What Should I Major in Before Law School?

Getting into law school is competitive, especially if you’re aiming for a top-tier school. To make yourself the strongest candidate possible, you may be wondering about the best major for law school.

However, there’s no single path to law school admissions nor one best pre-law major; law students typically have a variety of academic backgrounds. Choosing a major that will equip you with the skills to succeed in law school — as well as help you earn good grades — is more important than selecting a specific pre-law field.

As you consider what undergrad degree to pursue for law school, read on for some help making your decision, including what are the most popular majors among law school students..

Do Law Schools Really Care About Your Major?

While law schools care about your GPA and LSAT scores, they don’t require you to study a specific major as a student. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), students from almost every academic discipline are admitted to law school.

According to the ABA, you may choose to major in subjects that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy, political science, economics or business. Another option is to focus your undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music, science and mathematics, computer science, engineering, nursing or education, if that’s what appeals to you.

Law schools want to see that you’ve challenged yourself as an undergraduate student. They also may appreciate relevant professional experience that you gained from an internship or job following graduation.


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How Should You Choose Your Pre-Law Major?

Rather than choosing a specific pre-law major, pursue a course of study that you find both interesting and challenging. Taking a range of difficult courses can prepare you for law school and help you develop skills you’ll need as a lawyer.

According to the ABA, some core skills to prioritize developing prior to law school include:

•   Problem solving

•   Critical reading

•   Research, writing, and editing

•   Oral communication and listening

•   Organization

•   Relationship building and collaboration.

By honing these skills through your courses, extracurriculars, and professional experiences, you’ll become a stronger candidate for applying to law school. Having some background knowledge and exposure to the law can also be helpful in your quest for law school admission. You might be able to gain this knowledge from legal courses, an internship, or post-graduation work.

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What Are the Most Popular Majors of Law School Applicants?

While there’s no single best major for getting into law school, some majors are popular among students accepted to law school. Here are some of the most popular pre-law majors, based on 2023 data from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

Top 10 Most Popular Pre-Law Majors

Here’s a look at the college major choices that many prospective law school students pursue:

1.    Economics: In 2023, 3,149 economics majors applied to law school, and 80% succeeded in getting in. As an economics major, you’ll likely study the global economic conditions that often play a major role in legal policy and reform.

2.    History: Among the 2,763 history majors who applied to law school in the 2023 enrollment year, 79.7% were accepted. Majoring in history can help give you the background knowledge, research experience, and writing skills that are helpful for law school.

3.    Philosophy: More than three-quarters (77.9%) of the 2,454 philosophy majors who applied to law school were admitted. Whether you focus on ethics, political philosophy, or another area, you’ll gain analytical, argumentation, logic, and communication skills that will benefit you as a future lawyer.

4.    English: English majors also tend to have a good shot of getting into law school. In total, 2,688 English degree holders applied, and 76.6% were admitted. The writing, editing, research, and communication skills you hone as an English major can be useful for the study and practice of law.

5.    Finance: About 76% of the 1,735 finance majors who applied to law school got it in. As a finance major, you might study business economics, accounting, and other related topics.

6.    Political Science: Political science is one of the most popular majors among law school applicants, as 13,659 political science majors applied to law school. Of that group, 75.3% were admitted. Studying political theory and system of government can help prepare you for a career in any specialty of the law.

7.    Psychology: Psychology majors also had a high acceptance rate at 72.9% out of 4,153 applicants. Studying human behavior can be helpful in many types of law.

8.    Arts and Humanities: Among the 2,493 arts and humanities majors who applied to law school, 72.3% were accepted. This large category could include a number of specialties, such as music, art, literature, and languages.

9.    Communications: If you want to study public speaking, journalism, public relations, or another communications field, you may be glad to find out that 69% of the 1,634 communications majors who applied to law school got in.

10.    Sociology: Rounding out the list of popular pre-law majors is sociology, or the study of social theory, policy, religion, human behavior, and related topics. According to the LSAC, 2,007 sociology majors applied to law school and 68.8% gained acceptance.



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Is Pre-Law a Major?

Pre-law is not a major at some schools, but you may work with a pre-law advisor as an undergraduate student. If you’re interested in going to law school, a pre-law advisor can help you select courses that will teach you about law. They might also have suggestions for paid or unpaid internships and other ways to expose yourself to the legal profession.

