Getting a legal education can be notoriously expensive, leading many aspiring lawyers to seek out diverse sources of financial aid for law school. Some of the most common types of financial aid for law school include government loans, private loans, work-study programs, and scholarships. Many students try to maximize their non-repayable financial aid resources, such as scholarships, to help defray the total cost of attending law school.
Government loans are some of the most popular and accessible forms of financial aid for law school. Many of these loans are based primarily on a combination of financial need and the cost of attendance at a particular law school. Many government loan programs also allow students to borrow additional sums to cover basic necessities, such as housing, food, books, and transportation. To apply for government loan programs, students in the United States need to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, usually in the spring.
In addition to government loans, private loans from banks and other financial institutions are sometimes available for law students. These loans are typically awarded based on credit history, and are thus less accessible than public loans. Students may be able to have a parent or guardian with a high income or excellent credit rating co-sign a private loan, though this can make the co-signer responsible for the debt if the student defaults.
Work-study programs are offered by some law students to help meet tuition costs and provide living expenses. These programs allow students to work at an on-campus location, such as a library, in return for wages that can be applied to tuition or simply issued at wages. Work-study jobs may be preferable to outside employment because they allow flexible hours, a convenient location, and reduced work around finals and other examinations. This type of financial aid for law school can be a good way to fill in any expense gaps not covered by loans or scholarships.
Scholarships are awards given by individual schools or private foundations to help finance the education of certain students. Scholarships may be given out based on a wide variety of criteria, including area of study, ethnicity, individual merit, past school performance, or financial need, and scholarships are one of the most desirable forms of financial aid for law school, since they do not need to be repaid. Many scholarship opportunities are offered to students in all disciplines, so a law student may be able to win scholarships based on writing, volunteer work, family background, or any number of other qualifications.