Issues,  Law School

Breaking Law School Barriers II: Hidden Costs

This series, Breaking Law School Barriers, tackles the big and small issues that come into play when you’re deciding if you’ll even attend law school.  The purpose is to give practical advice for college students, and for current law students and attorneys to give suggestions about their real world experience.

For those that have started the law school application process it’s likely that you already know this–even applying to law school cost money.   Seriously, as a college senior applying for law school, all I could do from giving up, was keep hoping that I would be given extra hours at my part-time job so that I could afford what seemed to be fee after fee.  If I had known about some of these costs, I think I could have planned better and not have had such a hard senior year.   So, today we want to discuss and inform current and potential law school applicants about possible costs and fees that one may encounter while applying so that you can start planning accordingly.

hidden costs to law school

One. Law School Deposits.  Ugh, nothing shocked me more than realizing I had to pay almost $500 to keep my admission ticket to my law school.  Back then, I did have a lot of time to pay for it, and thankfully, I was able to scrape the money together before the deadline.  Search your top choice and safety schools to determine the deposit amount they ask for and start saving up (some schools require a $1000 deposit)!  Other schools (like Harvard) have stopped asking for deposits, but most schools still require a fee.  On the one hand, this amount is credited to your tuition, but on the other–it sucks to have to pay this.

Two. Interview Attire.  Most law schools don’t do admission interviews, but some do and you need to look the part whether it’s an in-person interview or even done via Skype.  For these interviews, I wouldn’t encourage rocking the boat and would recommend looking as conservative and cookie-cutter as possible.  Hey, I’m just trying to make sure they admit you.  Even for schools that don’t do formal admission interviews, you may end up interviewing for scholarship or fellowship positions, or you may go to an admitted student reception–that all requires formal business attire.

Three. LSAC Application Fees.  The LSAT by itself costs almost $200, but aside from that most schools still require that you submit your applications via LSAC.  LSAC then charges around $155 for their service.  If you qualify, I strongly suggest filing for a fee waiver so that LSAC doesn’t charge all those service fees.  I was able to do so and though I could only apply to four law schools (that’s all the LSAC fee waiver allows), it was immeasurably helpful.

Four. Travel/Moving Costs.  You want to see your school, right? The town you’ll be living in for three years?  Meet the faculty?  This will require travel, which requires money.  And maybe you’ll end up living in a different city and will need to move by summer’s end.  This also requires a lot of planning and money upfront.  I moved from Northwest Indiana to Chicago on a shoestring budget and am still amazed that it all worked out.  But, it could have been so much easier if I had started saving and earmarking some money for the big move.

Five.  1L Books.  Text book fees are so outrageous and unfortunately, you’re given reading assignments prior to the beginning of the semester.  Meaning, you often have to buy these books before student loans are deposited into your account. That hurts! For me that meant picking and choosing which books to buy because there was no way I could afford to buy each required book (let alone supplementals).  No joke- it wasn’t until early October before I even purchase my civil procedure statute book!

This isn’t a very upbeat post, I know.  But it’s better to prepare and know upfront than to be blindsided and possibly lose out on this opportunity just because you’re short a couple hundred dollars.  Instead, keep these costs in the back of your mind and realize that getting to law school usually requires more sacrifice from us (especially monetary sacrifice), but if you can make it–you can make real, lasting change as an attorney.