If your school does offer a pre-law major, your schedule might involve courses on law and other classes that build your analytical, reasoning, research, and writing skills. However, if you are in another program, you don’t necessarily have to rush to switch majors.

Choosing a challenging major that you enjoy, while also cultivating the skills that will help you succeed in law school, may be a better option than a pre-law major.

Recommended: Basics of Student Loans

The Takeaway

If you’re interested in pursuing a law career, there’s no single college major that you have to choose, since admissions officers accept students from a wide range of academic backgrounds. It can be wise to pick a major that you find interesting and that will also develop skills and knowledge that will help you succeed as you continue your studies.

Along with planning your academic journey, you might start thinking about the best way to finance law school. Grants, scholarships, federal financial aid, and private student loans can help you cover your cost of attendance.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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What Is the Best Pre-Med Major?

If you think biology or chemistry is the best college major if you want to attend medical school, that’s not necessarily true. Getting into medical school is highly competitive, but you can typically choose any undergraduate major, as long as you meet medical school prerequisites.

The best pre-med major is whichever one aligns with your interests, goals, and aptitudes. It should also be one that won’t stand in the way of earning good grades, as a high GPA will improve your chances of getting accepted to medical school.

Here’s a closer look at the best majors for pre-med students so you can pick the field of study that’s the best fit for you.

What Is the Best Pre-Med Major?

The term pre-med indicates that you plan to apply to medical school after you earn your bachelor’s degree, but it doesn’t require a specific major. Instead, it means taking the necessary medical school prerequisite courses, such as biology and chemistry. Some points to consider:

•   As long as you take those courses, you can major in any field of study, from biology to political science to English. Of course, choosing a major in the sciences can make it easier to fulfill your prerequisite course load. Plus, science courses may equip you with the concepts, vocabulary, and knowledge that will help you do well on the MCAT, the medical school admissions test, and in medical school in the future.

•   If, however, you know you’ll be devoting the rest of your life to the medical field, you may prefer to explore other interests in college, such as the humanities or math. Having a degree in a non-sciences field could also potentially help you stand out among the pool of applicants to medical school, especially if it equips you with a unique perspective or experiences.

Here’s a perspective to consider: In an article for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Dr. Leila Amiri, Assistant Dean of Admissions & Recruitment at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, writes, “You don’t have to be a science major to apply to medical school … Medical schools want students who are authentic with genuine interests, so it’s best to major in what you want, not what you think they want.”


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Best Pre-Med Major Based on Matriculation Rate

When considering the best majors for medical school, one statistic you can look at is matriculation rate. This lets you know, of incoming students with various majors, how many enrolled as a student. Here’s how the data breaks down by undergraduate major.

Major

Total Applicants

Total Matriculants

Matriculation Rate

Biological Sciences 30,054 13,050 43%
Humanities 1,661 861 52%
Math and Statistics 344 180 52%
Other 9,064 3,767 42%
Physical Sciences 4,228 2,094 50%
Social Sciences 4,844 2,065 43%
Specialized Health Sciences 2,382 964 40%

As you can see, humanities and math majors have the highest matriculation rates into medical school, while specialized health sciences majors have the lowest. This data doesn’t necessarily mean that humanities and math are the best pre-med majors, though.

There are a lot fewer humanities and math majors applying to medical school in the first place, which could suggest that those who do apply are highly motivated to study for the MCAT and accept admission.

By contrast, health sciences students have various fields open to them and may choose to go to nursing school or another alternative program rather than enrolling in medical school. The cost of medical school and the length and rigor of the program can mean it’s not for everyone.

For these reasons, you may find that the best major for med school is the one that you find most motivating and satisfying.

Recommended: The Basics of Student Loans

Best Pre-Med Major Based on Graduation Rate

Although the AAMC doesn’t share data on graduation rates by pre-med majors, it does reveal that the four-year graduation rate among all medical school students ranges from 81.7% to 84.1%. Six years after matriculating into medical school, the average graduation rate is 96% for non-dual degree MD students.

It’s worth considering how your choice of a major as a pre-med student will impact your chances of graduating on time. The medical school curriculum is science-based and will require you to understand scientific terms and use them in a sophisticated way in papers, projects, and exams.

