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Guide to Law School Financial Aid

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Regardless which school you choose to attend, the next three years will be expensive, which means you will probably need law school financial aid. In fact, depending on your school, the costs of tuition, books, study materials, and living expenses can drive the price tag for law school into six figures.

With these costs, it's not surprising that most students need financial aid for law school, which usually comes in three forms: loans, scholarships/grants, and federal college work study, discussed in more detail below.

Federal Loans

Law students may begin the process of requesting loans from the government by filing the Free Application for Student Federal Aid (FAFSA). These loans must be repaid and include:

  • Federal Stafford (subsidized and unsubsidized): fixed-rate loans offered by the federal government. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need, and you are not responsible for interest before you begin repayment or during deferment. To take out an unsubsidized Stafford loan, you do not have to show financial need, but you will be responsible for interest from loan disbursement until repayment.

    Visit Stafford Loan for Graduate Students for more information.

  • Federal Perkins: low-interest loans awarded by law schools based on need. As with Stafford subsidized loans, you are not responsible for interest before you begin repayment and during deferment.

    You can find more information at the Federal Perkins Loan Program.

  • Graduate PLUS: provided through private lenders with decisions based on credit reports, GradPLUS loans can be used to make up any difference between other federal loans and school-provided aid. Be sure to check your credit report before applying in order to clear up any potential problems. Remember that you are entitled to one free credit report per year through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Private Loans

Law school loans are also available from private lenders, including the following:

Again, be sure to get a copy of your credit report before applying.

Scholarships and Grants

Law students may also be eligible for scholarships and grants, which are often awarded on the basis of merit and/or financial need and do not have to be repaid. Law schools themselves usually offer such aid opportunities, so be sure to request information, including any school-specific applications, from each law school you are considering.

Federal College Work Study

At some law schools, you may be able to participate in the Federal Work Study program through which you can work part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer to help cover law school costs.

Remember, though, that most ABA-approved law schools prohibit law students from working during their first year, so even if the schools you’re considering participate in the program, be sure to check whether you can do so every year in order get a complete picture of your entire package of financial aid for law school.

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