It’s time to talk dollars…you’ve worked hard to submit your admissions application. Now it’s time to concentrate on your financial aid application. There are two categories of financial aid: scholarships and loans.
Scholarships are "free money" that you do not need to repay. Some schools may require you to submit forms to be considered for scholarships; other will not. Be sure to verify the process for every school to which you’re applying. For many schools, you will not need to apply for scholarships. Once you are accepted to that law school, the Admissions Committee automatically reviews your application for scholarship potential. Generally, scholarships are merit based. Scholarship amounts vary from school to school.
I suggest that you research other scholarship avenues such as your church or synagogue, and organizations including the Hellenic Bar Association, the Justinian Society of Lawyers, the Hispanic Lawyers Association, the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, and the American Bar Association, just to name a few. Check out each school’s website as it may include a listing of other potential sources. Search online for foundations that may provide scholarship support, as well as websites providing scholarship opportunities. It will take effort on your part and will be worth it.
Applying for loans is a much more intensive process. I strongly recommend applying for financial aid right after the first of the year. Do not, and I repeat, do not wait to be accepted to a law school before applying for financial aid. Your goal should be to complete your financial aid application before you’ve been accepted so that you will receive a financial aid award letter before your first deposit is required. If you wait to apply for financial aid, you may need to place your first deposit without knowing your financial aid status.
The first step is to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, to the U.S. Department of Education. I encourage you to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. FAFSA applications can be found at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. You can also pick up a hard copy of the FAFSA in the law school’s Financial Aid Office.
Some schools may require an additional form called the Need Access Form which can be found at http://www.needaccess.org.
Each law school’s website has a section on Financial Aid with complete instructions in applying for aid. The financial aid process varies from school to school; do not assume the process at one school is the same for another.
Also review the Law School Admission Council website (www.lsac.org). Click on "Financing Law School" on the home page.
Start now…and good luck.