If you choose a non-sciences undergraduate major, make sure to get up to speed on scientific concepts and terminology through your prerequisite courses, preparation for the MCAT, and other outside studies and experiences. While some sciences could seem like the best major for pre-med, they aren’t the only possibility.

Best Pre-Med Major Based on GPA and MCAt

Your GPA and MCAT play a major role in your chances of admission to medical school. Choosing a concentration where you can get good grades, then, may be a top priority when considering good majors for applying to a graduate school pre-med program.

According to AAMC data, math and statistics majors have the highest average GPA at 3.69. They also score highly on the MCAT, with an average total score of 511.9 (total MCAT scores range from 472 to 528).

Biological sciences and humanities majors follow close behind, with an average GPA of 3.65. Humanities majors beat out biological sciences majors in terms of MCAT scores, with an average score of 509 as compared to 506.3.

As with the other data points in this guide, remember that correlation does not equal causation. In other words, a math or humanities major doesn’t necessarily prepare you to score higher on the MCAT.

Since there are a lot fewer math and humanities applicants to medical school, this group may be more self-selecting and represent some of the most academically strong students. At the same time, this data should reassure you that choosing a non-sciences major won’t necessarily be a roadblock on your journey to medical school.

Major

Total MCAT Score

GPA

Biological Sciences 506.3 3.65
Humanities 509.0 3.65
Math and Statistics 511.9 3.69
Other 505.1 3.64
Physical Sciences 509.5 3.67
Social Sciences 505.8 3.59
Specialized Health Sciences 503.3 3.62



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Best Pre-Med Major Based on Number of Applicants

In the 2023 to 2024 school year, 52,577 students applied to medical school, according to the AAMC. Here’s how many of those students majored in the biological sciences, humanities, social sciences, and other majors.

Major

Total Applicants

Percentage of Total Applicants

Biological Sciences 30,054 57%
Humanities 1,661 3%
Math and Statistics 344 <1%
Other 9,064 17%
Physical Sciences 4,228 8%
Social Sciences 4,844 9%
Specialized Health Sciences 2,382 5%

As you can see, more than half of applicants to medical school majored in the biological sciences. Majoring in biology can help you meet your prerequisite course load, as well as prepare you for the types of classes you’ll be taking in medical school.

However, majoring in biology isn’t required, and choosing an alternative major could help you stand out among applicants. When choosing a major, whether you’re aiming for a B.A. or a B.S., consider what will best prepare you to meet your future goals, and commit yourself to earning a strong GPA and MCAT score.

Recommended: Private Student Loan Guide

Takeaway

Are there best majors for med school? While the majority of medical school applicants (57%) major in the biological sciences, that’s not required to get into medical school. While you may have to take some science class prerequisites as an undergraduate, your choice of major is entirely up to you.

As the data shows, choosing a non-science major isn’t necessarily an obstacle, as humanities and math majors had some of the highest GPAs and MCAT scores among all medical school applicants.

When choosing your college major, consider your personal interests and aptitudes, and work closely with your advisor to make sure you’re fulfilling all your major and pre-med requirements.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Much Has College Tuition Outpaced Inflation?

How Much Has College Tuition Outpaced Inflation?

College tuition inflation since 1980 has been rising. In fact, widely cited statistics have consistently shown college tuition rising faster than inflation.

It’s no secret: College tuition is on the rise, and it has been for years. According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2021-2022 academic year, tuition and fees costs at undergraduate institutions were:

•   $9,700 at public institutions

•   $17,800 at private for-profit institutions

•   $38,800 at private nonprofit institutions

Between 2008-2009 and 2018-2019, costs rose 28% at public institutions and 19% at private nonprofit institutions. However, the costs for private for-profit institutions have reduced 6% in 2018-2019 compared to 2008-2009.

In comparison, public institutions cost $9,100 in 2010-2011, private for-profit was $19,400, and nonprofit institutions cost $34,000 in the same year, according to NCES , a subagency of the U.S. Department of Education.

Why has college tuition outpaced inflation, anyway? We’ll walk you through a complete guide to understanding college tuition vs inflation and the reasons college tuition has outpaced inflation over time.

What Is the College Tuition Inflation Rate?

