Sunday, July 31, 2016

Financial Aid in Law School


Hey, friends! So I was one of the lucky ducks that managed to escape from undergrad without any debt. It is truly one of the things that I am most proud of because I paid my tuition through a full scholarship, and my fees, books, and other expenses out of pocket. However, because of that, I also graduated without any savings. Between paying for undergrad fees and law school deposits, I realized that my only option to pay for law school was going to be through some sort of financial aid. As someone who has never navigated the financial aid world, this was daunting.

I remember before undergrad, there were financial aid seminars all the time and people trying to explain the world of scholarships, FAFSA, and student loans. Lately, I have found myself wishing that I had paid attention to all of that, because it seems like financial aid in grad school is very similar to undergrad. However, finding out how all of this worked was kind of difficult, so I will try to summarize what I have learned for you.

Above is a screenshot of the estimated cost of attendance for my law school for the 2016-2017 year. Obviously, with no savings, I needed a way to find $70,000 for three years. So here is how I am financing things.

1. Scholarships

Luckily for me, the biggest chunk of that estimated cost will be taken care of for me, because I got a full-tuition scholarship to my school. I feel so lucky that I was able to get this part of my education taken care of. I won't bore you with the details on this post, because I wrote an entire post a few days ago about how to get a full ride to law school, so head on over to that post to learn more. However, even if you do not get a full-tuition scholarship, some schools may offer partial scholarships. And since scholarships are essentially free money, every little bit counts.

The one thing with scholarships is that there are usually conditions to keeping them. I have to keep my grades high enough at my school to renew it every year. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is great because the pressure will make me work hard and force me to study because otherwise I am going to have to pay $46,000 every year, and I do not have that money. It is bad because law school is hard, and there is potential to lose my scholarship.

2. Need-Based Aid/Grants

You may also qualify for more grants/need-based aid based on your financial situation. This means you could get more free money. There are usually different requirements to receive this, and unfortunately I was not eligible for either of these things. However, you might as well fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and see if you can get any, because who doesn't want free money, just for being less financially able?

3. Federal Student Loans

I already told you that I was paying for the first $46,000 of the cost of attendance through scholarships, but there is still approximately $24,000 left to pay for books, fees, and living expenses. I am not relying on my parents or family at all, so the rest of this money is coming from student loans. With student loans, you have a couple of different options. The first option, and the one I chose, is federal student loans. The bulk of this loan, for me, is coming from a Stafford Loan. I would explain what that is, but I do not want to give you any wrong information, so I'll have you refer to their website for that. But  basically, this is a $20,500 federal loan with interest starting now. The rest of the money I am taking out is a Graduate DirectPLUS loan, which again, I will refer you to the website for more information. This is another loan with a little bit of a higher interest rate.

4. Private Loans

Private student loans are another option, and one that several students choose. The good thing about private loans is that they can have lower interest rates with a good credit score. My credit score is fantastic, but because I have a shorter period of established credit, my interest rates were not any better than the federal loans. One way to reduce these interest rates is to have your parents co-sign if they have a good credit score, but I did not want to drag my parents into debt with me. 

In the debate between federal and private loans, you are going to have to choose what is best for your situation. I liked that federal loans offer consolidation options for after I graduate, and some forgiveness plans and safety nets. However, the lower interest rates that you can get on private loans may be worth  taking those out instead. Just do your research and consider your own life situation.


So that is what I have figured out so far in this whole financial aid game. However, I am still learning and I am interested to see how I feel about this whole process in another year. Does anyone have any good financial aid tips and tricks? I would love to learn more!

Until next time!

- Bailey

1L Class Schedule




Hey, friends! Something super exciting happened today - I got  my class schedule for my first semester of law school! We were told we would receive our class schedules approximately the first week of August, so naturally I have been checking my school's website daily for approximately the past three weeks.

Anyone who is going to law school knows that you do not get to pick your first year classes in law school. Classes are pre-assigned, and you will essentially take pretty much the same classes anywhere you go. It reminds me of freshman year of high school, where you are simply handed a schedule at orientation and those are the classes you are going to take, whether you like it or not. Some law schools, like mine, have you take a specific set first semester and another second semester, and some have you do all of them as full-year classes. At my school, your first-year classes are set up as follows:

Fall Semester Courses

  • Civil Procedure
  • Criminal Law
  • Torts
  • Applied Legal Analysis and Writing
  • Legal Research Tools and Strategies
Spring Semester Courses
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Property
  • Applied Legal Analysis and Writing II
So as you can see, I have known what classes I will be taking this fall for awhile, I just did not know when or with what professors. Most schools group first-year students into sections, and everyone in each section has every class together. This helps familiarizes students with one another and simplifies scheduling for the school.

