Ms. JD Pre-Law: Financial February - 10 Things You Must Do This Month
By Laura Bladow • January 28, 2015•Law School, Pre-Law
Upon submitting all of my law school applications before Christmas I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders. The peace of mind that came with knowing I had checked all the boxes and there was nothing left to do was probably the best Christmas present I could have given myself.
However, as the admissions decisions began to filter in, I quickly realized there was still a good deal of work to be done before I reached a decision point. Yes, there is work in the waiting game. (Sadly, I'm not just talking about comparing schools and making pro/con lists to decide where to submit a deposit.) So I hope everyone has had a relaxing January, and if you haven't gotten organized already, here's a list of the 10 things you must accomplish during Financial February.
- Get organized: There are several deadlines for each school that you need to be aware of (financial aid, FAFSA, Need Access, attendance intention, deposits, scholarships, etc.). Don't let them sneak up on you! February is a short month, and many deadlines are March 1st! For every school you applied to, you should know what the financial aid and scholarship deadlines and processes are. With so many dates and multiple schools, I created a spreadsheet with several tabs to keep track of it all. I have a tab tracking admissions decisions with their various deposit deadlines, and a separate tab organizing the information on the forms and deadlines for financial aid. Organize the deadlines and other critical information in a way that works for you now so that you don't miss an important deadline later.
- Read through each school's financial aid website: You'll already be looking through these sites to compile dates and deadlines, so take 5 extra minutes to familiarize yourself with how each school handles financial aid. They aren't all exactly the same, and there will likely be a few different processes or paperwork requirements for a couple of your schools.
- Do your taxes: Get them done early! You'll need to complete them before you can file your FAFSA.
- File FAFSA: Most schools have a priority deadline of March 1st. Once your taxes are filed you have no excuses to wait, just get it done!
- File NeedAccess: If you've gotten organized with your deadlines and read through the financial aid websites you'll know which schools require a NeedAccess form. You'll also know that most schools require you to include your parents' tax information for this form. Make time to talk to your parents about what you'll need and what the filing deadlines are so that they can plan too.
- Begin thinking about financial planning for law school: Start calculating costs, factoring in scholarships, and talking with your parents or a trusted financial advisor about how you will pay for school. You'll soon be weighing each school's different pros and cons before submitting a deposit, so do some math now to make sure you have an accurate picture of a school's financial costs included on that pro/con list. Not sure how? 2014 Ms. JD WIR Jeena Cho breaks it all down here.
- Scholarship research: If you're not thrilled with what your projected student loan debt load looks like, seek out additional scholarships. All kinds of different organizations offer scholarships and everyone has different requirements and deadlines. Ms. JD can help get you started with this list.
- Ask questions: Attending law school is a big decision, and if you have questions about a particular school, reach out to the admissions and financial aid offices and ask. Want to get a better feel for the school? Admissions offices are usually happy to put you in touch with alumni and current students to make sure you get the best understanding of if their schools is the right fit for you. Remember, the only dumb question is the one that goes unasked.
- Visit schools and attend local admitted student receptions: If you are able, take advantage of the opportunities your schools offer to get a better feel for the campus, student body, and alumni network. You might be surprised by where you feel more comfortable, and that is important to know before you submit your deposits.
- Celebrate: Congratulations on surviving the application process and being accepted to law school! This is a huge accomplishment! Go celebrate with your friends and family and make the most of the next 6 months of freedom!
About the Author: Laura Bladow is Ms. JD's Programs Manager in addition to being a passionate pre-law woman. Have questions about law school or pursuing a career with a JD? Leave a comment below or tweet @msjdorg & @laurabladow with the hashtag #msjdprelaw and engage with our community! Looking for more pre-law resources, check out Ms. JD's Pre-Law Prep Guide as well as the pre-law section of our blog!
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