First of all, inflation refers to a decrease in how much individuals can purchase with their money, based on increases in the prices of goods and services. According to Macrotrends, the general U.S. inflation rate for 2022 was 8%. Inflation peaked at 13.55% in 1980, at its highest levels since 1960.

Each college has its own tuition rate increase per year, so to get an accurate measure of an individual college’s tuition inflation rate, you can use the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) inflation rate calculator to calculate the current inflation of college tuition rate for each institution based on previous tuition costs.

Ultimately, the average cost of tuition has increased nearly 180% over the past 20 years, even after accounting for inflation.

How Does Inflation Affect College Tuition?

When the cost of goods goes up, colleges and universities offset the increased cost of operating by increasing tuition costs.

The Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), which measures the price changes of items that allow universities to stay afloat, doesn’t align exactly with the Consumer Price Index, which refers to what consumers pay for goods.

It can be difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison between rising tuition at colleges and universities and changes in inflation because the HEPI is affected by more than just the cost of goods. For example, administrators, professors, financial aid professionals, admission counselors, and others also require salary increases on top of the miscellaneous expenses associated with keeping college and university facilities running.

Why Is the Cost of College Rising?

There are other reasons that cause tuition, room, board, and fees to increase from year to year. In the next section, let’s explore the reasons that it becomes more expensive to run a school. We’ll discuss state funding availability, demand, and financial aid.

Less State Funding

Declining state funding has influenced tuition costs at state universities as health care and pensions increase for state employees.

As a direct result of the last two economic recessions, education appropriations remain 6% and 14.6% below 2008 and 2001 levels, respectively, according to the 2022 State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report produced by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO).

However, state funding for financial aid has increased steadily for two decades. State and local funding reached $100 billion for higher education for the first time in fiscal 2019.

More Demand

As demand rises, costs increase as well. More than five million more students attended U.S. colleges in 2017 than in 2000, though between fall 2010 and fall 2021, total undergraduate enrollment decreased by 15% (from 18.1 million to 15.4 million students), according to the most recent data from NCES.

Despite recent statistics, it’s still evident that the demand for higher education has continued to increase over the past few decades. The dependence on a highly skilled workforce and growing wage differences between college and high school graduates means more students choose to attend college and drive up the demand for higher education. Higher education prices must increase in response to a growing student population.

More Federal Aid

The 1987 Bennett hypothesis (named after President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, William Bennett), stated that colleges will raise tuition when financial aid increases, especially subsidized federal loans that offer low interest rates. In other words, the theory was that colleges can raise prices because federal financial aid will cover the excess costs and students can offset the cost increase with federal student loans.

Is the Bennett hypothesis still a worry today?

The New York Federal Reserve compiled a 2015 study that supports that finding. It found that student credit expansion of the past fifteen years has risen with college and university tuition.

Why Has College Tuition Outpaced Inflation?

It’s not easy to pinpoint one single reason for the rise in college tuition — you might be quick to blame governments that face deep deficits and cannot subsidize the full costs of higher education. However, the truth is that the costs of outpaced inflation are multifaceted.

Colleges often attempt to raise tuition to appear competitive with similar institutions, increasing costs across the board. University presidents also face enrollment demands and increases in HEPI also inflate budgets. That’s why high school students, together with their families, may want to carefully plan for the costs of attending a particular institution.

Some options for students who are looking into financing their education might include finding work during the summer, applying for financial aid, or looking into payment tuition plans.

College Tuition Inflation Since 1985

According to data from the NCES, since 1985 the average college tuition at all institutions has increased nearly $20,000 from $4,885 to $24,623 during the 2018-2019 school year. That number is even higher when considering the cost of attending a four-year institution, which in 1985 was $5,504 and during the 2018-2019 school year increased to $28,123

College Tuition vs Inflation

The increase in college tuition and fees have outpaced the rise of inflation for decades. According to Forbes, the cost of attending a four-year college or university during the 2021-2022 school year was increasing at double the rate of inflation. The cost of attending a two-year community college is increasing a third faster than the rate of inflation.

However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has changed slightly. From the 2020-2021 school year and the 2021-2022 school year, tuition and fees increased by about 0.6% on average, while overall prices in the U.S. increased by 3.2%, according to Bloomberg based on data from the BLS.

