Committing to the legal profession and to law school is an investment in your future. The high cost of attending law school can intimidate many prospective students. Planning out how you will finance your legal education is just as important as the application process. Reflect on your long-term goals. Depending on where you practice and live, salaries vary widely for legal professionals. Most will incur debt from law school so it's important to understand the financial commitment and to be familiar with available financial resources before attending.
- Budget: Tuition and fees are only a portion of the cost of attending law school. Expenses such as health insurance, rent, transportation, utilities, books, food, etc. add up quickly. Having a savings plan is also important in case of emergencies.
- Citizenship: Limited resources are available to non-U.S. citizens. Most federal sources of aid (and a significant portion of school-funded aid) are available only to U.S. citizens, nationals, permanent residents, and eligible non-citizens. Seek out information from schools to learn more about aid qualifications.
- Debt: If you have debt, either from credit cards or loans (educational, automobile, etc.), aim to pay off as much of this debt as possible before you begin law school. You will likely pay more in interest if you defer payments while you are in school. Many options exist for loan repayment to fit each individual's situation. Try starting with the Personal Finance advising and resources offered by UVA's Student Financial Services.
- Credit Score: Most federal aid for law school will depend on your current credit status and having bad credit can affect your ability to access funding for school.
Sources of Funding
Every law school offers different financial aid options. Before you matriculate, set up an informal meeting with a financial aid officer at your chosen institution, as they are a great resource for general and school-specific information. Contact information for your financial aid officer can typically be found on the school’s website or through the admissions office.
Potential funding sources could include:
- Federal Loans
- Remember to complete the FAFSA the year prior to when you would attend law school!
- Private Loans
- State and Private Grants
- School-Based Aid
- You may need to submit a separate application or personal statement to apply for a specific scholarship.
- Always inquire about renewability when accepting a scholarship/funding package. Will this scholarship/funding package offer renew each year that I'm in law school? Is this scholarship/funding package a one-time award?
- While it is increasingly common for students to negotiate for funding, make sure you do so appropriately and tastefully!
- Every law school offers different financial aid options for their students. Research the policies and procedures of the schools you are considering and make sure to submit your applications on time.
- Debt prevents many law school graduates from taking low-paying public service jobs. Information on how to finance a career in the public sector can be found through Equal Justice Works, an organization dedicated to public interest law.
Helpful Resources & Websites
- UVA Student Financial Services
- SFS offers resources and advising for personal finance like student loans, budgeting, and preparing to enter the workforce
- ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund
- AccessLex Institute
- Equal Justice Works
- FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid
- Complete to ensure you can receive access to federal student loans!
- Student Loan Borrower Assistance