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Once we complete our review of your preliminary financial aid application, we will send notification to you via email (based on the Step 1 Target Dates for admitted students and in July for returning students). This email will direct you to log back into your financial aid account in the SFS Self-Service Portal and view your provisional financial aid eligibility information. Upon authentication back into our system, you will see that the ‘Budget & Eligibility’ tab has now been enabled. On this page, you will be able to view detailed information about the following:

  • your student budget,
  • your student resources from income and assets,
  • our determination of your parents’ resources (if not applying loan-only),
  • your specific financial aid eligibility, and
  • the total amount of your potential borrowing which will be eligible for loan repayment assistance under the Law School’s Low Income Protection Plan.

After reviewing your specific eligibility information in the SFS Self-Service Portal, please read through the following frequently asked questions about HLS Financial Aid. If after reading through this section you still have general eligibility questions, or if you would like to discuss the specifics of how your particular eligibility was determined, please contact the SFS office to set up an appointment.

  • You can reach a financial aid officer by phone at (617) 495-4606 or email

Frequently Asked Questions About Financial Aid Eligibility

  • What are the common types of financial aid available?

    Financial aid is more than just grant assistance. Education loans are a large percentage of the total financial aid available (and needed) to finance the cost of graduate/professional education. Financial aid comes from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Government, private education loan funds, HLS institutional funds, Harvard University funds, and outside awards & scholarships sources. Here are some of the major categories of funding available through our office:

    U.S. Federal Loan Programs

    • All U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens are guaranteed $20,500 from the Federal Direct Unsubsidized loan program regardless of credit worthiness.
    • In addition, U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens can borrow up to the remainder of the cost of attendance from the Federal GradPLUS Loan Program which does have a credit worthiness component.

    Private Education Loans

    • All students (U.S. citizens and international) have the option of borrowing funding from any number of private education loan sources to cover up to the full cost of attendance. The private loan programs on the HLS Preferred Lender List may offer a substantially lower total repayment cost than Federal loans. Before applying for any loan, you’ll want to review our “How Do I Choose A Loan Program?” page which will help you evaluate your loan options

    Institutional Funds

    • HLS distributes need-based grant assistance to all students that qualify based on our institutional need analysis guidelines. In addition to grants, HLS also distributes a more limited amount of its own need-based loans to students who meet this same criteria.

    Outside Awards & Scholarships Sources

    • Students can receive funding from a wide variety of outside sources. You can learn more about outside scholarships by visiting the Outside Scholarships section of our website. Students who secure outside awards and scholarships are required to report them to our office so that we can add them to the student’s financial aid eligibility; however, these awards are used to reduce borrowing and do not ordinarily reduce any HLS Grant eligibility.
  • Do I need to do anything to accept my financial aid?

    You do not need to do anything to accept your provisional financial aid eligibility. You will, however, have to make specific borrowing decisions about loan types and lenders. The loan selection process is described in Step 3 of the Application Process which begins in June for new admits and mid-July for continuing students. We will email you more detailed information about this process at that time.

  • Why is the word “provisional” used to describe my eligibility?

    We use the word provisional when describing your eligibility because all students’ eligibility will be updated during the fall review process. We review and recalculate all financial aid eligibility using actual summer income information, which we collect via a form that will be made available to you in late summer. Please refer to both the Application Overview for information about the overall financial aid application process at HLS and Step 5: Updating Your Financial Aid Eligibility for more details about the fall review process.

  • I don’t have enough funding to cover my expenses. Are there additional resources that I can leverage to cover the cost of attending HLS?

    You can, at your option, use either Federal or private education loans to bridge the gap between your other aid and the total cost of attendance. Many students use their own resources, such as savings from summer income and assets, to reduce the amount of  additional borrowing required. Some students also receive help from their parents, apply for outside scholarships, or work during the academic year to reduce their borrowing.

  • Does HLS offer merit-based or need-based financial aid?

    Students are eligible for Harvard Law School Grant and Loan assistance solely on the basis of demonstrated financial need. The School does not offer “merit” or “full-ride” scholarships (which typically are not need-based,) because these would necessarily reduce the resources available for need-based aid and increase the debt burden of every financially needy student. For students whose demonstrated financial need does not reach the threshold for Law School Grant eligibility, Federal loans and private education loans are available to meet education expenses.

    Need-based aid, by definition, assumes that the student and their family have primary responsibility for financing the cost of education. The role of institutional financial aid is to close the gap between the cost of education and the potential level of contribution from the family resources as determined through a uniform and consistent system of need analysis.

    Unlike merit aid programs, need-based aid applies a consistent, equitable set of awarding policies to every aid applicant. What truly distinguishes Harvard Law School’s financial aid program from most merit aid programs, however, is that it measures financial need not just over the three years of law school, but potentially over the decade or more that graduates are repaying loans. Many graduates who do not qualify for need-based HLS Grant assistance do qualify for substantial grant assistance from the Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP), Harvard Law School’s loan repayment assistance program. In this way, Harvard Law School helps make education accessible to every student through need-based financial aid, and preserves a broad range of career choice options for graduates through need-based LIPP assistance.

