Financially Preparing for Law School
FINANCIALLY PREPARING FOR LAW SCHOOL
Pursuing a law degree is an investment which often comes with some educational loan debt. Whether this is your first experience incurring debt or if you have financed significant expenses before, these tips are meant to help you financially prepare for your legal education.
1. Eliminate Consumer Debt
Pay off your credit card and other consumer debt prior to entering law school. Your financial aid student budget cannot take into account any consumer debt payments, so getting rid of those monthly payments is a good idea. It will be difficult to pay outstanding credit card balances while enrolled in law school.
2. Develop a Budget
A student’s Cost of Attendance, or Budget, covers educational costs only. While our budgets make an allowance for modest living expenses, they are set to a different lifestyle than what you may be used to, especially if you’re used to earning a steady paycheck. Develop a monthly budget to determine what costs you will need to cover and which expenses you can eliminate. Reducing your expenses will help you reduce what you need to borrow while at Touro Law Center. For more information about budget planning, see Budget Worksheet.
3. Check and Maintain Your Credit
Get a credit report now to help you identify any credit problems or errors. Certain loans- including Federal Graduate Plus Loans, Bar Study Loans, and private educational loans require that you pass a credit check or have a credit-worthy cosigner. Improving your credit score takes time; as does correcting any inaccuracies. You can get one free credit report per year from each of the three national credit reporting agencies at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Just because you can borrow up to the cost of attendance each year, does not mean you should. Develop a budget to help you identify your expenses and potential resources- savings, income from work, family support. Then, borrow only what you need. Don’t forget, you have to repay what you borrow. Having extra cash while in school may be nice, but if you live like a lawyer now, you may have to live like a student later!
5. Review Your Resources
Before you borrow, you should consider the resources available to you, such as savings, part-time employment (after your first year), and family support. Cut expenses wherever possible; consider getting a roommate or moving in with relatives to save on living costs. Explore outside resources which may be available to you, including tuition benefits from your employer and outside scholarships (www.fastweb.com).
6. Bring Cash
If you are borrowing for living expenses, be aware that loan funds are not available to students until the start of classes. Have enough money available to pay for textbooks and your first month of living expenses. If you are relocating to attend law school, save up for the move. Your cost of attendance cannot be increased to help you cover moving expenses.
7. Keep Accurate Records
Maintain one central file for all documents and correspondence relating to your student loans. Keep track of your educational loan debt. Your federal educational loan balances are accessible on the National Student Loan Data System (www.nslds.ed.gov). The NSLDS summary does not include private/alternative educational loan debt.