Demystifying Scholarships

Author: Lauren Love

Beyond the actual process of applying and admissions, the most popular area for questions from our prospective students – especially the admitted students! – is scholarship and financial aid opportunities. The manner in which you will finance your legal education is very important. Our staff has tried to answer some of the most popular questions on our Financial Aid FAQ page, but we certainly recognize that you may have additional questions. We hope that this blog post helps demystify our process as well as provide you with further avenues for research as you try to determine not just the best fit for your educational and professional needs, but also balancing your financial circumstances.

Our Process
Students who were admitted to Notre Dame Law School through the end of January were notified that the Scholarship Committee typically does not start issuing award letters until February. We have this delay for a few reasons, most notably, because it allows us to have our best sense of the applicant pool for both NDLS as well as nationally, and we have the clearest sense of our final scholarship budget. As such and based on those present circumstances, we believe that these awards will be the best financial offer we can make to our admitted students.

The majority of our scholarship awards are merit-based. To that end, a student’s undergraduate GPA and LSAT play an important role but we also consider our larger enrollment goals and how a student helps us to shape the best class possible for the Law School.

Some scholarship funds have a greater weight towards financial need rather than merit. In certain cases, we can combine a student’s merit award with some of this need-based funding.

Award Letters
The Scholarship Committee finalized its initial round of scholarship awards last week and the letters will go in the mail this week. The Scholarship Committee will continue to issue awards throughout the coming weeks.

Our policy is to notify each student of their scholarship status regardless of whether they have received an award or not. If a student has not received an award at this time, the Scholarship Committee will continue to consider them through the remainder of our enrollment period.

If a student did receive an award letter, they will notice a few stipulations on the award:

  • NDLS scholarships are not conditional. Scholarships are automatically renewed as long as the student remains in good academic standing. You may find a definition of “good academic standing” in the Hoynes Code, which is the Law School’s governing code.
  • While we do believe that these are the most competitive offers that we can make to our admitted students, we recognize that circumstances can change. In order to account for that potential, our office has a Scholarship Appeal Form that students may submit to let us know about their awards from peer schools. Please note that the relevant point of comparison that the Scholarship Committee uses is the total cost of attendance (which includes tuition, room and board, books, supplies, etc.) minus scholarship as this reflects the “out of pocket” expense that the student can expect.
  • In order to be fair to all our scholarship candidates, we ask that students who receive awards not provide multiple enrollment deposits to NDLS and other law schools.
  • Our scholarships can only be applied to Law School tuition. If a student enrolls in a dual degree program – such as the JD/MBA program – then the student will not receive their NDLS scholarship for the semesters for which they are charged the other graduate program’s tuition.

Going Forward
Beyond our scholarship awards, our office encourages students to continue researching other avenues that could provide them with financial assistance for their legal education, whether that be in the form of scholarship assistance now, or assistance after enrollment or graduation. Careful research and planning now will pay dividends after graduation.

  • Please take the time to examine the External Scholarship Database. We continue to post new scholarships as we are made award of them by the issuing agency.
  • Consider whether you may be a good fit for the Assistant Rector positions for your 2L and 3L years on campus. Besides the financial benefits, these positions offer a great opportunity to develop as a community leader and to be engaged in the larger Notre Dame campus.
  • For those who are considering public interest law, you should research our Loan Repayment Assistance Program. This program has disbursed over $1 million to NDLS graduates since its inception in 2001.
  • Create a budget and consider how that may affect the amount of loans you will borrow. The cost of living in the South Bend-area is very reasonable compared to national averages. You may find that having a roommate (or two) will allow you to take thousands of dollars off your loans over the long term. AccessLex Institute offers budgeting tools that can assist you with your estimates.

We are happy to answer any questions about these programs or about our scholarship assistance in general. Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can assist you!

Written by Jacob Baska, director of admissions and financial aid. Baska is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and has nine years of experience in both undergraduate and law school admissions.