Changes in financial aid rules and regulations are ongoing, and law school policies vary. It is important for you to stay current and to educate yourself about financial aid in much the same way that you research law schools when deciding where to apply.
If You Are Applying for Federal Aid
All graduate/professional students are considered financially independent of their parents for the federal loan programs.
- Begin the financial aid process by gathering information about the specific financial aid application procedures and deadlines for the law schools that you are interested in attending. You should not wait until you receive admission to begin the process. In fact, you should be investigating the financial aid procedures and deadlines as you are investigating the admission application requirements.
- File your federal income tax returns as early as possible each year, if required to file a return. Schools may want to see a copy of your actual tax return, so be sure to keep a photocopy for your files. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires information that is requested directly from your federal income tax return. You can file the FAFSA for an upcoming academic year beginning October 1 of the prior calendar year. You can submit the FAFSA anytime after that date—the earlier, the better.
- Complete the FAFSA form online as early as you can. FAFSA is a need-analysis tool developed by the US Department of Education. As the name implies, there is no charge for the collection and processing of data or the delivery of financial aid through this form. So, do not pay anyone to help you complete or process your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you need help filling out the application, contact the financial aid office serving the law schools to which you are applying for assistance.
- When completing the FAFSA form, you will designate the names and school codes of up to 10 law schools to which you are applying. Additional schools may be added once the FAFSA is processed. Information on school codes is available from the financial aid office serving the law schools to which you are applying or at fafsa.gov.
- The FAFSA form asks for information about your income, assets, and other financial resources. Be sure to answer “yes” to the following two questions:
- Are you a graduate or professional student?
- Have you completed a bachelor’s degree by July 1 of the year you will be attending law school?
- The financial aid staff serving the law schools to which you apply will determine the type and amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive for the academic year. The amount offered by each law school will vary because costs vary from school to school. You will receive notification of your financial aid package once all information has been received, if you have been offered admission to the school.
- Once you determine the school that you will attend, you will need to apply for any loan funding you need to borrow. Follow the instructions provided by the school to complete the required loan application materials. Remember, you cannot borrow more than what the financial aid staff has determined you are eligible to borrow. Also, you should borrow the minimum amount needed to attend the school you have chosen.
If You Are Applying for Institutional Scholarships and Grants
Call, write, email, or visit the website of the financial aid office serving the law schools to which you are applying. Determine if the school requires any applications or documents in addition to the FAFSA and admission application materials for you to be considered for financial aid, including any scholarship or grant funding they offer to students. You may need to complete an institutional financial aid application or an additional fee-based application such as the CSS Profile. The school also may require you to provide financial information from your parents if they offer need-based scholarship/grant funding. In addition, be aware of any application filing deadlines—many schools do have priority deadlines for receiving the financial aid application materials.
Check out some resources that can help you with the application process.