Receiving Need-Based Financial Aid As A Transfer Law Student
When Jordan Rothman started his law career as a student at Washington and Lee University School of Law, he paid full price for tuition.
“I was astounded by the astronomical cost of a legal education,” Rothman says in a new piece published by Above The Law. “It seemed like I could buy a house with the amount of money I would have to shell out to attend law school, and I couldn’t believe how basically every law school from the best to the worst charged an exorbitant amount in tuition and costs.”
Luckily for Rothman — founder of Student Debt Diaries, a personal finance website — he was able to transfer after his first semester to Georgetown University Law Center, where he was awarded financial aid to cover 40% of tuition costs. In his new article for Above The Law, Rothman tells his story of how he was able to receive need-based aid as a transfer student.
“I had to fill out all the financial aid forms before I was even accepted to Georgetown Law, but this effort paid off, and I was awarded around $30,000 in financial aid for that first year,” Rothman says.
According to US News, the top three law schools – Harvard, Stanford, and Yale –generally do not offer very significant merit-based aid. Yet, Rothman says, higher-ranked law schools tend to provide need-based aid for transfers. “The existence of need-based financial aid programs also alters the oft-discussed trade-off between accepting merit scholarships and enrolling in a better law school,” he says.
At Georgetown, Rothman combatted extra costs by having a work-study job. As a student employee of the Department of Residence Life, Rothman worked in the package room and at the front desk of the residence hall. He says his work-study job allowed him to earn enough money to “pay for textbooks, food, alcohol, and just about everything else that a law student needs.”
Another important aspect to consider in financial aid, Rothman says, is when you choose to apply to law school. “If you head straight to law school from college, you will have a higher likelihood of qualifying for these programs since your personal income will essentially be zero,” he says. For those who choose to work a few years before applying to law school, expect to receive less financial aid or not even qualify for aid.
For many law students, borrowing money is a necessity. While his financial aid package and work-study jobs paid for about half of his tuition costs at Georgetown, Rothman says he still needed to borrow an “unbelievable amount of money” to finance his law career. But, he says, the financial aid from Georgetown lessened his student debt and allowed him to pay off his student loans while still in his 20s.
Shawn P. O’Connor is a contributor at U.S. News. O’Connor says it’s important for applicants to learn how to strategically negotiate law school financial aid if they intend on lowering their costs for law school.
“Identify your clear first choice school before beginning financial aid negotiations,” O’Connor says. “It tends to be more effective to tell a particular school you are absolutely committed to matriculating if they match or exceed an offer than trying to negotiate with various schools at once.”
Yet, Rothman says, it pays off to attend a law school that is highly ranked and offers need-based aid.
“If you have the right background and are accepted into such a law school, you don’t have to make the age-old choice between attending a better law school and accepting a merit scholarship elsewhere,” he says.
Sources: Above The Law, US News, US News