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How to Get Law School Scholarships & Avoid Drowning in Debt

Published February 7, 2019

It costs a lot to become a lawyer. On average, public law schools charge between $26,000 and $40,000 a year, depending on whether you’re paying in-state or out-of-state tuition. Private schools average around $43,000 but can go as high as $65,000+. So your tuition and fees can run well into six figures over the course of a three-year JD.

If you want to go to law school without repaying loans for years afterward, you should be looking for scholarships and grants. There are many options to lower your law school costs, but you need to get started early and follow some best practices.

Step 1: Figure out what scholarships and grants are available
Step 2: Do your application homework
Step 3: Practice the LSAT

Step 1: Figure out what scholarships and grants are available

This might be the most important part of getting out of law school with minimal debt. There are plenty of opportunities for grants and scholarships out there, so spend some time looking around. Potential sources of funding, among many more online, include:

1. Scholarships from law schools.

Your chances of getting at least a partial ride from the law school you’re planning to attend go up with your showing on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and your previous academic record. That’s why these prizes are called merit scholarships. They’re based on your achievements alone rather than your financial situation.

Most of the time, you apply for a merit scholarship when you apply for admission. So you need to get your application in as early as possible. The number of law school scholarships of this kind is limited.

2. Endowments.

Universities often have endowed scholarships for law students set up by donors. These awards can be pretty specific, so you’ll probably have to submit a statement geared toward why you should receive a particular scholarship.

3. External scholarships.

Businesses and law firms often offer financial assistance to students, and the awards aren’t necessarily tied to a specific school. However, they might be restricted to a particular population—veterans, perhaps.

4. Local scholarships.

Take a look at local service organizations and nonprofits with an interest in helping students with their education expenses. The award amounts might not be huge, but they can still be helpful in reducing the financial burden.

5. Federal grants and loans.

You might have to come up with a way to pay loans back when you’re out of school. The grants—well, they’re grants. Free money. You can find the information you need from the U.S. Department of Education.

Step 2: Do your application homework

If you slap a few words on a page for your application essay (for law school OR scholarships), you’re going to get exactly what you give.

To get the admissions officers on your side, spend some (translates to “a lot of”) quality time polishing your admissions essay. Spend equal time on your scholarship or grant essays, and make sure all the other application materials are at peak potency.

Also, make sure your FAFSA is complete and submitted as soon as your school will take it.

Step 3: Practice the LSAT or GRE

With the resources available today, there’s no reason to go into the LSAT cold. So take the time to take advantage of test prep. In fact, treat it like a job, something you’ll get paid to do—because you will in the long run, possibly with a full scholarship.

Check out these Last-Minute LSAT Study Tips if you’re taking it soon.

Some schools now also accept the GRE as a law school qualifying exam, make sure to put the same amount of effort studying for the GRE because high marks are just as important.

Timing and effort are critical to receiving the financial help you need to get the most out of law school and come out with as little debt as possible. Make sure you start well before it’s time to apply, and allocate plenty of hours to work on achieving the best outcome possible.

A rewarding law school experience (and minimizing your debt) are certainly worth the work.

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