Financing Law School
While in Law School: Living on a Budget
Since loans often are the primary funding source students use to pay for law school, it is important to think about how much you should borrow. It should be the minimum amount you need to attend the law school you choose. Determining that amount requires that you estimate your in-school budget to determine how much law school will cost for you. Then you need to estimate how much you will be able to contribute from your own resources (and from your family) as well as any scholarship or grant funding you expect to receive. The difference between what it will cost and what you have from other sources should represent the amount you will need to borrow. And hopefully it is less than what the school has indicated you are eligible to borrow. The amount of loan funding included on your financial aid notice from the school is not prescriptive—it is not what you should borrow—but rather, it represents the maximum amount you are eligible to borrow based on the information you provided in your financial aid application materials, the Cost of Attendance (COA) for the school you choose, current federal regulations, and school policies.
The maxim “Live like a student now or you will live like a student later” is a good one to remember. Consult an individual school’s COA for estimates of living expenses and budget accordingly. Track your current spending habits and compare them to the COA at schools of your choice. Share housing; learn to cook. Food expenses are often budget busters. Bring a lunch rather than buying one. While law school may be an excellent long-term investment, paying loans in the short term can be a real burden. Remember, not all lawyers will earn the highest salaries. Interest on federal unsubsidized, Graduate PLUS, and private loans accrues from the date they are disbursed. Be aware that the COA does not allow the use of federal education loan funds to pay for prior consumer debt.
You will not have to start repaying the federal loans you borrow to attend law school until at least six months after you leave school. You also may be able to postpone repayment of any federal (and perhaps, private) student loans you borrowed prior to enrolling in law school. Contact the loan holder or servicer of any prior student loan to investigate your deferment or forbearance options and to learn how to pursue those options.
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