My schedule for the fall semester is as follows:

Monday/Wednesday
8:00-8:50 AM - Legal Research
9:45-11:00 AM - Civil Procedure
2:30-4:25 - Torts

Tuesday/Thursday
1:00-2:15 - Legal Analysis and Writing
2:30-3:45 - Criminal Law

Overall, I am pretty happy with this schedule. The other section has the same schedule, but flipped. Their Mondays are the same as my Tuesdays, and vice versa. I know some people will not like the 8:00 AM class, but I am a morning person so it will be fine. The only thing I do not like is how spaced out my days are on Monday and Wednesday, I would prefer to have all of my classes in a row without breaks. However, there is one thing that I am very excited for with this schedule - NO CLASS ON FRIDAY!

For the last three semesters of undergrad, I had an ideal schedule where I only had class Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually from 8:30 AM until about 3:00 PM with no breaks. These were long days, but then I had plenty of time off to work and do other things. Because of this, it will take some time to get used to my law school schedule, but I am confident I can make this work.

For anyone else in law school, how does this compare to your class schedules?

I look forward to updating you how I handle these classes soon!

- Bailey

Saturday, July 30, 2016

How to go to law school FOR FREE

Hey, friends! So we're back to the ugly topic - money. But here's the thing, money doesn't actually have to be such an ugly thing to talk about. Anybody who is even thinking about law school probably knows that law school is inevitably extremely expensive. It's probably one of the things that deters people from going to law school the most, other than the fact that it's notoriously difficult. However, there are ways to make it a little more affordable. In fact, if you're as lucky as me, you could even go for free.


I distinctly remember getting my first acceptance email to one of the schools I had applied to. It was a feeling of pure joy mixed with relief knowing that I got in. Even better, I scrolled down and in the email I was also informed I was going to receive a full-tuition scholarship, renewable for three years of study at one of my top law school choices. Needless to say I instantly began crying and called my mom, because that was the moment I realized my dream of attending law school was about to become a reality.

Now, before I give you my tutorial on how to go to law school for free, I want to insert a little disclaimer. A full-tuition scholarship doesn't really mean you'll get free school. You probably know from undergrad that tuition is just one of the several expenses you will have when attending school. You'll still have to pay fees, textbooks, living expenses, and personal costs. However, since law school often costs upwards of $40,000 per year for tuition alone, a full-tuition scholarship can't hurt.

So, here are things to keep in mind if you want a full-tuition (or even any) scholarship:

1. Have a good undergrad GPA

Clearly, this is something you need to think about way before you plan on attending law school. This starts with your first semester of undergrad. (Pro Tip: Pad your GPA by getting A's during your first years, so that when classes get harder your GPA won't be hit as hard by a lower grade or two) This is extremely important, because GPA is one of the biggest factors in both getting into law schools, as well as scholarship consideration. Ideally, to get a full-tuition scholarship, you probably will want a GPA and LSAT score at or above a school's 75th percentile. Even the lowest ranked schools have median GPAs of over 2.75 usually, so you should plan on being at least a B student.

2. Have a good LSAT Score

This is something you want to think about around a year or so before you begin applying to law schools, but I wanted to include it at the top of the list because this is one of, if not the most important factors in scholarship consideration. Like I mentioned before, you want to get a score that is at least at the school's 75th percentile for a full-tuition scholarship. Some schools that don't tend to give out as many scholarships (University of Florida, for example) tend to look for scores even higher than their 75th percentile. Every point helps.

If you sign up for CRS - Candidate Referral Service, law schools will look for you based on your LSAT score. Some schools may even contact you telling you that you are a candidate for a full-tuition scholarship, or other scholarships based on your placement in that school's LSAT range.

3. Pad your resume with extracurricular activities and get to know your professors

I'm lumping these two things into one category, because you know what you need to do. Get involved with a few clubs or activities to show that you are more than just an average student. Volunteer, work a part-time job, tutor younger students, join a club, etc. You know the drill. 

Also, get to know your professors so that they will write you awesome letters of recommendation. Seriously, I went and bugged one of my professors during his office hours about once a month over the course of two years for class help, advising, and eventually law school help. And then when I needed him to, he helped write me an awesome letter of recommendation. I also had a professor that I kept in constant contact with that helped me completely dominate my personal statements, which was an immense help. This is some of the same stuff you need to get into law school, but they take all of these into account when determining scholarship help as well.

