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The Two General Forms of Financial Aid: Scholarships and Loans

published July 30, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing

( 28 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)

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SCHOOL HANDOUTS

At the beginning of the year, your school has certain scholarships set aside. Perhaps these scholarships are need-based or are based on your undergraduate grades. Whatever the reason they are given, there are only a limited number available. Realize that if you don't get awarded one of these scholarships, fellowships, or grants, an appeal might be tough because the school has already awarded all of the scholarships for the school year. Also, it is not uncommon for these scholarships to be automatically renewed by the school for the student every year. Hence, if there are a limited number of these scholarships, and they carry on with the same student each year, odds are that most of these scholarships won't be redistributed.


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That is why it is crucial, especially the first year, to get in all financial aid forms on time. If your financial aid is delayed, you may very well miss out on the distribution period, and if that happens, there's a good chance that you've locked yourself out for the next two years, as well. Ouch. Breaking Rule No. 4 hurts, doesn't it?

OUTSIDE SCHOLARSHIPS

These are up to you. There are numerous scholarships out there for law students, whether the scholarships are law-related or not. The problem with outside scholarships is that nobody is going to hold your hand and help you find them. Possibly the best resource would be the financial aid office at your school. There are usually a couple of gigantic scholarship list books in the office that you can flip through. Each listing gives a brief description of the scholarship and whom to write to for more information. Your financial aid office may also have a list of outside scholarships commonly attained by students at your school.

Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes. You may qualify for a scholarship because your father was a tuna fisherman; you may qualify because your hometown has a little-known fund to help homegrown kids go to graduate school; you may qualify because your hair is blue and you like to dance naked in the snow. The point is that there are thousands of scholarships out there with thousands of different qualifications, and there's no telling which ones you qualify for unless you get down and research.

Don't get all excited, though. The bulk of scholarships range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. While free money is always nice, a couple hundred dollars hardly makes a dent in today's law school education market. Make sure you check every possibility to uncover the greatest number of leads. Religion, gender, ethnicity, college major, nationality, community service, and prior academic performance are all possible factors in determining the qualifications of scholarship applicants.

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If you do receive an outside grant, scholarship, or fellowship, you will have to inform your financial aid office so they can factor that little prize into your financial aid portfolio and readjust your award. Remember the ceiling of the annual student budget? It applies to scholarships, too. This is so you don't run out and buy a car with your new money. But wouldn't that be nice?

THE PAPER CHASE: TWO FORMS YOU GOTTA DO THE SCHOOL'S FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION

Remember that thing that you sent in with each application for every school you applied to? Did you make a copy? If not, please see Rule No. 3 above and give yourself a retroactive slap on the wrist. The first-year application for financial aid is usually sent in with (or shortly after) the application for admission. If not, you will receive the financial aid application if you are accepted.

Really, we don't need to tell you what to do here. As long as you follow the instructions on the form, you'll be fine. Make sure, though, to send in all requested attachments. Schools will often ask for a copy of your income tax return. If you fail to send in the return, look forward to a financial aid delay. Remember that financial aid stuff is generally not processed until all components are present. In this case, your application would be collecting dust on a shelf until you sent in your tax form. Don't forget that these applications can take up to two months to process (although they average a few weeks), so if you decide to wait until the last minute, you've guaranteed yourself delayed financial aid.

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( 28 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
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