Make Applying to Outside Law School Scholarships a Habit

Make Applying to Outside Law School Scholarships a HabitThis week we hear from current law student and guest writer Tiffany Gee Ching Lo about how to approach applications to law school scholarships.

It is no secret that attending law school is a massive financial undertaking. While many schools provide need and merit-based scholarships, most students still need to pay a large sum of tuition and living expenses. As a student, I feel this pressure acutely, as do many of my classmates. During the summer before starting law school, I was curious to see whether there were scholarships I could apply for. I started with a simple google search, but quickly ended up with tens and tens of tiny tabs in my browser. I realized that many law firms and legal organizations offer awards ranging anywhere from $100 to $30,000, averaging at $2,000-$2,500. Many scholarships are recurring on an annual or semesterly basis. There were so many opportunities that I created a document to store all the hyperlinks and to organize them. I now call this list my money maker.

I applied to dozens of scholarships that summer, and it paid off. I lightened my financial load by about $15,000 from receiving 3 scholarships. I was pleasantly surprised. Admittedly at the time, I was unsettled by the thought of spending all this time and effort without a certain result. I now realize that while each application was a high-risk high-reward endeavor, I diversified the risk by sending many. There was no secret, just persistence and hard work.

Here are my tips for finding and applying to scholarships:

1. Use law schools’ scholarships website

Chances are high that your school website has an online section listing outside scholarship opportunities. You can also google other law schools for a similar webpage. From there, open up those hyperlinks and skim the scholarship description to see if you are eligible to apply.

2. Google is your friend

Just a few google searches will bring up all you need to start applying, from scholarship databases to websites of organizations that support law students with financial assistance. Go down those rabbit holes, and your browser will soon be filled with tiny tabs.

3. Look for eligibility requirements that relate to your unique identity and interests

Some scholarships have specific eligibility requirements based on geography, diversity, or legal practice areas. If you satisfy these requirements, you should definitely consider prioritizing this application. The number of applicants is most likely smaller than that of other scholarships, especially those open to all law school students, and even college and high school students.

4. Create a document, spreadsheet, or a list as a tracking tool

Create your personal repository of scholarship opportunities someplace you can easily access. Organize it in the most user-friendly way for you. I have a section for upcoming scholarships, another section containing scholarship applications I have submitted (it is very satisfying to watch this grow), and a section of scholarships that are recurring opportunities. The upcoming scholarships are organized by chronological order of the deadlines. I also star or highlight opportunities that ask for an essay topic that I am excited about. Making this list colorful is a big motivator for me.

I add to my list often, by repeating tips 1 and 2.

5. Reuse materials

Most scholarships require a piece of writing. You will start to notice, as I did, that the essay prompt for many scholarships are similar, if not exactly the same. “Why law?” is a popular question, as is “what do you want to do with your legal education?” Firms specializing in areas such as personal injury or criminal defense often ask about issues related to their work, such as criminal justice reform or ways to address poor driving. Sometimes the essay is open-ended – you can write whatever you want.

So, do not be afraid to reuse your past work. Find a personal statement or analytical essay that fits the prompt, make some changes, and send it off.

6. Submit a scholarship video

Some applications require a short video, often asking you to introduce yourself or explain a substantive issue. Other applications provide this as an alternative to the written essay. This is a great chance to express your personality on camera rather than on paper. You can also get creative with animation and sound effects, making it a fun study break.

7. Get the easy applications out of the way

It can take only 10 minutes, or even less, to apply to a scholarship, especially when you have all the necessary documents sitting in your computer. When I come across a new scholarship with a quick application, even if the deadline is months away, I will send in my materials then and there. With minimal work, I have increased my chances for a scholarship award.

8. Do not shy away from the more labor-intensive applications

Some applications require more: multiple statements, a long essay with citations, a legal memo responsive to a hypothetical case, and letters from recommenders. Do not reflexively decide against applying. A more complex application likely means fewer applicants and less competition. Of course, you should consider carefully whether you have enough time to create a well-researched and reasoned piece of writing, or to secure your recommenders. A good rule of thumb is to weigh whether the scholarship award is worth the extra work needed to craft a good application.

9. Follow the instructions

You should make an initial quick pass to assess your eligibility and to understand the application’s requirements. Once you decide to apply, read the instructions closely! You may be told not to send any questions to the firm’s email, or to stay within certain word limits. Failing to adhere to the rules sends a big red flag. Do not disqualify yourself this way!

10. Create reminders or calendar alerts

Whatever system you use to record your tasks and commitments, incorporate scholarships into it! I usually create a calendar event named “scholarships due on [date],” around one to two days before the application deadline. This way, no opportunities are missed.

Now, go forth and apply. Best of luck!


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About Tiffany Gee Ching Lo

Tiffany Gee Ching Lo is a student at Stanford Law School. She spent her 1L year at the New York University School of Law, where she was involved with Alternative Breaks, Women of Color Collective, and Law Revue, and worked as research assistant. Tiffany received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, graduating magna cum laude with double majors in Political Science and Rhetoric. Tiffany developed an interest in the law from a young age, and have worked in law firms and courthouses in Hong Kong–where she grew up, around the San Francisco Bay Area, and in New York. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys painting, playing the piano and cello, trying out new recipes, and watching late night talk shows.

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