Financial Aid

How to Apply for Federal Aid

Ensuring Sufficient Financial Aid

Managing Student Loans During Law School and After Graduation

Financial Aid at UW Law School

There are two resources for financial assistance at the UW Law School: the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA), and the Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office. The OSFA, the University's main financial aid office, awards all federal loans as well as federal work-study funds. The Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office awards scholarships based on a variety of criteria.

Contact information for the Office of Student Financial Aid: 333 East Campus Mall #9701, Madison, WI 53715, or (608) 262-3060.

Contact information for the Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office: 975 Bascom Mall, Room 4314, Madison, WI 53706, or (608) 262-5914. 

This page focuses on federal loans and work-study funds. For information about Law School and external scholarships, please view our Scholarships page.

How to Apply for Federal Aid

As a law student, you are considered to be an independent student, and neither the OSFA nor the Law School requires parental financial data for financial aid applications. There are various types of federal aid that you may be eligible to receive. The key steps for applying for federal aid are outlined below. If you have any questions about your federal financial aid application, please contact the OSFA.

Direct Loans and Work-Study Funds

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We strongly encourage you to complete this form online.  You must specify the University of Wisconsin as one of the schools that has access to your data.  Our school code is 003895. In order to electronically sign your FAFSA, you will need your FSA ID number. You may submit your FAFSA as soon as October 1st for the following fall.

  • Report your graduate student aid (even if you have nothing to report) via MY UW, and submit any additional financial documentation the OSFA requests from you.

  • Once your FAFSA is complete and has been processed, the OSFA will send a Financial Aid Notification to the email you have provided.  Log in to MY UW to view your financial aid award, and to accept or decline the aid offered.

  • The maximum amount that you can borrow per academic year in Direct loans is $20,500.  The Direct loans available to graduate students are unsubsidized loans, meaning interest will start to accrue immediately.  Interest on unsubsidized Direct loans disbursed between July 1, 2018 and before July 1, 2019, is fixed at 6.595%. You can find more information about Direct loans on OSFA's website.

  • Work-study awards are generally not included in a law student's initial financial aid award. However, if you wish to be considered for work-study, you can send a request to the OSFA. Work-study eligibility will be determined based on your FAFSA, as well as additional documentation that OSFA may request. Work-study awards generally range from $2,000 to $2,200 per year.  If you are awarded work-study funding and are not planning to work, it may be possible to convert the work-study award into a loan (Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Grad PLUS Loan, or a private student loan).

Direct Grad PLUS Loans

You may decide that you need more financial aid than you have been awarded in Direct loans and work-study funds.  If this is the case, you may want to apply for federal Grad PLUS loans.

  • You can find instructions on how to apply for Grad PLUS loans on the OSFA's website.

  • Please note that the U.S. Department of Education will conduct a credit check on you. Denied borrowers will have the option to appeal or designate a cosigner/endorser. It is your choice to pursue this option. Borrowers who use an endorser or who successfully appeal the credit decision are required to complete additional PLUS Credit Counseling before the loan funds can be disbursed. For questions and answers about credit decisions and/or adverse credit history contact the Student Loan Support Center at 1-800-557-7394 or review the Federal Student Aid's fact sheet.

  • The maximum amount you can borrow in Grad PLUS loans is the Cost of Attendance minus the amount you are awarded in Direct loans and any other financial assistance that you may be receiving (including scholarships, tuition waivers, fellowships and work-study funding). Grad PLUS loans disbursed between July 1, 2018 and before July 1, 2019 have a fixed interest rate of 7.595%. You can find out more information about Direct Grad PLUS loans on the OSFA's website.

Disbursement of Loans and Refund Checks

Federal loans are disbursed into students' tuition accounts approximately 10 days prior to the start of classes each semester.  After tuition is paid, any balance is refunded back to the borrower. If you sign up for e-refunds, the balance will be direct deposited to your preferred bank account. Learn how to sign up for e-refunds through your MyUW Student Center on the Bursar's website. If you do not sign up for e-refunds, you will receive a check mailed to the mailing address listed in your Student Center.