  • What is the process for determining financial need?

    Financial need is the difference between the total cost of attendance (the student budget) and the student and parent resources calculated by Student Financial Services. There are two standardized formulas used to determine family resources. The first is called Federal Methodology. HLS is required by law to use this formula, established by the U.S. Congress, to determine a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid (for graduate students, this means eligibility for federal loan assistance). Federal Methodology is limited in scope, ignores some key forms of income, and eliminates some substantial types of assets from the need consideration. The data used to complete this analysis is collected via the FAFSA. Graduate students are always treated as independent for the purposes of determining eligibility for federal aid and do not need to submit any parental information on the FAFSA.

    The second formula is known as Institutional Methodology. This formula is nationally accepted, developed by the College Board, and governed by a committee of advisors made up of representatives from colleges and universities. Most institutions that have a substantial amount of their own institutional aid dollars, like Harvard Law School, use this formula, or a variation of this formula, to determine a student’s eligibility for institutional need-based grants and loans. Institutional Methodology is more robust, incorporates a more extensive array of data points, and therefore more accurately and equitably reflects a family’s financial strength. The data used to complete this analysis is collected via our Parent Application forms (found on the SFS Self-Service Portal) and from required Federal tax form data. Parent financial resources are always considered by HLS when applying for need-based grants and loans, unless a student reaches the age of 29 on or before September 1st of the academic year for which they are seeking financial assistance. All students who will not reach age 29 by September 1st of the academic year in question should be sure to provide all detailed financial data for all of their  parents (including any step-parents if their parents are divorced and remarried). See the Consideration of Parent Resources section of our website for more information about our policies on the consideration of parental resources.

  • What is the “Financial Need Threshold” and how does it relate to grant assistance?

    In order to be eligible for need-based grant assistance, a student must have demonstrated financial need. For more information about how this works, please refer to the section of our web site that details our financial aid packaging procedures.

  • Will my financial aid eligibility change from one year to the next?

    The HLS Financial Aid Program applies the same need analysis and packaging guidelines to all students. In a given school year, students with similar financial circumstances will receive similar aid packages, regardless of their year in school. However, it is not unusual for a student’s financial aid eligibility to change over the three years while enrolled at HLS. There are three primary factors that could precipitate this:

    • Changes in either the student’s or the parent’s financial circumstances. Students apply for financial aid each year while enrolled at HLS and students answer financial questions based on different tax years. Therefore, changes in your financial circumstances from year to year will result in changes in the amount of resources we determine are available in the calculation of your aid eligibility. Information on how we calculate your resources is available in the Consideration of Family Resources section of our website
    • The type of summer employment opportunities a student chooses to pursue while enrolled at HLS. Ordinarily, students who are not engaged in public service work will find that their summer earnings, and thus their student resources from income calculation, will increase as the years progress, lowering their financial need. Conversely, students working full-time in low-paying summer jobs may find their student resources from income calculation decrease in response to the lower summer income.
    • Changes in our annual eligibility policies and procedures. Each year the Law School’s Financial Aid Committee, comprised of faculty, students, and administrators, sets annual financial aid policy in response to a range of internal and external factors such as tuition costs, increases in the local cost of living, and the amount of revenue available from the School’s Grant endowment funds. These factors in turn influence the annual Financial Need Threshold amount, the average Grant eligibility, the expected minimum student resources from income calculation, and other aspects of the School’s need analysis. It is not uncommon for the need threshold to increase from year to year, as the increase in available endowed Grant funding typically is insufficient to cover the full increase in tuition, fees, cost of living, and other student budget expenses.
  • What type of changes in my own personal circumstances am I REQUIRED to notify the Student Financial Services Office about and how do I initiate this notification?

    There are certain changes in your personal circumstances that you are required to notify Student Financial Services about should they occur at any point during an academic year for which you have financial aid. These changes include, but are not limited to:

    • changes in your marital status,
    • changes in your number of dependents (normally due to the birth of a child),
    • changes in your summer employment plans,
    • changes in your spouse’s summer or academic year employment,
    • changes in your spouse’s full-time enrollment status in a post-secondary education program,
    • changes in the status of a sibling’s full-time enrollment in post-secondary education program,
    • any increase or decrease in outside funding from any source (this includes, but is not limited to, grants, loans, government assistance, etc.) and
    • changes in your assets from any source (this includes, but is not limited to, inheritance, prize winnings, large monetary gifts, etc.)

    If any of the status change(s) listed above apply to your situation over the course of time you receive aid at HLS, you are REQUIRED to notify SFS of the change(s) by submitting the online Adjustment Form found in the “Financial Aid” dropdown menu of the SFS Self-Service Portal.

    Your submission will be reviewed by a Financial Aid Officer and any aid adjustments will be communicated back to you in a timely fashion. If you would like to talk to the Officer in person before submitting the form to understand the impact the change will have on your aid, you should always feel free to call the office and make an appointment.

