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How to pay for law school
Scholarships, loans and more ways to fund your JD degree.
Law school scholarships
Scholarships should be your first stop when looking to fund your law degree, since they can reduce your student debt load. Check your school’s website for scholarships available — many offer awards based on merit, work experience and diversity.
If you think you still need more funds, you might want to apply for outside scholarships, such as those listed below.
|Scholarship||Award amount||Eligibility requirements|
|The Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship||Full tuition, fees, book stipend and living allowance for three years|
|Earl Warren Scholarship||$10,000 a year for up to three years|
|Lloyd M. Johnson Jr. (LMJ) Scholarship||$10,000 for the first year of law school|
|Seize Every Opportunity (SEO) Law Scholarship||$5,000 to $10,000 per year|
|Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans||$45,000 per year for up to two years|
How to apply for law school scholarships
Many schools require you to fill out the FAFSA or CSS Profile — or both in order to be considered for institutional funding. Get these in as soon as possible to get the most out of your financial aid program.
Outside scholarship programs have separate applications, which you need to complete by the program deadline. You might be required to submit an essay and recommendations along with the application.
Law school loans
Some 75% of law students can’t pay for school without borrowing at least some money, according to the American Bar Association (ABA). You might want to look into federal student loans first. These are often less expensive than their private counterparts, since Congress sets the interest rate. They also come with more flexible repayment options and eligibility for forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
But federal loans come with borrowing limits you might reach while in law school. In that case, you might want to supplement your federal aid with a loan from a private lender. While they often have less flexible repayment options, you still might be able to qualify for partial forgiveness through a private loan repayment assistance program (LRAP).
Federal loans for law school
Law students are eligible for two types of federal loans:
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Annual limit: $20,500 per year
- Lifetime limit: $138,500
- Interest rate: 4.3%
- Loan fee: 1.059%, deducted from the loan before your school gets the funds
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are the most straightforward federal loan option for law students. There’s no credit check, and everyone gets the same rate and maximum loan amount. However, it likely won’t cover the full annual cost of tuition at a private law school.
Direct PLUS Loans
- Borrowing limit: Cost of attendance
- Interest rate: 5.3%
- Loan fee: 4.236%, deducted from the loan before your school gets the funds
Direct PLUS Loans are only available to graduate or professional students with good credit. It’s the only federal loan that requires a credit check, so you might not qualify on your own if you’re going to law school directly from college.
But it can cover up to your total cost of attendance after you’ve received other financial aid. You also have access to the most repayment plans and forgiveness programs.
Still, if you have really strong credit — or a willing cosigner — you might want to consider your private student loan options first. That’s because you might find private financing with lower rates and fees.
How to get federal loans for law school
You can apply for federal loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is available on the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) website and opens on October 1st the year before you plan on attending law school.
Even if you don’t think you want federal loans, it might be worth filling out the FAFSA — some law schools rely on it to determine your eligibility for institutional financial aid.
Private loans for law school
|Lender||Loan amounts||APRs||Terms||Eligibility requirements|
|Discover||$1,000 to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance||20 years|
|Sallie Mae||$1,000 to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance|| ||15 years|
|Citizens Bank||$1,000 to $225,000||5 to 15 years|
|Wells Fargo||Up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance||15 years|
|College Ave||$1,000 to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance||5 to 20 years|
|CommonBond||Up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance||5 to 15 years|
Many of these loans are designed specifically for law students — with higher loan amounts and a longer grace period, usually up to nine months. Some also offer more flexible repayment plans, like the option to pause repayments for up to 12 months.
Compare more private loans for law school
3 other ways to pay for law school
Trying to stay away from taking out student loans? You might want to consider one of these options instead:
- Employer-sponsored programs. Some companies will pay for part or even all of your law degree if it’s relevant to your position. Talk to the HR department or your manager to find out if it’s an option.
- Crowdfunding. Going to law school for a cause? You might be able to raise the funds from your friends, family and social media followers. Some crowdfunding platforms like PeduL even specialize in fundraising as a student loan alternative.
- Income share agreements (ISAs). This alternative could be a good choice for law students who want to go into public service. Income share agreements cover all or part of your law school costs in exchange for a percentage of your salary over a certain number of years.
Student loan forgiveness and assistance for lawyers
Bar exam financing
You’re not a lawyer until you take the bar. Problem is, you can’t apply for federal aid to pay for the bar exam alone — though you can use leftover funds. Some private lenders like Discover and Sallie Mae offer financing specifically for the cost of bar study courses and fees, which can easily top several thousand dollars.
Student loan forgiveness and assistance for lawyers
One of the advantages of pursuing a law degree is that lawyers typically have more student loan forgiveness options and assistance programs than you’d find with other professions.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Lawyers who work for the government or a nonprofit for 10 years while paying off their student loans on an eligible repayment plan may qualify to have their entire federal student debt load forgiven.
- Income-driven repayment forgiveness. Income-driven repayment plans are available for federal loans based on your annual salary. After 20 or 25 years, the government forgives the remaining debt.
- Loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs). Both law schools and local governments offer repayment assistance programs to young lawyers. These aren’t limited to federal loans, though they might have specific income requirements. The ABA publishes a list of state-sponsored LRAPs and Equal Justice Works has a list of school-sponsored LRAPs.
- Employer-sponsored repayment assistance. Some law firms also offer student loan repayment assistance as a benefit.
Law school can be seriously expensive — and you might not have the same financing options you did as an undergrad. But there are several scholarships, grants and loans exclusively available to law students.
You can read more about how paying for school works with our guide to student loans.
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