The Takeaway

College tuition has increased dramatically — increasing by nearly 180% in the past 20 years. The reasons for such an rise in tuition can be attributed to a variety of factors including less state funding, an increase in demand, and even an increase in the amount of federal aid awarded.

Despite the seeming downsides to inflation and college costs, SoFi can offer some major perks to help you pay for school with our private student loans. Note because private student loans don’t offer the same benefits as federal student loans (like income-driven repayment options), private student loans are generally considered only after students have carefully reviewed all other sources of funding and financial aid.

But, if private student loans seem like an option, you can check your rates and apply in minutes and easily add a cosigner if you so choose.* Borrowers can choose from four flexible repayment options and there are no fees.

Get a quote for a private student loan in just a few minutes.

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Low-Income Student Loans: Financial Aid Options

Guide to Low-Income Student Loans

With the average annual cost of college now $36,435, figuring out how to pay for college as a low-income student can be daunting. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that students from low-income backgrounds often qualify for grants and scholarships (which you don’t have to pay back), as well as student loans.

Federal student loans are available to all college students, regardless of income, and don’t require a credit check. If you still have gaps in funding after tapping financial aid and federal loans, you may also be able to qualify for private student loans, even with a low income.

Read on to learn more about the financial aid options available to you if you qualify as a low-income student and how to apply for student loans.

What Are Student Loans?

Student loans are an often-used option to help pay for college. In fact, nearly 52% of students who complete their undergraduate programs take out federal loans at some point during their college years, according to the Education Data Initiative.

Student loans can be used to pay for tuition, room and board, and other fees, as well as other associated costs of college like books and rent.

Students can use either federal or private student loans to pay for college. Students who take out federal student loans borrow money from the government, through the U.S. Department of Education. Federal student loans typically offer low, fixed interest rates and other benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and access to forgiveness programs.

Private student loans, by contrast, are available from banks, credit unions, and other private lenders. These lenders set their own interest rates and conditions for their student loans. To qualify for a private student loan, you need to fill out an application and disclose personal financial information, such as your income and credit score.

Since students typically don’t have well-established credit histories, many private student loans require a cosigner. A cosigner is someone who agrees to pay back the loan if the primary borrower is unable to do so. Because private student loans don’t offer the same borrower protections that come with federal student loans, you generally only want to consider them after you’ve depleted all of your federal student aid options.


💡 Quick Tip: You’ll make no payments on some private student loans for six months after graduation.

Can You Get Student Loans With a Low Income?

Yes, you can get student loans if you have a low income. If you can’t cover the full cost of college with scholarships and grants, student loans can help you take care of the remaining costs of college.

You can access federal student loans no matter your income level, but you do need to meet specific qualifications. You must:

•   Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalency, such as a GED, or have completed a state-approved home-school high school education.

•   Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen

•   Have a valid Social Security Number

•   Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college

You may also be able to qualify for some private student loans if you have a low income (more on that below).

Recommended: Finding Free Money for College

Low-Income Financial Aid Options

Students and their families pay for college in a variety of ways, including savings, scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans. Indeed, paying for college often looks like a puzzle — all the pieces fit together in different ways to make everything “fit.”

Here’s a look at how to access low-income student aid options.

FAFSA

Every student (whether they’re low-income students or not) can file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the free form you can fill out to apply for financial aid for undergraduate or graduate school, and is one of the most important steps students and their families can take to pay for college.

In conjunction with the school you plan to attend, the FAFSA determines your eligibility for need-based and non-need-based financial aid. The FAFSA results determine the amounts you receive for federal grants, scholarships, work-study, and/or federal student loans. In addition to subsidized federal student loan (which are need-based) and unsubsidized federal student loans (which are not need-based), there are two other types of federal aid low-income students may qualify for based on the FAFSA:

•   Federal grants Students who demonstrate financial need may qualify for federal grants, which you do not need to pay back. Some examples of federal grants include Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants. Each grant has its own eligibility requirements. Some, like the TEACH Grant, even have requirements you must fulfill after you attend school. Look at each grant’s eligibility requirements to determine whether you qualify.

•   Work-study Colleges and universities offer part-time work-study opportunities through the Federal Work-Study program. Graduate and undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need can get it whether they are part- or full-time students, as long as your school participates in the Federal Work-Study Program.

How Do You File the FAFSA?

