath. All right. Now that you have a clearer idea of the amount of money that your law school journey might cost, let’s start looking at how to pay for it.
Alternative financing break #2:
• Marry a dean of a law school. No guarantees, but it’s worth a shot.
• Actually, just marry rich! Surely there’s some nouveau riche dilettante somewhere who’d love to have a bright, idealistic up-and-coming future lawyer as a spouse. Surely.
When it comes to financing law school, there are three main avenues for exploration:
1: Grants and scholarships — money that you don’t have to pay back.
2: Federal student aid — remember your friend from undergrad, the FAFSA?
3: Private loans — buyer beware, this is the danger zone
Order is important here. Not all financing options are created equal, and some have more sting on the back end than others. LSAC has information about all of the above financial aid options at their website. Aren’t they thoughtful.
Alternative financing break #3:
• Convince the American Bar Association that your living room actually houses a law school that should be accredited, c’mon, guys, be cool.
• Sell that $160,000 yacht that’s been sitting out in the garage gathering dust for years.
Step 1: Grants and Scholarships
Starting with the first. The best kind of money you can get is the kind that’s (more or less) free. Applying for grants and scholarships, while somewhat time-intensive, is the financial aid option that’s least likely to land you in any debt. There are different types of grants and scholarships, including need-based and merit-based financial aid. Consult with a financial aid adviser to see if you qualify for a need-based grant or need-based scholarship.
There are dozens of places to look for legal scholarships, but LSAC is a good place to start your search. Yale Law also has a decent starter list. And, of course, any school you apply to will likely have some information about scholarships particular to their program. Check with your school’s financial aid office if you have any specific financial aid questions.
Once you’ve applied to a school, start filling out scholarship applications ASAP. Even if you don’t ultimately decide to attend, having a fuller idea of the amount of money involved can only help your decision making process. Be sure to check a wide variety of scholarships to see if you’re eligible for financial aid.
Alternative financing break #4:
• Avocado toast. Statistically speaking, you’re probably a millennial. You can turn avocado toast into cash, right?
• Commit truly ridiculous amounts of credit card fraud.
Step 2: Federal Student Aid – Federal Loans
After you’ve looked through your options for money that doesn’t have to be paid back, it’s time to look at loans. Politics aside, federal loans are still your safest bet when it comes to borrowing money. Remember filling out the FAFSA when you applied for undergrad? I hope so, because you’re gonna want to do it again for law school! There are some helpful guides — not to mention LSAC — that’ll help walk you through the process in case it’s been a few years since you last did the paperwork.
Federal loans come with some benefits that private loans don’t necessarily cover, like fixed interest rates and deferred payment. Federal loans are also more likely to be covered by loan forgiveness programs.
After filling out the FAFSA, you’ll have a better idea of the federal, state, and school financial aid that you qualify for. Different types of options include federal direct loans (previously known as Stafford Loans) and direct graduate PLUS loans. Based on the FAFSA, you might also qualify for school-based loans, scholarships, or federal work-study programs as well as state aid (depending on your state’s financial aid policies.)
Alternative financing break #5:
• Pull a Walter White. I’ve only seen the first episode, but I’m assuming it worked out well.
• Just straight-up rob a bank. Construct an elaborate heist scenario and rob a bank.
Step 3: Private Loans
And if grants, scholarships, federal loans, federal work-study, and your own savings don’t cover the full cost of your legal education, then you can turn to the private sector. Private loans tend to be more expensive, but sometimes it’s a choice between going to law school and taking a private loan or passing on law school. That’s a choice that only you can make. Study up and pick your loans carefully.
Private loans can help you pay for any additional costs including your law school tuition, living expenses, and other expensive fees. These loans are based on credit and are available through a bank or credit union with fixed or variable interest rates.
*Note: Blueprint does not officially endorse any of these alternative methods. Unofficially? What are you, a cop? Still no.
Final Words of Advice:
Dealing with law school admissions is tough, and paying for law school is definitely another challenge that most law school students eventually face. Before you get mixed up with law school student debt, explore all of your financial aid options including law school loans, law school scholarships and law school grants. There are also different loan repayment plans including an extended repayment plan and an income-based repayment plan. Additionally, make sure to check out the thousands of scholarships that law school students may be eligible for.
Doing extensive research and having a repayment plan and strategy planned out beforehand can help the process seem more approachable. Best of luck! We here at Blueprint are rooting for you.
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