Scholarships, Funding and Financial Aid to Help Pay for Your LLM Degree

Scholarships, Funding and Financial Aid to Help Pay for Your LLM Degree

A Master of Laws degree, or simply an LLM, is a post-graduate course normally sought after by law graduates and those with careers in the legal field. Law schools vary in the requirements they impose on potential students to be considered eligible to take an LLM degree. Some requires a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or a Juris Doctor (JD) degree while others will accept those without a prior law degree as long the student has a certain number of years of experience doing legal work.

However, any graduate legal education such as an LLM degree may prove to be a significant investment. Universities vary in the tuition and fees for LLM courses but even the lowest rates remain expensive, especially for an individual who will study and have little or no time to work at the same time. Before enrolling to an LLM program, therefore, it is necessary to weigh the benefits against the costs. Only when decided and satisfied that it is a worthy endeavor should the LLM applicant proceed.

The good news is, you may get some relief from the high costs of a Master of Laws degree, particularly if you prefer to acquire it from a prestigious university. Various forms of financial aid are offered to prospective LLM students, including the following four main types of funding:

  • Merit-based or academic scholarships offered by law schools;
  • Scholarships and grants from the government and private institutions/foundations;
  • Student loans; and,
  • Work-study funding.


Merit-based or Academic Scholarships

This type of scholarship are awarded based on the the student's grades or academic achievements. Many law schools automatically consider incoming students for merit-based scholarships which it provides to top LLM applicants. This is likewise offered to international students who fits the criteria. In other law schools, students would need to apply for the scholarship to be considered.


Scholarships and Grants

There are numerous scholarships outside the university that is offered both by the government and private institutions.  The beauty about acquiring scholarships is that it need not be repaid.  Many of these are offered according to certain criteria, e.g., based on nationality, on field of study, on religion, on status in life, etc. Given the high number of scholarships available to students of Master of Laws, it is important to closely consider where you are likely to be accepted based on your eligibility to save time and effort.

Some of the most popular scholarships and grants include the

Fulbright Commission
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
The Federal Pell Grant
Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Federal Pell Grant.)
MALDEF Law School Scholarship Program
MALDEF’s Law School Scholarship Program provides several scholarships in varying amounts to deserving law students with a commitment to advancing the civil rights of Latinos.

Fulbright Commission, the Federal Pell Grant, ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund,  MALDEF Law School Scholarship Program, company scholarships offered to employees who wants to get further law education and hundreds of other scholarships extended to LLM students. It is important to note that though grants and scholarships need not be repaid, it may have to be refunded if the student withdraws from school.


Student Loan

A student loan is borrowed money, which may also be considered if in need of resources to acquire an LLM degree. Unlike grants or scholarships, it needs to be repaid with interest. This may be a resort for students in case no grant is made available to them. Student loans are provided by the government as well as private institutions. This may also be acquired and combined with grants and scholarships to allow for bigger funding to cover other expenses outside tuition and fees, such as, housing expenses, books, etc.

Law schools, Banks, the government and many other entities extend student loans. Some of the most popular student loans include Direct Stafford, Federal Perkins Loan Program, William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, Direct Plus Loan, etc. It is important to make sure that student loans are paid appropriately to avoid turning it into a burden.

Federal Perkins Loan Program
Loans made through the Federal Perkins Loan Program, also called Perkins Loans, are low-interest federal student loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. It is available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students having an interest rate of 5%.
Direct Stafford
Direct Stafford Loans are student loans that must be repaid and are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. First-year undergraduates are eligible for loans up to $5,500. Amounts increase for subsequent years of study, with higher amounts for graduate students.
Direct Plus Loan
The U.S. Department of Education makes Direct PLUS Loans to eligible borrowers through schools participating in the Direct Loan Program. The provider of this loan in the U.S. Department of Education. You may avail it if you have no adverse credit history. The maximum amount that can be borrowed is the cost of attendance, as determined by the university, minus other funding that may have been received.

Work-Study Funding

May law schools offer this type of funding to LLM students, which basically is a part-time work program for students who earn money from the work/employment, e.g., in the university, to pay for LLM tuition. It is best to first check if the law school being considered offer this type of funding. International students may need to consider the type of visa issued to them to determine if they can participate in a work-study program or not. The government, through the Federal Work-Study FWS) Program, also offers this type of financial help to graduate students with financial needs.

A good way to begin searching for financial support is by investigating what grants and scholarships are available from governments and private foundations. Grants and scholarships are awards that do not have to be repaid. Merit-based scholarships for LL.M. programs are prestigious and substantial awards given to applicants who can demonstrate an exceptional academic and professional record, and show potential for future success. Some scholarships, such as those offered by the US-based Fulbright Commission, are highly competitive.

There are also many other grants that are offered to a limited range of students - to students of a certain religion, ethnicity, nationality, or academic interest, for example. To see which scholarships you might be eligible for, please consult one of the many publications that provide extensive lists of scholarships and educational grants.

It is important to note that financial aid will not be offered to you on a silver platter. You need to act to acquire it. The opportunities abound and may be accessed online and offline. You need only to apply for them until you achieve your target. A good example is the experience of Shay Spivey, who was awarded with 22 scholarships totaling more than $100,000 in the 5 years that she was in college.

What she did is spend her spare time while working on finding available scholarships online and applied to each one of them. She got more rejections than acceptance but persisted until she got her first scholarship award of $18,500. She did not stop there and applied for 67 scholarships in total. She became successful at it and her example should serve as inspiration to other students who believe in the power of education but cannot afford it.

One secret Spivey would like to impart to others is the use of her binder method. This approach will make it easier for students to get financial assistance by collecting all the usual requirements in a binder and re-using them in succeeding applications. It is also important to keep checking for available financial aid options worth exploring. In Spivey's case, she applied for single-mother scholarships, enabling her to afford even expenses besides tuition, such as child care and housing.

Ultimately, funding an LLM degree rests with the students. Despite the existence of a huge amount of opportunities for funding, grants, scholarships, student loans and other forms of financial aid, nothing will go to the student if no time and effort will be invested on acquiring them.