Law schools offer two primary forms of financial aid: merit-based and need-based. Applicants may be less familiar with the concept of merit-based aid, but it is important to become familiar with this type of aid. Law schools have significant pools of merit-based aid, and it is not uncommon for 50% or more of admitted applicants to receive an offer of merit-based financial aid.
Merit-Based Financial Aid
Law schools award merit-based financial aid based on various factors including, most commonly, an applicant’s GPA and LSAT score. Merit-based financial aid has nothing to do with how much money you or your parents have. So law schools will make the decisions whether to offer you aid and how much aid to offer based on your law school application. You do not have to submit any additional documentation initially in order to be eligible for most merit-based financial aid. Exceptions include a limited number of public interest scholarships and other named scholarships for which certain schools may require an additional essay, letter(s) of recommendation, and/or an interview.
Be cautious of conditions that some law schools may place on their offers of merit-based financial aid. Overly restrictive conditions could be difficult to satisfy, and you could be at risk of losing your aid award.
Need-Based Financial Aid
In addition to having a pool of merit-based financial aid to allocate, law schools also have a pool of need-based aid. In order to be eligible for a need-based scholarship award, you will need to submit documentation establishing your need. The documentation law schools require to establish your level of need varies from school to school. Some schools only require you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Others require you to complete a Need Access application. Still others have their own internal application process. It also varies from school to school as to whether you are required to submit information documenting your parents’ income. Consult the financial aid page of each law school that you are admitted to for school-specific information.