Typically, the FAFSA becomes available on October 1 for the following academic year. The 2024-2025 academic year, however, is an exception. Due to upcoming changes to the FAFSA (and some adjustments to how student aid will be calculated), the application will be available some time in December 2023.

Since some aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s a good idea to complete the FAFSA as soon after its release as possible. Here’s how:

1.    Create your Federal Student Aid ID, also called an FSA ID. You can do this in advance of getting your materials ready and filing the FAFSA.

2.    Make a list of schools you’d like to attend. You can add up to 20 schools on the 2024-2025 FAFSA.

3.    Gather financial documents you’ll need. You’ll need information for both yourself and your parents, such as your Social Security numbers, Alien Registration numbers (if you’re not a U.S. citizen), most recent federal income tax return, W-2s, details of any untaxed income you’ve received, current bank statements, records of any investments you have.

4.    Complete the FAFSA. Using your FSA ID, log in to the website, read the directions, and submit your information.

5.    Review your FAFSA Submission Summary to make sure your information looks correct. The FAFSA Submission Summary, formerly known as the Student Aid Report (SAR), is a document that summarizes the information you provided when filling out the FAFSA. It includes your Student Aid Index (SAI), previously called Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Colleges and universities receive your SAI to determine your eligibility for federal and nonfederal student aid.

Federal Pell Grant

Your SAI will determine your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant, so you have to file the FAFSA in order to qualify.

Undergraduate students who qualify for a Federal Pell Grant must show exceptional financial need. These grants are usually reserved only for undergraduate students, though some students enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might qualify.

How much can you receive from a Pell Grant? The amount varies, depending on your SAI, the cost of attendance of your school, whether you are a part-time or full-time student, and whether you will attend for a full academic year or not. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-2024 academic year is $7,395. (The amount for 2024-2025 has not been announced yet.)

Scholarships for Low-Income Students

Colleges and universities may offer need-based scholarships. The money is yours to use for education — you do not need to pay it back. The results of the FAFSA help colleges and universities determine your eligibility for need-based scholarships and scholarships for low-income students.

You can also find need-based scholarships through employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofit organizations, religious groups, and professional and/or social organizations. There are a number of online scholarship search tools that can help you find scholarships you might qualify for.

Student Loans for Low-Income Families

As mentioned above, you can tap into either federal or private student loans for low-income students. Here’s a closer look at both.

Federal Student Loans

Based on the results of the FAFSA, you may qualify for a few types of federal student loans. Subsidized federal loans are need-based, while unsubsidized federal student loans are available to all students regardless of income or financial need.

Here’s a quick overview of three main types of federal loans:

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans can go to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. They are not need-based but you are responsible for paying all interest, which begins accruing as soon as the loan is dispersed.

•   Direct Subsidized Loans are for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The government pays the interest on these loans while you’re in school, during any deferment, and during the six-month grace period after you graduate.

•   Direct Plus Loans are available for graduate or professional students or parents of undergraduate students and are not need-based or subsidized. Borrowers must undergo a credit check to look for adverse events, but eligibility does not depend on your credit scores.

Private Student Loans

Federal student loans don’t fully cover the cost of attendance for many students, and some students may consider tapping into private student loans as well.

Private lenders set their own requirements, however, and some students may find it challenging to qualify for a private loan if they have:

•   Little to no income

•   A negative credit history

•   A bankruptcy on file

•   A low credit score

How do you get around these issues? You may need to get a job while in school to prove you have some income. You may also want to work on building your credit before you apply for a private student loan. While you may be able to qualify with low income and low credit, you may make up for it by paying more in interest.

Another way to qualify for a private student loan with a low income and/or poor (or limited) credit is to apply with a cosigner. A student loan cosigner is a creditworthy adult who signs for a loan along with you. It’s a legally binding agreement stating that they’re willing to share the responsibility of repaying the loan on time and in full. Many borrowers turn to a family member for cosigning.

How to Apply for Student Loans

How to apply for student loans will differ depending on whether you are interested in federal or private student loans.

To apply for federal student loans, the first step is to fill out the FAFSA. Once you’ve filed the FAFSA, you basically sit back and wait to see what the school you’re planning to attend will offer you in federal aid, which may include a mix of grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. Your school will tell you how to accept all or a part of the loan.