  • Does HLS have a financial aid appeal process?

    Yes! Our Appeal Committee meets regularly. You may appeal your financial aid eligibility if you experience significant and/or unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances that affect your ability or your family’s ability to contribute toward the cost of your education. You may also appeal if you believe that some important financial information was either not included with your original application or missed in our review of your original application. It is advisable that you discuss your appeal request with your Financial Aid Officer prior to submission so that we can give you guidance on how to proceed.

    • You can reach the financial aid officers by phone at (617) 495-4606 or set up an appointment to come speak with them in person.

    While we must conform to federal and institutional guidelines and enforce HLS Financial Aid policy consistently to ensure equity and fairness to all applicants, we are also committed to factoring in an individual student’s extenuating circumstances whenever possible and appropriate. Please know that while you do have the right to question policies enforced by the office, this is not the intent of the appeals process. The appeals process allows you to ensure that we have taken everything into account in your personal financial situation when determining your eligibility for aid according to existing policy; it is not the place to challenge policy. If you wish to discuss a policy related matter, the Assistant Dean of Student Financial Services would be happy to speak with you; your input on policy matters is welcomed and appreciated.

    Generally speaking, appeals must focus on financial circumstances related to the cost of education. Appeals based on discretionary expenses external to direct education-related costs — for example, high credit card debt, car payments, wedding expenses, discretionary travel, and financial support by the student of anyone other than the student’s children — cannot be considered.

    To initiate an appeal you need to submit our online Adjustment Form found in the “Financial Aid” dropdown menu of the SFS Self-Service Portal . On the form submit as much detail as possible about your appeal.  Generally, your appeal request will be brought to the Financial Aid Appeals Committee for consideration within two weeks of the date you submit our web form; however, during our peak processing seasons (March – July, September and October), due to the large student population we serve, appeal requests may take longer to review. During those times, we appreciate your patience as we provide thorough consideration to each appeal request.

  • Is there a simplified aid process if I don’t expect to qualify for Grant assistance in the future?

    If you do not qualify for Grant assistance in your first year because of our calculation of your parent’s resources, you may wish to apply under “Loan Only” status in subsequent years. The application process is simplified for loan-only applicants, because only student information is collected to receive loans. However, even if you do not qualify for Grant assistance in your first year, we encourage you to apply again in the future if your family circumstances change. Such changes could be additional siblings in college, a reduction in parent income and/or change in employment, or your eligibility to have our calculation of your parent’s resources reduced as a result of your age. We can answer any questions you have about your particular eligibility or our analysis of your family’s resources, and the Financial Aid Committee considers appeals for aid recalculations in response to changed circumstances at any time during the academic year.

  • I’m worried about loan debt. Will I be able to repay my loans?

    Available data indicate that HLS graduates are able to repay their student loans and that student loan defaults are rare. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that the cohort default rate for HLS graduates averages 0.39% over the most recent 5 year period, which means fewer that 2 graduates per class default on their federal student loans. That said, student loans are a significant financial responsibility and loan repayment requires careful and conscientious planning.

    Most students, especially those who need to replace parent resources, borrow a significant amount to finance their legal education. The average HLS-related debt for 2018 graduates was $164,331 plus accrued in-school interest of approximately $21,000, which translates into a total debt at graduation of over $185,000 and a monthly loan repayment amount of about $2,100. Although many students graduate with education loan debt well above the average, salaries available within the private sector of the legal profession can ordinarily support these debt levels. For example, the median private firm starting salary ($177,900) for 2017 HLS graduates would result in a net monthly income (after taxes) of about $10,200, or about $8,100 in take-home pay left over after taxes and education loan payments for a graduate at the average debt level. A graduate at the same salary who borrowed $250,000 in law school would have a monthly loan repayment (including accrued interest) of $3,200, leaving about $7,000 in monthly take-home pay after taxes and loan payments. (To explore further, use the Take-Home Pay Estimator to help you estimate the impact of loan debt on your take-home pay after law school.) It is also worth remembering that the increased income potential provided by a JD remains in effect for the remainder of one’s career.

    For graduates in lower-paying public service and law-related private sector jobs, the Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP) can reduce the debt repayment to a manageable level. You can also contact the LIPP Staff to learn more about LIPP.

    While education borrowing is likely to be a wise investment in your own future earning potential, it is also wise to borrow only what is necessary to meet the basic education expenses covered in the financial aid budget, in combination with your own resources, your available family resources, and any alternate funding sources such as term-time employment or outside scholarships. Even though LIPP assistance can help lower-income graduates repay loans, you should always think of education borrowing as loans you will repay, since you as the borrower are ultimately responsible for their repayment. Many graduates choose a different career path than the one they expected to pursue upon entering law school. Because it is difficult to know with certainty what kind of work you will want to do after law school, it is sensible to make borrowing decisions carefully and develop a realistic plan for repaying your student loans.