4. Write a personal statement that is actually personal

There's a lot of pressure for incoming law students to write amazing personal statements - but that's because this is the one thing that truly sets you apart from other students applying and gives you a chance to beg for admission and scholarships. So make sure your personal statement stands out from the rest of students describing their journey to law school. Whether it is made personal by a great story about overcoming hardships, reasons why you are different from the rest of the other applicants, or a reason why the school is a perfect fit for you, make sure it is extremely personal. Along with my personal statement, I added a one-page addendum describing why the school I am attending would be a perfect fit for me, and why I would be a perfect fit for the school. Honestly, I think that is what helped seal my scholarship. I showed that I was not just interested in becoming a law student, but I was interested in the school and was aware of the unique things it had to offer.

5. Be smart - apply to schools where you have a good chance of getting scholarships

Look for schools where either your GPA or LSAT scores are above the school's 75th percentile. Ideally both would be above that mark, but that is not always necessary. A good GPA can make up for a lower LSAT score to an extent, and vice versa. All of the schools where I received a full-tuition scholarship, both of my scores were above the 75th percentile. Also, apply to schools where they tend to give out more scholarships. It does not matter if you have stellar grades and an incredible LSAT score if a school only gives out five scholarships per year. 

You can find data on all of this information on most law schools' websites. They are mandatory disclosures required by the ABA, so you should be able to find this information pretty easily.

6. Apply Early

This one seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised how many students tell you they are still considering applying to law school and have not started the process when you are already putting your first deposits in. Schools will run out of scholarship money, so apply early for the best chances. The only downside to this is that some schools do not start making scholarship decisions until early January, so you might hear back about your admission decision well before your scholarship decision.

7. Don't Be Picky - Apply Everywhere

Okay, everywhere is an exaggeration. But apply to a lot of schools. I applied to six, which seemed like a lot considering I only applied to three schools for undergrad. You might have your dream school figured out, but if it costs five times as much as another school, it might not be worth it. Shop around a little bit and see where you get the best scholarship offers. I did this and received full-tuition scholarships to three schools, and generous partial scholarships to other schools. 

This is not fully about just shopping around, though. On most law school applications, admissions councils will ask you where else you are applying. The more schools you apply to, especially within similar ranking ranges, they are more likely to be competitive. So applying to several schools is also strategic.



These are my biggest pieces of advice when it comes to getting a good scholarship for law school. Overall, just work hard and keep the goal in mind. A year ago, I had no idea that I would have three full-ride offers to amazing law schools, but I committed to the dream and now I get to go to law school for free - well, almost.

Talk to you guys soon,
- Bailey



Friday, July 29, 2016

Moving Disaster!

Hey, friends! So here's a not-so-upbeat post about something that tried to screw up my plans to move to the city where I am attending law school. When I originally visited my law school in February, I also took the time to tour an apartment I was interested in. I really liked the apartment, and decided to sign a lease with them. Being a future lawyer, I took the time to read through the contract very carefully. However, I missed one small, yet important detail - the date.

The move-in date for my apartment was scheduled for five days after I was supposed to be at school for orientation. I immediately emailed the apartment and asked for an early move-in, and arranged for my law school to send a letter to the complex management explaining that I needed to be at school on August 15th. The apartment management assured me that they could do what they could to help me, and would let me know as soon as they made a decisions.

I didn't hear back from them for months. I emailed them about once a month for updates, only to be told to keep waiting. I finally heard back from them about a week ago - less than a month until school starts - that my request was denied. The law school I'm attending is in a fairly small town, so this left me and my roommates with a very short time to find a place to stay among limited options. We settled on an AirBnB rental that was moderately priced, but also moderately sketchy, that only cost us $300 each. So hopefully that doesn't turn out too awful. I'm not going to lie though, I am a little nervous about it, but it will have to work.

I'll update you when I actually get there. Send good vibes.

- Bailey

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My Washington D.C. Vacation

Hey, friends! To take a break from posting about law school, I thought I would tell you all about an awesome trip I took about three weeks ago to Washington, D.C.

My best friend since middle school is interning in D.C. for the summer, which is somewhat unfortunate because this was supposed to be our last summer living in the same state. However, it has been an incredible opportunity for her because she has made a lot of career connections and had some great experiences, and it was an awesome opportunity for me because it meant I got to take a vacation and go visit her. My 21st birthday fell during the second weekend in July, so I decided to buy myself a plane ticket to D.C. as a little birthday present. $200 later and a promise of being able to sleep on my friend's couch, I was Washington bound!

I arrived on a Thursday evening. Southwest Airlines decided to throw a wrench in my travel plans by cancelling my original flight early on the day I departed, but I ended up being able to schedule an earlier flight for no extra cost, which meant an extra four hours in D.C., so overall it was a score. I arrived to Reagan National Airport, found my bad, found my friend, and taxied back to her apartment located on the George Washington University Campus. Then, we grabbed some dinner and spent the night relaxing and catching up. It was an uneventful, but very fun first night.

