(This article is an adaptation of my guest post on StudentAdvisor.com, and is further elaborated upon in Barrister on a Budget: Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank.)
For most undergrad students money is already stretched pretty thin. How are you supposed to come up with the funds for all of these law school applications? It’s important to avoid borrowing more student loans if you can. What if you don’t get accepted to law school or decide later that you don’t want to go? You could be paying off that extra debt (plus interest) for a few years without anything to show for it. A little bit of planning, squirreling away income, and following the next few tips will allow you to apply to law school financially stress-free and maybe even debt-free.
1. Create a timetable. Be aware of your Law School Admission Test (LSAT) deadlines, application deadlines, recommendation letters, waiver deadlines, and forms and other materials you have to put together for your application. With these dates, also jot down the costs to cover each one and tally it up. Start saving and scrimping so that you can cover these costs – basically, budget.
2. Search for waivers. Many law schools waive the application fee if you apply electronically or early. However, don’t apply to the school solely for the waiver. Do your research; narrow your list of schools; and then if they offer a waiver, make sure that you apply by the deadline to receive it. Also, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has a waiver for those with “absolute inability to pay for the LSAT and other essential application services.” If you believe you qualify, the waivers cover nearly all the costs for the application process (some schools will also waive application fees if LSAC granted your waiver).
3. Freebies. The costs of LSAT prep courses and personal statement assistance can add up. If you are a very good self-studier, you can find many free practice LSAT exams on the LSAC website, on helpful blogs such as LSAT Blog, in your school library or political science/pre-law departments, and some prep courses offer free trials of their services. When it comes to assistance with your personal statement, trusted mentors who know what law schools are looking for and personal statement workshops offered by the career office or on-campus programs can be the most helpful resources and are a nominal price or free.
4. Shop around. Maybe your personal study habits aren’t great and you would prefer to use an LSAT prep course. There are many reputable courses to choose from. Compare prices and use the free trials to find the best, most cost-efficient program for you.
5. Use your time wisely. You will need to build up your résumé for your application and for your references to review, not to mention to help you stand out among the other applicants. Participation in debate clubs and undergraduate mock trials will be significant uses of your time. Look into activities such as pre-law societies and clubs that support areas of law in which you are interested in for establishing your career. Pay attention to membership fees and reason the price with quality. If you can find a worthwhile internship that also pays, go for it! It’s the perfect trifecta – résumé booster, actual experience, and an income!