Before you receive your loan funds, you will be required to complete entrance counseling, a tool to ensure you understand your obligation to repay the loan, and also sign a Master Promissory Note, agreeing to the terms of the loan.

Applying for private student loans involves directly going to a lender website or simply talking to your college or university’s financial aid office. Many institutions put together what they call “preferred lenders.”

Even if your school makes it easy for you to apply for a private student loan, it’s a good idea to do your research outside of the preferred lender list to find low interest rates and compare interest rate types (fixed or variable), repayment schedules, and fees. You want to find the terms and conditions that best fit your needs.

As you are researching private student loans, you’ll want to make sure that you (or your cosigner) meets the requirements to qualify for the loan.


💡 Quick Tip: Federal student loans carry an origination or processing fee (1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans first disbursed from Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2024). The fee is subtracted from your loan amount, which is why the amount disbursed is less than the amount you borrowed. That said, some private student loan lenders don’t charge an origination fee.

The Takeaway

Even if you’re a low-income student, you can access student loans. To find out what federal student loans you are eligible for, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA. As a low-income student, you may qualify for subsidized federal student loans, which won’t accrue any interest while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate. This makes them more affordable than unsubsidized federal student loans and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

What qualifies as a low-income student?

The U.S. Department of Education defines a low-income student as an individual whose family’s taxable income for the preceding year did not exceed 150% of the poverty income level established by the Census Bureau. For example, a student from a family of four living in the contiguous U.S. with a household income of $45,000 or less is considered low-income.

Do low-income students get free college?

Some low-income students are able to go to college for free through financial aid or merit scholarships. But even without a full ride, low income students can often pay for college through a combination of scholarships, grants, and loans.

Does FAFSA help low-income students?

Yes. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, gives low-income students access to financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and federal student loans.


Photo credit: iStock/Souda

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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What Is the Dean’s List?

What Is the Dean’s List? Typical Dean’s List Requirements & Benefits

The dean’s list is a list of undergraduate students recognized for outstanding academic achievement in a given semester, quarter, or year. Each college and university has different dean’s list requirements, but students who finish the term with a high grade point average (GPA) and are in the top percentile of their class for academic performance can earn a spot on the dean’s list.

Not only is having the dean’s list award on your transcript a remarkable personal achievement, but it could also make a big impact on grad school admissions and future employers.

Dean’s List Meaning

The dean’s list is a scholarly award for undergraduate students who achieved high scholastic standing during the academic year. The award is released after each semester, quarter, or academic year and is typically based on a student’s GPA. However, specific dean’s list requirements will vary by institution and can change each term.

Dean’s List Requirements

Dean’s list requirements vary by college and can change each term, but there are typical conditions that a student must meet. To meet basic dean’s list requirements, students must:

•   Meet the minimum GPA requirements set by the school.

•   Be in the top percentile of their class for academic achievement.

•   Be taking a minimum number of credit hours. Most schools require students to be enrolled full-time, but some schools may include part-time students in the dean’s list.

•   Have zero incompletes, no shows, or late grades.

What GPA Is Needed to Make the Dean’s List?

While schools may base eligibility for the dean’s list on the student’s GPA, the award is comparative rather than absolute. The award is only given to the top percentile of students rather than everyone who earns a certain GPA. This means that the required GPA can change each semester based on the academic performance of the student body.

Students can strive for a GPA of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale and be taking a minimum of 12 credit hours, but this may be different depending on your school and your degree program. Check with your school to determine the minimum GPA requirement to make the dean’s list.

Recommended: How Much Does GPA Matter When Applying to College?

What Is the Benefit of Being on the Dean’s List?

Earning a spot on the dean’s list is one of the highest levels of recognition for academic achievement. Students who earn the award can enjoy a variety of benefits that can continue throughout their educational career and beyond.

Personal Achievement

Making it onto the dean’s list requires academic commitment and dedication. Being on the dean’s list means you’ve ranked in the top percentile amongst your peers, which will be noted on your school record and should be seen as a great personal achievement.

Prestige

Having your name on the dean’s list, especially for multiple terms, is one way to help you stand out from the crowd. The dean’s list award is a testament to your academic success and has traditionally been looked upon favorably by the school’s administration as well as by other students.

