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Financial Aid FAQ


What types of Law School scholarships are available to students?
The Cornell Law School awards about $4 million in institutional aid each year to new and returning students. Over 80% of Law School students receive scholarship assistance. To be considered for institutional aid please complete the Cornell Law School Scholarship Application and CSS Profile by March 15 and submit both 2018 parent and 2018 student federal tax returns to the Financial Aid Office.

Students receiving scholarships will receive a three-year award. You do not need to complete a financial aid application every year - only when you initially apply.

Students who enroll in the first year without receiving a Law School scholarship should not expect to receive scholarship funds in the second or third year, except in extremely unusual circumstances.

What if my parents are unwilling to help?
Cornell Law School requires parental information to calculate institutional aid. Without this information we will not be able to offer a need-based scholarship. You should assure your parents that their information is used only as a tool, and Cornell Law School does not necessarily expect them to contribute funds toward your education. Most students substitute Graduate PLUS Loans for parental contributions.

What if I am an independent student?
Federally, all graduate students are considered independent and do not need to provide parental information on the FAFSA form.

Institutionally, all students are considered dependent unless they petition the Financial Aid office and receive a dependency waiver. This should be done well before March 15th. *Please review the criteria in the answer to the next question to see if you may qualify.

What are the criteria to receive such a waiver?
Waivers are considered on a case-by-case basis. Some of the factors we consider, but are not limited to are:

  • Whether you have been claimed by anyone in the last six years.
  • Whether you have lived with your parents in the last six years.
  • Whether you have received gifts or support in excess of $1,000.00 in the last six years.

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What happens to my institutional aid if I receive an outside scholarship?
Cornell Law School will reduce your loans in the amount of the outside scholarship if necessary. We will do our best to maintain your scholarship, but in some cases, a scholarship adjustment may be necessary.


What kind of Federal Aid can I receive as a law student?
Law students are eligible for federal loans if a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Each year a student may receive $20,500 in the Federal Direct Loan Program. Graduate PLUS Loans are also available to eligible students up to the cost of attendance established for the academic year.

How do I apply for these Federal Loans?
Each year you must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to be eligible for federal loans.  The Cornell University school code is 002711.  If selected, you may need to submit Federal Verification requirements before federal aid can be disbursed to your Bursar account.

What happens next?
Once your FAFSA is received by the school and any verification requirements have been met, the Financial Aid Office will verify your eligibility and offer the appropriate loans.

I remember receiving Federal Loans at my undergraduate institution, but I applied through a third party. Do I need to do that here?
No, Cornell Law School is a direct lending institution. We will verify your eligibility and award you the loan directly. Once you have elected to attend Cornell, you will be required to complete a Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling. Even if you have completed this for another institution it still needs to be completed for Cornell.

What is a Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling?
A Master Promissory Note (MPN) is a binding contract signed by you when obtaining a student loan. You should read all the information carefully and remember that this is a contract with the lender. The promissory note can be found on

Entrance Counseling is a listing of your rights and responsibilities as a borrower. There is a short quiz that must be completed. The Entrance Counseling session can be found by logging on to:

Why are these two items important?
If you have not signed the MPN and completed the Entrance Counseling session, the Law School cannot pay out your Federal Aid.

When should I complete this process?
Please sign the MPN and complete the Entrance Counseling session once you have decided to enroll and have paid the final deposit. This will need to be completed even if you have already completed it for another university.

How long is an MPN and Entrance Counseling valid?
Starting in 1999, all approved Master Promissory Notes and Entrance Counseling sessions remain on file for 10 years. If you are a Cornell graduate and have borrowed through Cornell, you should not need to complete another promissory note unless it has been more than 10 years since you signed it.

Does one Entrance Counseling apply for all Federal Loans?
Yes. To fulfill this requirement you have two options: there is a combination Entrance Counseling option which covers the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Graduate PLUS Loan or you can complete one Entrance Counseling session for the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan and one for the Graduate PLUS Loan.

Does one MPN apply for all Federal Loans?
No, the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan has its own promissory note. The Perkins Loan, given in the second year, has its own MPN that must be signed. The Graduate PLUS Loan has its own promissory note as well.

The promissory notes for the Direct Unsubsidized and the Graduate PLUS Loans can be found at:

Will my federal loans cover my tuition?
Yes, but students are only eligible for $20,500 per year in the Federal Direct Loan Program. You will most likely need to round out your aid package with the Graduate PLUS Loan, which can be taken out up to the cost of attendance established for the academic year.

How do I receive a Federal Graduate PLUS Loan?
To apply for a Graduate PLUS Loan, download the application from the Cornell Law School website and mail or fax the completed form to the Financial Aid Office. You then need to complete the Graduate PLUS Loan Master Promissory Note found on

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How do I apply for alternative loans?
Many alternative lenders have internet and telephone application processes.

