The Complete Guide to FAFSA for Law School

Carolina Jacobs

Jan 25, 2024

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Pursuing a law degree can lead to a fulfilling and lucrative career. However, students pay a high price for their graduate education. 

On average, law programs take about three years to complete, costing about $84,558 and $147,936 at public and private institutions, respectively. Of course, these fees are merely tuition and don’t account for other living expenses, such as food, rent and transportation.

If you’re wondering what your financial aid options are and how to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for law school, this guide will provide you with all the information you need. 

Eligibility for FAFSA for Law School

The basic eligibility requirements for FAFSA for law school are the same as the undergraduate requirements, comprising the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated financial need
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or non-citizen eligibility
  • Valid Social Security number 
  • Enrollment in an eligible program of study
  • Continuous satisfactory academic progress

You’ll also need to acquire the necessary financial documents before filling out the form, including bank statements, tax returns, W-2 forms and other taxable earnings information, investments, and records of untaxed monies like child support or interest income.

How Law Students can Apply for Financial Aid 

Filling out the FAFSA form can be overwhelming, but staying organized and preparing in advance can make the process smoother. Law students can follow these five steps to apply for financial aid. 

1. Start Gathering Information Early

Read through the eligibility requirements and processes for filing for financial aid, noting the deadlines for each of your prospective law schools. It’s best to begin this step as early as possible, preferably as you start to fill out applications. 

2. File Your Federal Income Taxes

Filing your federal income taxes early is also recommended. Some schools ask for a copy of your tax return, while the FAFSA form will ask you to answer questions directly from the document.

You can file for federal financial aid starting October 1 of the previous year — however, you’re encouraged to submit the form sooner rather than later.

3. Fill Out the FAFSA Form Online

Complete your FAFSA form online through the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education website. The form will ask you to disclose your income, investments, and other financial information. You’ll also be able to add up to 10 schools you’re applying to. 

Remember that graduate and professional students are financially independent of their parents when applying for financial aid, even if the application asks for your parents’ financial history. 

4. Wait for Your Financial Aid Package

After submitting your FAFSA form, the financial aid office at the prospective law schools will create a package of financial assistance based on your eligibility for the academic year. Because tuition varies by school, financial aid packages will also vary. 

You’ll be notified about your financial aid package with your acceptance letter. 

5. Apply for Loan Funding

After receiving your financial aid package, you’ll need to determine if you must apply for a loan or search for other financing options to pay for law school. Borrowing more money than the package deems your financial need is not permitted. 

Other Ways to Pay for Law School

Even with financial aid, you’ll have to cover additional costs for law school out of pocket. Fortunately, several financing options are available to make it more affordable.

1. Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants aren’t exclusive to undergraduate students. In fact, law students often find many awards related to their field of study and may search for them through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and American Bar Association (ABA). 

2. Work-Study Programs

The federal government, states, and certain universities may allow you to participate in a work-study program to offset the cost of law school. Work-study programs allow you to work in the field and earn an income toward your education. For instance, you might accept a research assistant or law clerk position at a law firm.

3. Military Benefits

Students who’ve previously served in the military or AmeriCorp national service program may be eligible for educational benefits. For example, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) provides graduate school assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans with a minimum of 36 months of active duty.

4. Student Loans

Most law students take out federal or private loans to help pay for law school. Federal direct unsubsidized loans have lower interest rates than private loans issued by banks and online lenders but limit your annual borrowing amounts. Considering graduate students usually end up between $54,500 and $71,900 in loan debts, many prefer to find alternatives. 

5. Loan Forgiveness and Repayment Assistance Programs

Law graduates may be eligible for loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs upon entering the field. The ABA houses multiple resources regarding Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) eligibility and school and state-based forgiveness programs.

Save Money on Law School With Financial Aid

If you play your cards right, you’ll have little trouble financing your law education and graduating without astronomical loans to repay. Even if you’re uncertain about your eligibility for FAFSA, investigating other financial aid options is a good idea.

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