Recognition

Some schools recognize students who made it onto the dean’s list by posting students’ names on the school website and sometimes local publications. Outstanding academic performance can also help you build relationships with your professors, who may be able to write letters of recommendation and references later on.

Special Events

Because your GPA is ranked among the top of your class, you might receive invitations to special events. These are typically networking events with top company executives. Networking can allow you to form connections with other people in your field of study and open the door to possible employment opportunities.

Attract Prospective Employers

Some colleges may include your dean’s list award on your school transcript, and you can also attract potential employers by mentioning this award on your resume. However, employment website Indeed doesn’t recommend adding this achievement to your resume if you were only on the dean’s list for one or two semesters or inconsistently.

Even if you don’t include the dean’s list on your resume, prospective employers may still consider your GPA when making hiring decisions. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2022 Spring Update report, 43.5% of employers screen by GPA when making interviewing and hiring decisions.

Scholarships

While being on the dean’s list doesn’t guarantee any financial aid, a high GPA could make you eligible for merit scholarships. Merit-based scholarships typically use your GPA, test scores, leadership capabilities, and other factors to determine your eligibility.

Are There Any Student Loan Benefits When Getting on the Dean’s List?

There usually aren’t any financial perks for getting on the dean’s list with federal student loans or most private lenders. Some private lenders may offer a reward for a certain GPA, but most lenders typically only consider your GPA if it’s too low.

Your GPA could affect your eligibility for other types of financial aid, like scholarships and grants, though. You’re required to make Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) to meet the basic eligibility criteria for certain types of financial aid. A higher GPA also makes it easier for you to receive more financial aid.


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

What Other Academic Awards Can You Earn in College?

The dean’s list isn’t the only academic award that you can earn in college. There are several other awards that are given to students in recognition of outstanding achievement and as a means to further encourage academic excellence. Here are a few academic awards for college students.

The Honors List

The honors list is similar to the dean’s list; however, it may have different GPA requirements — usually lower. For example, students may be eligible for a spot on the dean’s list if their GPA is 3.5 or higher, while students on the honors list have a GPA between 3.25 and 3.5.

The President’s List

Undergraduate students earn the president’s list award if they get straight A’s in college and earn a 4.0 GPA. Part-time and full-time students may be eligible for this award.

The Chancellor’s List

At schools that offer this award, the chancellor’s list is typically ranked slightly higher than the dean’s list. Both full-time and part-time undergraduate students may usually qualify for the chancellor’s list.

Ways to Pay for College

If you’re aiming to see your name on the dean’s list, financial stress can hinder your ability to succeed academically. According to Inside Higher Ed, 48% of students who experienced financial challenges while in school admitted they had difficulties focusing on their academics.

Luckily, there are options out there for prospective and current students who are struggling with how to pay for college. Here are a few options:

•   Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to see if you qualify for financial aid. Make sure to read our FAFSA Guide and fill this out as soon as possible because many colleges award money on a first-come, first-served basis.

•   Search for scholarships, which are a form of merit aid to help pay for tuition and other education expenses. There are thousands of available scholarships to students with some even offering a full-ride to a four-year institution.

•   Apply for grants. Grants are another form of financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. Students can apply for federal, state, or school grants.

•   Find a work-study position. The federal work-study program offers funds for part-time employment to help college students in financial need.

•   Look at student loans. If you are still struggling to afford school-related expenses after exhausting all other forms of financial aid, there are a variety of federal and private student loan options to help.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

The Takeaway

Students who make the dean’s list are recognized for outstanding academic achievement. Benefits include personal achievement, prestige, public recognition, the opportunity to attend special events, being granted scholarships, and standing out on job applications.

And, students who are less stressed financially tend to do better in school. Options for paying for college include scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

What GPA is required to get on the dean’s list?

The minimum GPA for the dean’s list varies by school and it can change every term. However, most schools require at least a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

What does it mean when you get on the dean’s list?

What it means to be on the dean’s list is that you’ve ranked in the top percentile of your class. The dean’s list is one of the highest levels of recognition for scholarly achievement.

What is the benefit of being on the dean’s list?

Earning a spot on the dean’s list comes with several benefits. Not only is it a prestigious award and a significant personal achievement, but you could be invited to special events, network with others in your field of study, and attract prospective employers.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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