8 Must-Know Law School Scholarship Tips
What’s better than finally being able to pursue your dream of going to law school? The answer is pursuing your dream of going to law school and receiving a scholarship to do so! Whether you’re planning to pursue a career in public interest, have a family to support while in school, or simply have other things you’d rather spend your hard-earned money on than tuition, then knowing how to solicit and negotiate a law school scholarship offer is critical.
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8 Must-Know Law School Scholarship Tips
Here’s what you need to know!
1. The early bird gets the… money.
Every school’s scholarship structure is different. However, it’s universally true that if you apply early you give yourself the best chances of admission AND a scholarship. Many schools are capped on the amount of scholarship money they can award to students. With a finite pool of funding, you want to be sure that you get your application in early in order to receive consideration for all possible funding opportunities. Set yourself up for financial success by applying early.
2. Do the math.
Sounds simple but some law school scholarship offers can be confusing (or even un/intentionally misleading). Law school scholarships often come in one of two forms. The first is a percentage (i.e. a 75% tuition scholarship). The other is an exact number (i.e., $40,000 a year). While one may sound better than the other, DO THE MATH. Figure out what the scholarship amounts to and the difference left over that you would be responsible to pay.
A $40,000 scholarship will not go as far at a costly private school in a city with a high cost of living as it would at a public state-school in the Midwest. Ultimately, you need to know not just what you’ve been given but how much you’ll be expected to pay at the end of the day.
3. Know whether your scholarship is secure for your second and third year.
A large scholarship offer is wonderful and exciting. You should feel very proud that your hard work is paying off. But is it too good to be true? Be sure to get the details on whether the scholarship is guaranteed for all three years of your program or if there are conditions to renewal. A $20,000 a year law school scholarship that is guaranteed for all three years may ultimately be a better option than a $35,000 scholarship that you may lose in your second and third year.
Be sure to do your research and find out what the scholarship offer means for your second and third year as well.
Is the scholarship for one year or guaranteed for all three years? Is there a specific GPA you must have in order to retain your scholarship? If so, what is the scholarship retention rate (the rate at which students keep their scholarships from 1L to 2L and 2L to 3L year). Is there the chance to earn your scholarship back if you lose it? These are all important questions that should play a critical role in your decision-making process.
4. Negotiate your offers.
For better or worse, negotiating law school scholarships is a reality of today’s admissions process. Some schools openly negotiate with students and even expect it when they make you an initial offer. Other schools have a strict policy of no negotiations. Know what the policy of the schools you are considering and set your expectations accordingly.
Save offer letters and get any additional offer in writing. If you have a phone conversation with a law school representative offering you scholarships, follow-up in writing to memorialize the offer. Send other schools your competing offer letters and ask if they’ll be able to match it. It may be an uncomfortable conversation for you but you won’t get anything if you don’t simply ask.
5. Know your “number.”
If there’s a specific amount of law school scholarship support you need in order to attend a school, figure that out! Know exactly what it will take to cover the cost of attendance. This includes tuition, books, fees, room and board, transportation and personal expenses. Share this with admissions officers and explain the breakdown of where you need to be in order to be able to attend their school. They’ll know you’re serious about attending their school since you’ve done your research and can precisely demonstrate your need. Abstractly trying to receive as much funding as possible is not a compelling argument as to why extra funding should go to you instead of someone else.
6. Understand admissions timelines.
If money for an admissions office is tight and it’s “late” in the admissions season (spring into summer), it’s possible that a school can’t give any additional funding until it’s been released back into a funding pool by other students. This means that law school scholarship funding currently committed to other students may be released when those students notify the school they are no longer interested in attending. That money can then be reallocated to others.
Make your request for more scholarship money a few weeks or a month before your first seat deposits are due. When the deposit deadline passes and students who were previously awarded scholarship do not submit a deposit to otherwise secure their seat, that money may become available again.
7. Be professional.
Conduct yourself with integrity and treat the admissions officers with respect. Admissions and financial aid representatives are usually willing to work with you but their hands may be tied. Keep in mind that if you become a thorn in their side, they may be less likely to offer you additional funding even when it becomes available. If you’re difficult to work with as a law school applicant, it doesn’t bode well with how you’ll conduct yourself while in school and in the legal profession.
8. Apply for private scholarships.
Often law school scholarships fall into two categories: merit-based awards and private funding. The merit-based awards will be granted to you based on the contents of your application. Privately funded scholarships, however, are only open to admitted students. In addition, they often require a separate application or short essay from you. Don’t ignore additional money simply because you don’t want to write additional essays as to why you are deserving of it. Too many students think it’s too much of hassle to write additional essays. Consequently, the pool of competition for private funding tends to be smaller.
At the end of the day, you are entering into a profession that conducts itself with the highest ethics and integrity. Remember this when applying to law school and negotiating scholarships. It might feel great to have received large offers from multiple institutions. However, if you have no intention of attending a particular school, don’t needlessly engage in negotiations. Keep in mind that any scholarship given to you is money taken away from a deserving student who may really need the extra help in order to attend their dream school.
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