Reapplication Process for Continuing Students

As a continuing student, you must reapply for federal financial aid each year.  To reapply, you must follow the steps outlined above.  You can complete your FAFSA as soon as October 1st for the following fall. The priority deadline for completing your FAFSA is December 1st.  Students intending to study abroad with another law school’s program should consult the Law School Financial Aid Office for a list of additional information you will need to submit with your financial aid application. 

Ensuring Sufficient Financial Aid

To determine how much financial aid you will need, you should compare your personal nine-month school year budget to the Student Expense Budget created by the OSFA.  For the 2018-2019 academic year, the OSFA estimates that the average law student living in Madison will need approximately $2,325.33 per month.  This figure is obtained by adding the estimated costs of books and supplies, room, board, computer, travel, and miscellaneous expenses and dividing by 9 (for the 9-month school year). Each student then needs to determine whether his or her expenses total more or less than this budgeted figure.  If your expenses are less than $2,325.33 per month, you may not need to accept all the loans for which you are eligible.  If your expenses are more than $2,325.33 per month, you may need to contact the OSFA and request a budget adjustment.  Remember: You are ultimately responsible for repaying your student loans.  To make this more manageable upon graduation, it is critical to budget appropriately and stay under the $2,325.33 figure if possible. If you are following the Thrifty Budget, your monthly expenses should not be more than $1,863.33 per month.

Please note: The federal financial aid guidelines do not allow schools to incorporate expenses such as car payments or commercial credit card debt into your estimated budget of expenses.  If you will carry such expenses into law school, you will need to make other arrangements to have those costs covered, or reduce your expenses in another area to compensate. 

In some instances, financial aid awards are not sufficient to cover tuition/fees and living expenses.  This generally occurs in three situations: (1) you worked full time prior to law school; (2) you experience unexpected expenses during the academic year; or (3) you have expenses that exceed the usual full-time graduate student budget. 

You worked full time prior to law school.  The FAFSA data used to complete your federal award letter is based on your income two years prior to the year for which you will be seeking federal aid. For example, if you are applying for federal aid for the 2018-2019 academic year, you will submit 2016 tax information on your FAFSA. If you worked full-time during the tax year that you are reporting, but do not plan to work full-time during law school, you may be in a significantly different financial situation than that reported on your FAFSA. Students in this situation should notify the OSFA of their change in level of income as soon as possible so that this special circumstance can be considered. To do so, send a written statement explaining your change in circumstances, along with supporting documentation, to the OSFA by mail, fax, or email, after you have submitted your FAFSA.

You experience unexpected expenses during the calendar year.  In some instances, OSFA can expand your federal financial aid eligibility because of unexpected expenses such as medical bills or dental bills.  Please consult with the OSFA to determine whether you should seek a budget adjustment. 

You have expenses that exceed the usual full-time graduate student budget.  In some instances, extra expenses, such as parenting costs, can be incorporated into your federal financial aid eligibility.  Please consult with the OSFA to determine whether you should seek a budget adjustment.   

What to do if you are experiencing financial difficulties.  If you find that you are having significant difficulty meeting your expenses with your financial aid funds, you should first consult the OSFA whether you should seek a budget adjustment.  In some cases, OSFA will be able to expand your federal loan eligibility.  If you have completed the budget adjustment process and you are still unable to meet your expenses, you should consult with the Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office.

Managing Student Loans During Law School and After Graduation

The majority of law students take out student loans to cover at least a portion of their cost of attendance. Because student loan debt can factor into your career choices upon graduation, it is essential that you manage your student loan portfolio both during law school and after graduation. We encourage you to manage your financial aid actively and intentionally, and to not avoid addressing realities of repayment until graduation.

The Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office will host regular seminars and presentations throughout your time in law school to help you understand your loan obligations as well as repayment options, and we encourage you to meet with a financial aid advisor to discuss your loan obligations and repayment options. 

