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Paying for law school can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. There are a number of ways you can cover school tuition costs and living expenses.

Here are five steps to help you figure out how to pay for law school:

  1. Apply for scholarships and grants. It’s always a good idea for law students to use free money first (money you won’t have to pay back). This includes scholarships and grants, as well as seeking out assistantship positions.
  2. Find a less expensive law school. The top law schools can be pretty pricey. Seek out a more inexpensive law school that has a good reputation and you can save money without sacrificing your education.
  3. Take advantage of federal student loans. After all of that free money, you’ll want to apply for federal student loans by filling out the FAFSA.
  4. Consider private student loans. If you’ve exhausted all free aid from scholarships, grants, and federal loans, you can consider taking out a private student loan.
  5. Get a job. Making some extra money to help you pay for law school and living costs is a great last step. You don’t have to take on a full-time position — every little bit helps.

1. Apply for scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants should be your first step in finding money for law school. That’s because these are all free money — money you won’t have to pay back like you would a loan. Here’s the difference between them:

  • Scholarships: These are merit-based and typically determined by academic performance.
  • Grants: These are financial need-based and usually awarded based on your family’s financial situation.

Scholarships and grants are available at federal, state, and local levels. You can even find law-specific grants and law school scholarships. To get an idea of what’s out there, you can start by checking out Scholarships.com and search for what’s available to you.

2. Find a less expensive law school

Attending a top private law school might sound prestigious, but if you’re trying to avoid more student debt — or just struggling to afford law school in general — it isn’t always the right choice.

It’s a good idea to look at data for law school costs and find a school that’s more moderately priced.

For example, U.S. News & Report compiled a list of the 10 law schools that make it easier to pay off your debt based on the salary-to-debt ratio:

  1. Howard University
  2. Boston College
  3. University of Texas—Austin
  4. Brigham Young University (Clark)
  5. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  6. Washington University in St. Louis
  7. Boston University
  8. Georgia State University
  9. University of California—Irvine
  10. University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

Consider one of these schools or do some more research and find a school of law that fits your budget and your individual needs.

3. Take advantage of federal student loans

Once you’ve figured out which law school you want to attend, and you’re accepted, make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the next step to helping you afford college.

Not only is this how you qualify for federal student loans from the government — like federal direct loans and PLUS loans — you might also qualify for work-study programs. Here are your options when it comes to federal financial aid for law school:

  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Law school students can borrow up to $20,500 each academic year from the United States Department of Education in federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Because these loans are unsubsidized, interest begins to accrue as soon as the loan is disbursed to you. These loans are eligible for deferment and different repayment plans, such as income-driven plans.
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loans: If you don’t have an adverse credit history, you might qualify for a federal Direct PLUS Loan. If you have issues in your credit file such as bills that are more than 90 days late, or a bankruptcy or foreclosure within the last 5 years, you will need to find a cosigner. With PLUS loans, you can borrow as much as you need to cover your school expenses, minus other forms of financial aid or grants you receive. PLUS loans for law school graduates also have a grace period, but begin to accrue interest as soon as they are disbursed.
  • Work-study programs: Your financial aid award letter will let you know whether you qualify for work-study, but you’re usually responsible for finding a qualifying job (typically on campus). With a work-study job, you’re guaranteed to make at least the federal minimum wage.

4. Consider private student loans

If you’re not eligible for federal loans, are looking for more competitive interest rates and options, or need postgraduate loans while you study for the bar exam, private loans can be a great option. With some of the best private student loan lenders, you might be able to get a more competitive interest rate, saving yourself thousands of dollars over the life of your loans.

Terms for law school loans made by private lenders can vary widely regarding grace periods and repayment terms, so consider all of these factors before choosing a lender. Credible makes it easy to compare rates from multiple student loan lenders by filling out a form just one time instead of fussing with many.

LenderFixed Rates From (APR)
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ascent

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4.02%+3.31%+Get Rates
Ascent review

  • Loan terms: 5 or 10 years (Ascent Tuition loan, 15-year term also available with variable-rate loans); 10 years (Ascent Independent loan, 15-year term also available with variable-rate loans)
  • Loan amounts: $2,000 minimum, up to school's cost of attendance within $200,000 cap
  • Repayment plans: Defer payments or make interest-only or $25 minimum monthly payment while in school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% automatic payment discount, 1% cash back graduation reward Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 24 months of consecutive monthly on-time payments
  • Eligibility: Ascent Tuition: Minimum FICO 600 (borrower with cosigner) and 660 (cosigner). Cosigner not required for Ascent Independent loan. No minimum income or credit score requirement for borrowers with less than two years of credit history. Borrowers with two years of credit history need 680 credit score and $24,000 annual income.
  • Loan servicer: University Account Service (UAS)
citizens

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4.40%+¹2.83%+¹Get Rates
Citizens Bank review