The next day was Friday, my birthday! My friend had to go to class in the morning, so I spent that hour at a Starbucks in Arlington working on my law school reading. After that, we went to the grocery score and cooked a delicious birthday brunch. Then, we did the thing I was most excited about on my birthday - we went to the Supreme Court. Being the legal nerd that I am, I may have teared up a couple of times walking up the steps, sitting in the courtroom, and seeing the giant John Marshall statue. It was amazing, and incredible. Any law student would love going.
A photo posted by Bailey Rosecrans (@brosecrans) on



After that we went to Georgetown to Baked and Wired, an awesome coffee shop, ducked into a cat cafe while it was raining, ate some dinner, and then went on a "moonlight monument cruise". They announced that it was a "romantic" tour, which made my friend and I giggle, but it was extremely fun. We also took advantage of the bar on the boat to purchase my first legal drink, which was a fruity cocktail appropriately named "The Capitol Intern." After the cruise, we spent the last few hours of my birthday laying around and watching the 21st birthday episode of Gilmore Girls, because duh.

The next day, Saturday, we went to the Library of Congress and toured the capitol, which was the perfect level of political nerdiness for me.
A photo posted by Bailey Rosecrans (@brosecrans) on


We walked by the White House on the way back to my friend's apartment, where we spent the hottest part of the afternoon. At sunset, we walked around to see all of the monuments, which was absolutely incredible. All of it was really fun, but we did end up walking over 12 miles that day, so we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream, obviously.

However, the best part of Saturday was definitely between going to the Capitol and the White House, when we stopped by the IRS building. For some reason, I'm completely obsessed with the IRS and half joke/half dream about being an IRS attorney some day. I made my friend take a picture of me outside of the building, because why not. It was one of those fun, little things that made the most memories.
The next day we spent by going to the Museum of American History, the Museum of Natural History, and the National Archives because we wanted to be like Nicholas Cage and see the Declaration of Independence. It's hard to describe how awesome it is to see a piece of our nation's history in person like that. We were really worn out and tired from all of the walking we had already done over the weekend, so late in the afternoon we decided to rent a movie (National Treasure, of course) and get some burgers for dinner. We talked, laughed, and had so much fun before I left on Monday.

The whole trip was so much fun, and as a political science and history nerd, the whole trip was perfect for me! I definitely recommend it as a vacation destination for law students.

See you real soon!
- Bailey

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2 1/2 Weeks Until I Die... Er, Become a Law Student

19 Days!

Hey, friends! So I know it's been a gazillion years (that's a technical term, haha) since I have posted and I want to apologize for my lack of attentiveness. But this summer I haven't had much to post about, simply because not a lot has happened. I've done my law school reading, turned in the forms my school has sent me, and answered countless questions from family and friends about my future, but honestly that's really about it. However, now I am only two and half weeks (19 days!) away from being a law student, so things are definitely going to start picking up here soon.


Communication

My law school has been really great about keeping in touch with me this summer. As many of you know from my earlier post about law school deposits, that it costs a lot of money to officially decide where to attend law school. However, because of this expensive commitment, once you hand over the cash, most schools assume that you plan on attending their institution and get the ball rolling on prepping you for school. Since those deposits have been submitted (and even before), it seems that my school has emailed me at least once every two weeks with updates on things like financial aid, forms I need to fill out, information about the school, etc. Not only that, but I've had a few questions and emailed back and forth with my admissions counselors. One great thing that my school had, and I think most schools have, is a Facebook page for their incoming J.D. class. Through that page I've found roommates, information on housing, got general questions answered, etc. It has been an excellent resource. I recommend looking for something like this just to familiarize yourself with some of your classmates or answer questions you didn't even know you had.

Summer Reading

I also posted a few weeks back about the light summer reading my law school sent me, which was actually a 250 page textbook. I've been slowly reading through that and it's basically a simple summary of the American legal system. As someone who just graduated with a degree in political science, this is pretty much review for me. However, I don't want to get lazy now so I am trying to keep up with my classmates by reading it anyway. Besides, it's a great way to occupy my time before school starts.

Administrative Tasks

I've also spent a lot of the summer doing some boring, administrative tasks for law school. This includes filling out forms, applying for loans, setting up my school email, closing my local bank accounts and applying for new ones close to my school, and several other things like that. Although none of this stuff is fun, it's good to get it now instead of waiting until school starts or right before. Being a new law student will be hard enough, I don't want to overwhelm myself with tedious things like financial consent forms or tech support.



Hopefully as we get even closer to school starting, I'll have more to post about. Until then, I'll see you soon!
- Bailey



 
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