Keep in mind that financial aid legislation is always changing.  It's critical that you stay informed of changes as they might affect your repayment terms or provide you with different opportunities to lower your debt burden. 

How Do I Prepare for Graduation?

As you prepare for graduation, you should ensure that you have a firm command of all of your student loan data. Make sure you have a comprehensive list of all your loans from both undergraduate and graduate studies. Identify who the lender is for each loan, the account numbers, the type of loan (e.g. Subsidized or Unsubsidized), as well as whether the loan was borrowed under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or the Direct Loan Program. You can find much of this information by logging in to the "Financial Aid Review" on If you are not able to find the information online, contact your lender or servicer.

Generally, your federal loans will have a six-month grace period for repayment after graduation. However, this may not be the case for all of your loans. For example, if you took time off before law school, you may have already used up the grace period on your undergraduate loans. You should ensure that you know when your first payment is due for each loan. If you are not contacted around graduation time regarding repayment, you should contact your lender or servicer. Make certain that your lender or servicer always has your most up-to-date contact information. Failure to receive a bill is not a valid defense against defaulting on your loans. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for repaying your student loans. Failing to do so in a timely manner may result in damage to your credit score and other long-term consequences.

What Types of Repayment Plans Are There?

There are various federal loan repayment plans that may be available to you, depending on your individual loan portfolio. You can choose the option that best meets your needs based on your financial goals and what you can afford to pay each month. You can change your repayment plan by contacting your servicer. To see a full list of federal student loan repayment plans and associated calculators, visit the U.S. Department of Education website. If you have questions about your loan repayment options, you can contact the Office of Student Financial Aid or the Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office.

Do I Qualify For Repayment Assistance?

Depending on your post-graduation plans, you may qualify for loan repayment assistance under Public Service Loan Forgiveness or the Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness. In 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) to encourage individuals to work full time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after they have made 120 payments on those loans under certain repayment plans while employed full time by certain public service employers. To find out more about PSLF and other types of loan cancellation or discharge, visit

Loan Repayment Assistance Program. The Law School sponsors a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), which provides small grants to students who accept permanent public interest jobs after graduation. Since its inception in 2002, the LRAP has provided from between two to six months of loan repayment in the form of a lump sum payment upon the student's acceptance of a "qualifying position." The size of they award may vary depending on the applicant pool and the applicants' debt obligations. "Qualifying positions" include legal positions at a nonprofit organization or government agency with a specific maximum annual salary.

What Should I Do if I Have Difficulty Making Payments?

Remember that you have several tools at your disposal to assist you in managing your student loan debt.  In addition to choosing one of the repayment options above, there are also other things that you can do if you are having difficulty making payments. 

Deferment. A deferment is a temporary period during which no payments are made on your loan.  While you are in deferment, the government pays the interest on any subsidized loans, but interest accrues on your unsubsidized loans.  However, you do not have to pay the interest while in deferment; you can allow the accrued interest to be capitalized (added to the principal balance of your loan) when you leave deferment.  The lender adds the number of months during which a loan was in deferment to the repayment period. Find out more about deferment at

Five types of deferment are available for individuals with certain types of federal loans: 

  1. Education-related
  2. Economic hardship
  3. Unemployment
  4. Military service
  5. Post-active duty

Forbearance. Forbearance can help you meet your loan repayment obligations by allowing a temporary cessation of payments, an extension of the time available for making payments, or smaller payments than previously scheduled. A student can apply for a forbearance if they cannot make their monthly loan payments and they do not qualify for a deferment. There are several types of forbearance on federal loans. Your loan servicer may grant forbearance only if they believe that you intend to repay your federal loans, but that you are currently unable to make payments due to poor health or other acceptable reasons, including financial hardship.  Forbearance can be given up to one year at a time. Contact your loan servicer for more information and to obtain any needed forms to apply for forbearance.  Find out more about forbearance at

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