This week on the Law School Insider, a podcast brought to you by Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, we are bringing you Richard Boruszewski, Director of Financial Aid at WMU Cooley Law School. Today's episode will delve deeper into topics regarding how you can pay for your law school experience and things that you need to be thinking about to fun this endeavor.
Law school can be expensive but that should not hold you back from achieving your dream. The key is understanding your budget and looking at things that you can do to minimize expenses for yourself along the way so that you can attend and make good decisions along the law school journey.
As you are looking at law schools you should know that law schools are required to set up budgets that they use when awarding financial aid. At WMU Cooley Law School, the budget areas that are included in the financial aid that is awarded includes things like:
- General Fees that a school can charge
- Room and Board
- Personal Misc. Expenses
- Loan Fees
These are budget issues that the school can use to determine the overall cost of attending the school.
The areas above are broken down into both fixed cost (tuition and general fees) and non-fixed costs (all other areas listed above). The non-fixed areas are ones that you can control and are ares where you can make adjustments in your own life and lifestyle to aid you in your law school journey.
Richard Boruszewski stated that when looking at a law school remember to visit the school and look around at all housing options. Consider having a roommate to lower yur expenses and many law schools can offer you some way to connect with new or current students that may also be interested in this type of living situation. Richard explained that a financial aid office will provide you with a certain amount of money for room and board but that does not mean that you have to spend all of that money. You could find lower cost ways to, in the end, take out less in loans and come out of law school with less debt, which should always be your goal.
In the other categories, think about the things that you purchase on a regular basis that could be cut out. For example, do you purchase a custom coffee everyday? If so, consider cutting this out for law school, as the $5+ per day can eat into your budget and can quickly add up. You could rent textbooks instead of purchasing them. You could leave your car at home and attend a law school that offers a strong transit system that can get you anywhere that you need to go for a low cost. All of these areas are simple examples of small changes that you can make for the short term that can make a big difference in the amount of money that you will need to take out in loans for your legal education. In the end you not only need to receive a budget from the law school but you also need to have a personal budget for yourself to know what you spend in a typical month and really what you need to spend per month. You see, you want to live like a law student and not like a lawyer while in law school.
As you are looking at law school, first, look at your own situation. Do you have savings that you can use to contribute to your legal education? Do you have equity in your home that you might want to explore? Understand that loans are the primary means that most law students will use to finance their education, but in the end the decision is up to you on what is right for you in regards to this financial decision.
The federal government offers Stafford Loans where you can take out up to $20,500 per academic year. If you are interested in these types of loans you will have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year to be considered for this aid. There are also Graduate Plus loans that are available for law school students. With these loans they do look at a credit readiness. This is not saying that they will look at your credit score, but instead they will look to make sure that you do not have any charge-offs, and that you are current with the bills that you have on a monthly basis.
You also should look at the law school that you are attending to see what type of flexible scheduling options are available. Havig a flexible schedule could allow you to work while in law school. Working in law school could come in the form of work-study, where you work for an agency that has an affiliation with your law school and part of your financial aid award pays you to work (and you do not have to pay this back in the end). You could also work outside of the school as well. If you are working in law school, look at jobs that can enhance your resume to assist you in your job search once you are complete with your legal education.
You also should look at scholarships that are available to you. You should examine both scholarships that the law school offers and ones that they may post that you could be elibible for too. When it comes to scholarship programs that a law school offers. Make sure that you always read the fine print on any scholarship offer that is provided to you. Do you have to maintain a certain GPA to keep the scholarship? What percentage of students keep their scholarships after their first term or their first year when such conditions are in place. Make sure to ask these questions before you start law school. You also can look at other scholarships that may be posted on an internal website at your law school. Here at WMU-Cooley we have a long list of scholarships that are available for students to review once they have stated that they plan to attend. These scholarships are varied and cover many different types of students, interests, traits and more. Richard Boruszewski warned to never pay anyone to help you find scholarships as there are many free scholarship search engines hat you can register with and still get a lot of options provided to you as well.
Throughout your legal education make sure to stay in touch with your financial aid departments. The staff in these offices are there are assist you in your law school journey.
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