  • Loan terms: 5, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 minimum, school’s cost of attendance up to $150,000 for undergraduates and graduate degrees; $225,000 MBA and law; $350,000 medical school and parent loans)
  • Repayment plans: Pay immediately, pay interest only, or defer payments
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% loyalty discount available (if you have another qualifying account with Citizens Bank) as well as a 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 36 months of consecutive monthly on-time payments
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent residents; international students can apply with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner
  • Loan servicer: Firstmark Services
collegeave

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4.54%+2
2.84%+2Get Rates
College Ave review

  • Loan terms: 5, 8, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance ($1,000 minimum)
  • Repayment plans: Make full principal and interest, interest only, or flat payments while in school; or defer payments until six months after leaving school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% rate deduction with autopay
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available once more than half of the scheduled repayment period has elapsed.
  • Eligibility: Available to all U.S. residents attending an eligible undergraduate or graduate school
  • Loan servicer: University Accounting Service LLC
edvestinu

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4.50%+
3.78%+
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EDvestinU review

  • Loan terms: 7, 10, 12, 15 and 20 years
  • Loan amounts: Minimum loan amount of $1,000 up to school-certified cost of attendance with $200,000 cap
  • Repayment plans: Full deferment, interest-only payments, and principal and interest payments
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.5% autopay discount
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 24 months of on-time payments
  • Eligibility: Borrower or cosigner (if applicable) must have a minimum income of $30,000. Must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident, admitted to or enrolled at least half-time at any title IV degree-granting college and university when applying.
  • Loan servicer: Granite State Management & Resources (GSM&R)
invested

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4.63%+3.38%+Get Rates
INvested review

  • Loan terms: 5, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of school certified cost of attendance (minimum $1,001)
  • Repayment plans: Full principal and interest, interest only, and full deferment
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount; 2% principal reduction upon graduation
  • Cosigner release option: Applications accepted after 48 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments
  • Eligibility: Indiana residents enrolled in college and U.S. residents attending an eligible Indiana school
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services
mefa

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3.95%+n/aGet Rates
INvested review

  • Loan terms: 10 or 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Minimum $1,500 (public school) or $2,000 (private school). Maximum up to school’s certified cost of attendance (minus other aid received)
  • Repayment plans: Immediate, interest-only, or deferred
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: None
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 48 on-time payments and meeting credit requirements
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services (AES)


View details
4.74% - 11.35%9
3.12% - 10.54%9
Get Rates
Sallie Mae review

  • Loan terms: 5 to 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment plans: Make interest-only or fixed monthly amount while in school, or defer payments until six months after leaving school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount
  • Cosigner release option: Available after making 12 on-time principal and interest payments and meeting credit requirements
  • Eligibility: U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident. Non-U.S. citizen students, including DACA students attending a school located in the U.S., are eligible to apply with a creditworthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident.
  • Loan servicer: Sallie Mae


View details
3.82%
2.64%
Get Rates
SunTrust Bank review

  • Loan terms: 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Loan amounts: $1,001 - $65,000 (up to $95,000 for graduate students)
  • Repayment plans: Immediate or make partial, interest-only or deferred payments while in school.
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount; 0.25% loyalty discount; other special rewards may include principal reduction at graduation, rate reduction for on-time payments, or zero interest for six months
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release after 36 months of consecutive on-time payments
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent resident, not available to permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin. Union Federal Private Student Loan available to international students with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services (AES)
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures| 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures | 6Discover Disclosures


Citizens Bank Student Loan Rate Disclosure

Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.80%. Variable interest rates range from 2.83%-11.16% (2.83%-11.01% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.40%-12.19% (4.40% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

5. Get a job

It can be hard juggling school and a full-time job — we get it. But consider getting just a part-time gig or working a side hustle on the weekends.

You could pursue working as a clerk at a law firm to give you some applied experience. Or even just work a part-time job, apprenticeship, work-study program, or other loan programs at your school. Even just a little extra income can really go a long way when it comes to covering the cost of college.

Check Out: 8 Part-Time Job Ideas for College Students

Repaying student debt after law school

You probably thought your biggest challenge would be acing the American Bar Association exam and finding the perfect job at a law firm. But tackling your law school loans can be just as challenging — if not more so.

So before heading off to school, research your options, including what school you’ll attend, what kind of loans you’ll need, and how you can make some extra income. Just be proactive and have a repayment strategy in place so you’re ready to afford that monthly payment.

If you’re already a law school graduate and you’re having trouble paying your student loans, it’s a good idea to consider refinancing your law school loans or look into a public service loan forgiveness program (PSLF). Refinancing could get you a lower interest rate, saving you thousands over the life of your loan.

About the author
Jamie Young
Jamie Young

Jamie Young is a Credible authority on personal finance. Her work has been featured by Time, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Forbes, CBS News, and more.

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