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Many students dream of going to law school . While some may see nothing preventing them from realizing this dream, others may be faced with great obstacles just thinking how they can finance their studies.
Fortunately, the United States Department of Education has a program that helps students with financial difficulties pursue graduate studies such as law through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
To apply for this federal financial aid, students should accomplish the FAFSA application form as early as January 1. It is advised that students start the process even before they receive admission offers from prospective law schools. FAFSA forms are available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov or from the financial aid office of the college or university where the students graduated or the law schools they are applying for.
Only US citizens and permanent residents are qualified for FAFSA. Hence, the federal processor may require applicants to provide supporting documents such as: (a) Proof of Citizenship; (b) Proof of Selective Service Registration; (c) Social Security Card; and/or (d) Proof of Default Clearance.
In filling up the FAFSA form, applicants will be asked to list down up to six law schools where they want to enroll and indicate their respective school codes, which can also be obtained from the FAFSA website or the financial aid office. There are no fees involved in the processing of applications.
Since FAFSA is a need-analysis tool, applicants will be asked about their income, assets, and other financial resources. For this financial program, graduate and professional students are considered independent of their parents. Information from the applicants’ federal income tax returns are also needed, but those who have yet to accomplish their income tax return may use estimated income figures.
The processed FAFSA will be transmitted to the law schools the applicants chose for them to determine who are eligible for federal financial aid. Some law schools based their decisions on the potential of applicants to succeed in law school.
The amount of financial aid awarded to students will depend on the costs involved in enrolling at the particular law school where they were applied. The law schools will give an Estimated Award Letter to the applicants informing them what type and amount of financial aid they may receive. Additional documents may also be requested from the applicants at this stage.
When the requirements are all fulfilled, the applicants will receive an Official Award Letter and may start processing their federal loan application. Those with good credit history are more likely to get approval for their Graduate PLUS and private loan applications.
Law schools also offer institutional aids to students. This kind of financial aid, however, may require submission of other information aside from the FAFSA. Students applying for institutional aid should contact or visit the website of a particular law school’s financial aid office for further details.
Alternatively, students may apply for scholarships from private sources. A wide variety of non-university and external scholarships are available. Students can research about these scholarships in the internet using search engines.
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