Although it’s typical for law students to acquire a six-figure debt burden during law school, it’s possible to earn a JD without paying a hundred of tuition.
That’s what happens when you win a full scholarship.
Her hope, she says, was that if she applied to schools where her credentials were higher than the norm, the schools would try to recruit her by offering scholarship dollars.
Roter says she “lucked out” when she won a full scholarship. “It’s been great not having to worry about loans,” she says.
Given the current economic tumult, aspiring attorneys may be especially eager to save money by attending law school for free. Here are six tips experts say prospective law students should keep in mind if they hope to fully finance their legal education with scholarship money.
Don’t Skimp on Test Prep
Full-tuition law school scholarships are typically reserved for applicants with strong LSAT scoresexperts say.
“I always recommend that students treat LSAT prep as a part-time job, because the payoff from it can literally mean hundreds of dollars for every hour that they spent preparing,” says Aaron N. Taylor, executive director of the nonprofit AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence.
Polish Application Materials
The key to winning a full scholarship to law school is wowing admissions officers with your application, because very few outside scholarships cover the full cost of tuition, Taylor says.
“I would estimate that maybe 95% of the scholarship and grant funding that law students receive is from law schools themselves,” adds Taylor, who previously served as a law school admissions officer. He says law schools often compare the personal statements of students with similar academic credentials to determine which ones most deserve scholarships.
Research the Conditions of Full Scholarships
Some law school scholarships include a GPA requirement, experts say, and students should assess whether the minimum GPA they must maintain to keep these scholarships is reasonable.
Consider Early Decision Scholarship Programs
Some generous scholarships are doled out exclusively to early decision applicants, who sign pledges stating that they will attend a particular law school if they are admitted.
“It’s not a program for everybody, because students often want to look at a variety of options, and this program precludes them from doing that,” says Alissa Leonard, the school’s assistant dean of admissions and financial aid.
In general, experts say, scholarship hopefuls should apply to law school as early in the admissions cycle as possible, because scholarship decisions are typically made on a rolling basis.
Don’t Rule Yourself Out
Even if you think that you are unlikely to win a full scholarship, apply anyway, experts say – you could be pleasantly surprised.
“We like for students to be ambitious, so there is no downside to applying,” says Katherine Scannell, vice dean for institutional success at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, where she oversees admissions in addition to other job duties. “There’s only a downside to not applying.”
Request Fee Waivers if You’re Eligible
For some JD hopefuls, paying application fees at multiple law schools can be a stretch, especially given the additional fees for testing and academic records. Though Washington University St. Louis eliminated JD application fees a couple of years ago, most law schools charge such fees, Scannell says.
“Application fees can add up, so be sure to ask for fee waivers if application fees are an obstacle to applying to schools,” she says.