Law School is Expensive, Not Impossible: How to Navigate Student Aid

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Please welcome Matt Lenhard, Co-Founder at LendEDU. LendEDU is a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinancing. Today he is sharing the different ways to pay for your law school education. 

Welcome, Matt!

College is expensive. Law school is more expensive. Keeping up with the rising costs of higher education is difficult for everyone. For future lawyers, keeping up may seem nearly impossible. According to the American Bar Association, tuition at private law schools has surged to over $40,000 a year. Getting that J.D. is certainly expensive but doable if you know where to look. There are plenty of financial aid options available for future lawyers. I’d like to highlight four choices to consider if you find yourself short on your tuition bill.

Federal Student Loans

Student loans are a huge problem in the United States. A $1.2 trillion problem in fact. That being said, student loans are a powerful tool when used responsibly. You should start your search for funding by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid also know as the FAFSA. You must file the FAFSA to be considered for federal financial aid from the Department of Education. The Department of Education offers a number of packages including grants and student loans.

Everyone qualifies for some amount of federal student aid. Law students are eligible to receive $20,500 in unsubsidized student loans each year. Unsubsidized federal student loans for graduates have fixed interest rates set at 5.84% this year. Because the loan is unsubsidized, you should know that interest will accrue while you are in school. If you’ve already used federal student loans for undergraduate studies, you should know that there is a $138,000 aggregate limit on federal student loan aid.

Private Student Loans

If federal financial aid isn’t enough, you can consider private student loans as a way to pay for law school. Private student loans are issued by private student loan lenders, not the Department of Education. Due to this fact, private student loans are issued on the basis of creditworthiness. These days, there are plenty of private student loan lenders on the market. In general, private student loans will have higher interest rates than federal student loans.

Private student loan rates start at 2% for ultra-qualified applicants and range up to 12% for risky borrowers. Having a cosigner will help you get approved for a private student loan and will lower your rate. About 90% of private student loan borrowers will need the help of a cosigner to get approved. So if you’ve just graduated, or have little in terms of credit history, you will probably need a cosigner. Upon graduation, you should consider refinancing your private and federal student loans to lower the cost of the debt.

Beware that private student loans will also accrue interest while you are in school. Paying your student loan interest during law school can help you save thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your loan.

Scholarships

Before borrowing to finance your J.D., look for scholarship opportunities. Most students will automatically be considered for merit-based scholarships. That being said, double check your application to see if you selected the “consider me for financial aid” checkbox. If you forgot, make sure to contact the financial aid office.

There are a number of outside scholarships opportunities too. You just need to know where to look. I can tell you that a simple Google search for “scholarships” will not do. You will find yourself in a mountain of spam on the first page. You should look for law firm scholarships and outside the box scholarship opportunities. You could also try using a scholarship search to find diamonds in the rough.

Consider Second Choice Schools

If you are lucky enough to get into a top law school congratulations! But before signing that letter of acceptance you should consider all of your options. Top law schools do give out a significant amount of merit scholarship aid. The amount of merit scholarship aid you receive is usually based on the competitiveness of your application. At top law schools the competition is fierce and the competition for merit-based aid is tough. But, have you considered applying to a second choice law school? At a less competitive law schools the competition for merit-based aid is dramatically lower. If you are a strong applicant you may receive a lot more merit-based aid at a less competitive school. Why? Well merit-based aid is a signing contract of sorts. The more competitive you are the more merit awards you will receive.

Law school is expensive. But paying for law school is not impossible if you know where to look. Look for federal student aid opportunities and scholarships. And if you need to, consider taking out a private student loan to pay for part of your cost of attendance. Lastly, consider finances when selecting your future alma mater.

Matt Lenhard is a Co-Founder at LendEDU. LendEDU is a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinancing. LendEDU helps students find the lowest student loan rates in one place. LendEDU is working to create transparency in the second largest consumer debt market. For more information about financial aid and student loans check out LendEDU’s website.

Read On:

Looking for some other articles about student loans? Check these out!

As you embark on your law school application journey, you might want to bookmark Applying to Law School 101: What You Need to Know to Succeed.

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Comments

  1. Good money management and making the best use of the aids can severely improve student’s experience. Thanks for the article, keep up the awesome blog!

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