So, you’ve been accepted to law school — congrats! You’re well on your way to embarking on a career that could help you fight for others’ rights and further the public good.
These are all laudable motivations, but chances are there’s something stronger weighing on you: How to pay for law school? There are a variety of law school scholarships available to help students finance their way to the courtroom.
The Average Cost of Law School
U.S. News & World Report notes that the average annual cost of a public, out-of-state law school is $42,754, or $29,610 for in-state. For private law schools, the average is $53,034. Because students aren’t yet racking up those billable attorney hours, it can be helpful to research law school scholarship opportunities before applying.
Types of Law School Scholarships
Per the numbers mentioned above, there might be a fair amount of sticker shock for those who haven’t yet applied for graduate school and are only thinking of someday going the lawyer route. (Here’s SoFi’s guide on how to apply to law school.) Fortunately, there are a range of options for aspiring attorneys seeking to fund law school.
Full-Ride Tuition Law School Scholarships
In some cases, there are full-ride tuition scholarships and need-based grants out there. Full-rides, of course, are not available at all law schools. If a law school doesn’t explicitly advertise or highlight information regarding full-ride opportunities, interested students can contact the school to ask.
Students deciding whether to apply to law school may want to familiarize themselves with the language universities adopt to explain these scholarships. In some cases, specific scholarships are designated for particular students. Full-ride law school scholarships can be highly competitive — with some schools offering as few as two to four per enrollment year. One potential tip for the search for scholarships is to target law schools with more tuition help.
General Law School Scholarships
There are lots of options for law-school hopefuls to find potential scholarships. The nonprofit organization Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has compiled a list of the many law school scholarships available to applicants.
From the LSAC’s list, the Attorney Ken Nugent Legal Scholarship ($5,000) and the BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change the World” Scholarship ($10,000) are worth pinning, due to the sizable chunk of change they offer.
Many law schools themselves offer competitive scholarships to attract stronger candidates. It might be helpful to check if a school also offers in-state residents specific tuition reductions or grants — especially true, if the applicant is considering a public school in their home state.
Law School Scholarships from Law Firms
Similarly, some law firms offer scholarships. Usually applying is a straightforward process: Some may require a short essay, a transcript, and sometimes references to be considered. One such law firm scholarship is offered by The Dominguez Firm, which offers $2,500 annually to a student applicant.
On top of this, there’s the rising trend of law firms helping new hires to repay a portion of their student debt once onboarded.
Diversity Law School Scholarships
Some scholarships are awarded to students with diverse backgrounds. One example of this is the Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund offered by the American Bar Association. This scholarship is awarded to law students from a racial or ethnically diverse background.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund also offers a scholarship for diverse students.
Law School for Women
Some scholarships require candidates to be women. One example of this is the American Association of University Women Selected Professions Fellowship. The fellowship offers a maximum grant of $25,000.
Finding Scholarships for Law School
There are dedicated resources like Fastweb and SoFi’s scholarship search tool to help prospective students find scholarships for which they may qualify. Fastweb is an online resource to help students find scholarships, financial aid, and even part-time jobs in support of college degrees.
The American Bar Association’s law-student division also has a running list (along with deadlines) of law student awards and scholarships. Additionally, the Law School Admission Council offers a list of diversity scholarships available to students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Here’s another guide on unclaimed scholarship money.
Another resource that could be useful in factoring living expenses is this student loan calculator for aspiring law school students. Tools like this can, usually, auto-load the tuition and cost-of-living breakdowns for specific law schools. From here, it’s possible then to compare how much degrees from particular schools may end up costing.
Recommended: Applying to Graduate School: Smart Tips & Strategies
Negotiating Wiggle Room
Doing all this research and the math around law school scholarships could put applicants in a more informed position when evaluating which program to attend — and, potentially, help them to identify schools more likely to be interested in their application.
A reality of today’s admissions process for law school is negotiating scholarships. Some schools have a strict policy against negotiating, but others fully expect their initial offer to be countered. That’s why it can help to save acceptance letters and anything in writing from schools that offer admission.
Suggestions for Negotiating Law School Scholarship Offers
Offer letters could be shared with competing schools, asking if they’re able to match another university’s aid. It might be uncomfortable asking for more tuition assistance upfront, but a little discomfort now could help applicants shoulder less law school debt later on. If arguing a position makes an applicant uncomfortable, it might be worth pondering whether to become a lawyer.
Doing research on law schools (and figuring out the likely cost-of-living expenses at each institution) could help applicants to determine which scores or grades to aim for in an effort to make law school more affordable for them. Tabulating expenses (and having them on hand) may also demonstrate to universities that the amounts being negotiated are based on well-documented expenses.
Federal vs Private Loans for Law School
Students wanting to apply to law school could consider the differences between federal and private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits not guaranteed by private ones (such as, forbearance or income-driven repayment).
Private loans — like SoFi’s — can also help applicants to cover the expense of graduate school. So, it might be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of both federal and private student loan options for law school.
For example, Direct PLUS loans for grads charge 7.54% in disbursement fees for the 2022-2023 academic year. SoFi Graduate Student Loans, by comparison, have no fees whatsoever — not even late or overdraft fees. Another great resource in understanding federal loans can be found over at studentaid.gov.
It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same benefits and protections afforded to federal student loan borrowers, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If a law school applicant is interested eventually in becoming a public defender or pursuing non-profit legal work, forgiveness and forbearance perks may play a role in their decision.
In addition to the financial aid resources mentioned above, more information can be found in SoFi’s private student loan guide. Those interested in figuring out how to pay for law school may want to check out SoFi’s competitive-rate private law school loans.
Students looking to offset law school costs with scholarships can look to their law school, scholarship databases, local law firms and other organizations for resources. Consider contacting the financial aid office at your law school if you are looking for scholarship resources. If students interested in law school find themselves coming up short on funds for the JD after scholarships or federal aid, additional options may be available.
Some might seek out a student loan from a private lender, to name one possibility. SoFi’s private loans for law school offer competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and access to member benefits.
You can check your rates in just three minutes to see if a SoFi Law School Loan might help you pursue that dream of becoming a lawyer.
What LSAT score will get me a scholarship?
One general rule of thumb is that students who have a LSAT score (and sometimes GPA) above the median for a certain school. Chances of qualifying for a scholarship are even greater if your score falls in the 75th percentile for the school.
What is a good scholarship for law school?
Any scholarship for law school is a good scholarship. Scholarships typically don’t need to be repaid and can help reduce a student’s debt burden. Students looking for law school scholarships can apply for institutional aid and aid through other sources like nonprofit organizations.
Do top law schools give scholarships?
While some top law schools do not offer scholarships, many law schools do offer law school scholarships to students. For example, in the 2021-2022 class at Yale, 76% of students qualified for some form of financial aid and 64% qualified for an institutional law school scholarship. Check in directly with the schools you are interested in to see if they offer scholarships to students.
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