When should I apply?
You should apply for alternative loans after you have paid your final deposit.

Do lenders pull credit reports?
Yes. A lender will determine whether or not they want to lend to you based on your credit history. If you think your credit might be an issue, pull your credit report and make any corrections you can. The Graduate PLUS loan program has more flexible credit requirements.

To receive a copy of your credit report, go to one of these websites:

If I am turned down for a loan, can I borrow from Cornell or can Cornell Law School secure a loan for me?
No, Cornell Law School does not have an internal lending program. If you are turned down for a loan, we cannot secure a loan for you.

I've picked a lender, but I am not sure how much I should apply for?
The quickest way to figure out the maximum amount allowable is to take the cost of attendance for the year and subtract your grant, federal loans and any outside scholarships that you will receive.

For example: John Doe's Award

JD Cost of attendance 2017-2018 $86,771
Cornell Law Scholarship -$10,000
Direct Federal Loan (Unsubsidized) -$20,500
Outside scholarship -$5,000
Total $51,271

John Doe may apply for no more than $51,271 for the academic year. Please note that private loans must be renewed with the lender each year. Graduate PLUS Loans must be renewed with the Cornell Law School Financial Aid office each year.

What if I need more?
If you think that you will need more funds, please contact the Financial Aid Office. Loans will only be approved up to the cost of attendance unless you have made an arrangement with the office.

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What is the cost of attendance and what does it include?
The cost of attendance is the budget the law school has set for the year. Here is the breakdown for 2019-2020:

JD Tuition $67,748
Student Activity $85
Room and Board $16,766
Books and Supplies $1,100
Personal/Travel $5,000
Health Insurance $438
Loan Fee $220
Total $91,357

What if I exceed this budget?
On a limited basis, the Financial Aid Review Committee may accept budget increases with proper documentation. Any increase to a student's budget will be funded through the Grad PLUS or private educational loans only. Submission deadlines are mid-November for Fall requests and mid-April for Fall/Spring or Spring only requests, please see the Budget Increase Request form in the forms section for specific dates.

What items may be considered in a budget increase?
The following items may be considered:

  • Medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • Computer replacement costs (One time and not to exceed $2000)
  • Required book costs

These items may be considered on a case by case basis.

  • Cost of living
  • Travel

Please note that cost of living increases may not be approved. Do not count on receiving more funds than the published budget.

A budget increase will NOT be granted for:

  • Car payments
  • Consumer debt
  • Furniture
  • Summer living expenses
  • Moving expenses
  • Fall, Winter, and Spring break travel or trips
  • Cell phones/internet services
  • Sport and fitness club fees

How do I live within my Budget?

  • Look carefully at your budget and figure out how much you have to spend each month. Add the room and board to the personal costs, then divide it by 9 months. This should result in a total of $2,400 per month to cover expenses. If you know that these funds will need to cover you for 12 months, you must budget for $1,800 a month.
  • Find AFFORDABLE housing. There are buses that travel around the campus and the city of Ithaca that can be used by Cornell Law School students. This will help keep your expenses down.

Why is it important to budget?
Every budget increase to your loan is unsubsidized. This means that you are accruing interest throughout the year on your loan. If you budget wisely and live within your means, you can minimize your future payments. 

Now that I have my aid and I am enrolled, how do I access those funds?
Once you are enrolled, your loans are approved, and you’ve completed the appropriate paperwork, your aid will credit to your bursar bill no earlier than 10 days before classes begin. Once these funds cover items that have been charged to your bursar bill (tuition, fees, and health insurance), a refund will be issued to you. If your aid does not exceed your bill, no refund will be issued.

Students can sign up for direct deposit with the bursar and receive their funds electronically. This must be done several weeks before classes begin. If you are interested in direct depositing, you can find additional information on the University Bursar's website.

How do I know if I have a refund?
The easiest way to check to see if a refund has been processed for you is to log into your student center at and look at your account activity. If a refund has been processed for you, you will see the amount in the refund column.

When will I be charged tuition?
Students receive their first bill in July (fall bill). Tuition will be charged to your bill at that time. Students will receive their spring bill the first week in December.

What do I do if I am covering all costs with loans that will not pay until August?
Don’t worry. If you applied for your loans before July and you have completed your FAFSA, your bursar account will indicate that you have pending aid and you will not be charged late fees, provided your pending aid covers your charges. The same is true for spring aid. If you have applied for your spring aid before December, your bursar account will indicate that you have pending aid and you will not be charged late fees if your pending aid will cover all your charges.

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What items do I need to save?
It is important that you start a financial aid file. In it, keep your award letter, letters coming from the federal government and all bursar statements. This should help with taxes and repayment after graduation.

How Do I contact the Financial Aid Office?
If you need help, please email or call 607-255-5141.

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