The idea of being a lawyer is great. It’s a fantastic goal. The reality is that going to law school is tough and finding ways to pay for it can be really difficult. So, if you’re wondering how to afford law school, stick around and find out the best ways to do just that.
How To Afford Law School
Before you start applying to schools, you need to figure out if you can afford a law degree. Legal education can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Law students need to figure out as many ways as they can to decrease the expenses of legal education.
This is especially true when you consider that, ”
“…almost three-quarters of law school programs leave their typical student borrower with debt so high relative to their post-graduation earnings that they are unlikely to be able to afford to make their student loan payments,” according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
With that in mind, it is imperative that you find ways to reduce the cost of your education.
How to Pay for Law School
There are a number of ways to pay for school and to make it more affordable. You can also combine options as well to really get the cost down.
Let’s get the giant elephant sitting in the middle of the room out in the open first.
No one likes student loans.
But when it comes to financial aid, and the expense of law school, you need to give student loans some consideration even if you’d rather not.
If you go this route, you will need to fill out a FAFSA form just as you did for your undergraduate degree to be eligible for federal student loans.
This will also give you access to work-study programs and federal grants.
The upside to federal student loans is that if you obtain one, you will have access to Public Service Loan Forgiveness as well as repayment plans such as an income-driven repayment plan.
Repayment terms will be determined by the loans you receive, so you should check with your lender before taking out any loan.
The downside, of course, is that you will have a large debt to deal with once you have graduated, but for some, this may be the only way you can afford to get your degree.
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The great thing about scholarships is that you don’t have to pay them back. Any scholarship you can get will help in the long run even if it doesn’t pay your full school debt.
You will want to talk to the financial aid office at your school as this is where you will most likely find your scholarship. They will be happy to help you apply.
Although, there are additional scholarships out there. Simply google scholarships for law school, and you will find them.
Some go as high as $15,000 dollars, but the number of scholarships is limited, so don’t delay.
Look into them as quickly as possible as this is one easy way to make school more affordable and reduce your overall student loan debt.
If you have filed your FAFSA form, then you may be eligible for a work-study program. These programs are based on the needs of the student.
If you receive work-study, you will be working part-time either on campus or near campus.
Work-study funds can be used for school expenses or living expenses.
Keep in mind that some universities do not allow first-year law students who are going to school full time to be part of the work-study program or they will limit the hours you can work.
Another financial aid option is a grant.
You will need to visit your financial aid office to find out which grants are available to you and how to apply.
Most grants are based on your financial need.
Not all grants are available for law school. You may have received a Pell Grant as an undergraduate student, but they are not available for graduate degrees.
If you do receive a grant, the good news is you won’t have to pay it back under most circumstances.
The only time you might have to repay a grant is if you quit school in the middle of the term.
And, just like scholarships, this will greatly decrease your law school debt.
5. Side Hustle
There’s no getting around the fact that school will take up a great deal of your time. That means finding extra money to make it more affordable can be tough.
A full-time job is out of the question and even a part-time job can be difficult to swing.
So, what are you to do when the cost of attendance is so high?
One of my favorite ways to bring in more money is a side hustle.
There are major advantages to working for yourself.
You can decide what you want to do when you want to do it, and how much time you want to spend doing it.
If you can make extra money while you are in school, you can start paying off your student debt before you are even finished.
That means your debt load will be much smaller once you graduate and your law school loans will be partly paid off.
So, you could end up getting your law degree without drowning in debt.
There are a million different types of side hustles you can consider.
From freelance writing to selling items on eBay or used books on Amazon, there are ways to make good money and even a full-time living on your own terms when you have time.
This means no boss, no co-workers, and no rules besides the ones you make yourself.
Not to mention, you can use this extra money for living expenses while in school.
6. Private Loans
There is another option when it comes to loans and that is private loans.
A private student loan is obtained through a traditional bank, and the repayment terms will depend on where you get the loan.
You will need to have pretty good credit to get a private student loan, but the interest rates can be lower.
A private student loan will also have a different repayment option when compared to a federal student loan.
These loans are not eligible for service loan forgiveness or an income-driven repayment plan, so you want to keep that in mind before you sign on the dotted line.
And while loans are meant to be used for your tuition and fees, if there is any leftover, you can use the remainder for living expenses.
You will also need to understand the student loan refinancing options you will have with your loan and what kind of monthly payment you might be looking at.
Additional Tips for Saving Money on Law School
There are some additional ways you can save money and keep your debt to a reasonable level.
1. Don’t Borrow More Than You Need
You may find yourself in a position where you are offered a larger student loan amount than you actually need to pay your tuition and fees.
It can be tempting to take the full amount, but try not to.
If you find yourself in a position where you can’t pay your monthly bills, then you might have no other choice, but see if you can add a side hustle to come up with the extra money.
You certainly don’t want to take extra loan money and use it on a trip or some other unnecessary expense.
It might be fun at the moment, but you will be kicking yourself when you have graduated and are having trouble making your monthly payment on your loan.
2. Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
Loan repayment assistance programs, also know as LRAPs, are programs that will pay off a certain percentage of your loan debt.
You will find these programs at the state and federal level and some schools offer them as well.
Each program has its own requirements, so do talk to your school to learn more.
These programs are mostly for those entering lower-paying jobs in the legal field.
Law school graduates that end up working for public interest law, government law, and the Department of Justice may be eligible for a LARP.
You will also have to agree to work on the job for a specific number of years.
How Much Money do You Make Out of Law School?
The average salary once you graduate is $75,000 dollars.
Private practice salaries can go as low as $50,000 and as high as $190,000 dollars.
Where you live also plays a large part when it comes to salary as well.
How Hard is it to Get a Full Ride to Law School?
It is very difficult to get a full ride.
One of the best ways to make this happen is to score well over the average on your LSAT and have a very high GPA.
If you can manage this, your school may offer you a full ride.
To Sum it All Up:
Law school graduates have a great future ahead of them. That is if they can find ways to make their education a bit more affordable. With loans, grants, scholarships, and maybe a side hustle, you can do just that.