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A Crash Course in Financial Aid for Law School: Part 1

Published February 1, 2018

Financial Aid in law school can often be a misnomer. Here are the basic things you need to know to make educated decisions when planning how to finance your law school education.

Is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) required for law school?

Yes. If you plan on taking out Federal loans, qualifying for work-study (while it still exists), or being considered for need-based aid, the FAFSA is something you will have to live with for another three years of law school.

Do law schools offer financial aid?

In order to answer this question, it is important to define “financial aid”. According to the New York State Financial Aid Administrators Association (NYSFAAA), Financial Aid is any grant or scholarship, loan, or paid employment offered to help a student meet his/her college expenses. Such aid is usually provided by various sources such as federal and state agencies, colleges, high schools, foundations, and corporations. The amount of financial aid that a student receives is determined through federal, state and institutional guidelines. 

I typically hear questions from prospective law students about whether their current income or financial situation will be taken into consideration when determining their tuition cost, similar to how it might have been when they were attending their undergraduate institution. How your aid is determined depends on which law schools you are applying to. It is important to do your research ahead of time to know what aid options you have.

Need-based Aid

The type of aid that is given to students with proven financial need. Private schools typically have the resources to provide need-based aid at the law school level. 

Merit-based Aid

The type of aid that is given to students with strong LSAT and GPA’s, typically falling at or above that particular law school’s median numbers. This is more common in law school admissions. The aid may be in the form of scholarships or grants that you wouldn’t have to repay. However, it is important that you understand the terms of your aid to ensure you are able to keep it throughout law school.

Can you get scholarships to law school?

Scholarships are available in many forms in law school. Within the law school, there are usually opportunities to apply to scholarships endowed by alumni or other law school affiliates. External organizations such as law firms and bar associations also offer scholarships that are advertised to law schools or usually are posted online. These competitive scholarships evaluate candidates on different criteria. For example, if you are offered a partial merit-based scholarship but still have financial need, you can apply to a competitive scholarship that takes into consideration factors that are unique to you. There are scholarships that are specifically for veterans, single mothers, first generation graduate students, non-traditional students, etc. 

The bottom line with scholarships is to do your research, invest some time in whatever they require, and hopefully you will win one (or two, or five!). They certainly are worth the time, especially if they mean potentially accumulating less debt overall in law school.  

Are student loans available for law school?

They are! The topic of student loans is enough information for its own blog post, so stay tuned for more!

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Amber Melvin, Esq.'13 is the Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator for the Office of Admissions.


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University at Buffalo School of Law
309 O'Brian Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260