Tagged: scholarships

Thanksgiving Comes Early to YLS

“I thank you for introducing me to the law, to my many friends, to my husband and I thank you for opening my eyes to the world around me in a way that I had never experienced.” Those words spoken by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’73 while accepting the Award of Merit this month were nothing short of profound and spoke volumes about the YLS experience. Being grateful, expressing appreciation and, yes, simply giving thanks are such a central part of the fabric of the YLS community.

That’s why every year at this time we notify students that the need based institutional scholarship they received was supported through one of the endowed funds established by a YLS donor. And as such, we ask you to acknowledge the support you have received with a simple thank you letter or note (whatever you wish to call it) to that donor.

And each year we have the students who can write amazing opinions, memos and SAWs for class develop a severe case of writer’s block at the thought of composing a thank you note. “What do I say to this donor who I have never met” is a common refrain. Actually it’s very easy … because what the donor wants to know above all else is …. you! Our donors take great pleasure in seeing that their funds are actually supporting “real” YLS students. So talk about what you know best… yourself. Tell them why you came to YLS, what courses you have found the most rewarding or challenging, talk about clinic work, SPIF or summer employment experiences, tell them what you hope to do with your life going forward. Make them realize that their generosity supported a living, breathing law student with goals and aspirations. And, yes, somewhere along the way in telling your personal story, you should also utter the words “thank you” for their support of your scholarship.

Remember that what you and our donors have in common is that Yale Law School connection that Secretary Clinton articulated so well. Many of our endowed funds are established by alumni themselves or by the family members or professional colleagues of an alum as a memorial or honorarium. It is in essence a “pay it forward” movement that celebrates not only the donor’s or honorees’ Yale Law School experience but insures that the same experience is then passed forward to another generation of students through their scholarship support. (And with the hope that someday you too will reflect back on your YLS experience and find a way to “pay it forward” yourself).

Think of the whole process as Thanksgiving coming a little bit early… minus the turkey and stuffing… but with the same sentiment of gratitude and appreciation for what you have received.

A reminder for those of you with scholarships from our endowed funds…. What’s more fun than writing a thank you letter alone? A thank you letter writing party! This annual event which will be held November 4th,6th and 7th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Ashmun. Get inspiration and encouragement from your peers to write your thank you and share in some dinner, drinks and dessert.

Tonight’s Top Ten Category … Things You Need to Know About Using Your Financial Aid …

Note- this post has been updated since its original publication in May 2013
Okay, I couldn’t resist adding one more to the myriad of over used Top Ten Lists out there (David Letterman what have you wrought in our society!!). But this is a pretty important one to at least take a look at because it’s all about what you need to do to insure your financial aid actually materializes to pay your tuition bill and actually is accessible for you to pay your own bills. So… (drumroll….)

#10 – You will not receive a bill – it’s true..…not in the sense of a bill mailed or emailed to you directly. What you will get is an email that a July 1 billing (due August 1) for charges for the Fall  term is available for you to review on the Student Information System (SIS).

#9 – You may not need to actually pay the bill – if you have accepted enough financial aid between loans and scholarship funds to fully cover the Fall term (i.e. that’s 50% of your total aid for the year) your financial aid will appear on the July 1 billing statement as anticipated aid. Provided you have enough accepted financial aid to cover the bill, you will not need to make any payments on the due date of August 1. However, the only way that your financial aid appears on your bill is if you have completed the financial aid process by submitting all required tax returns and the Notification and Confirmation form.

#8 – You may need to actually pay the bill – if you have declined financial aid, intend to pay on your own or have not accepted enough financial aid to cover the Fall term bill you will owe a balance that must be paid by August 1st .

#7 – There are consequences (bad things) if you do not pay the bill in full by the deadline… including late fees added to your account and holds (including a registration hold if the bill is not paid by the time you get to YLS which will prohibit you from registering with your class and getting your course schedule).

#6 – Your loans are not really loans yet…there are steps that need to happen in the summer to actually “set up” your loans. You will get an email from Student Financial Services mid-summer (usually mid to late July) instructing you to complete loan paperwork electronically on the SIS system including a promissory note, truth-in-lending statements (TILAs), Title IV authorizations and an entrance counseling session (which are not counseling sessions at all but an online information survey). Documents will differ depending on what type of loan(s) you have and you will also need to complete separate promissory notes for each loan (including both the federal Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate Plus loans).

#5 – The Asset Verification Form is the final piece of the financial aid puzzle – this form must be completed within the window of after July 1st and by August 1st (no earlier and no later) allowing us to substantiate the estimate you made on Need Access for your total assets (and upon which we based the asset contribution in your aid award). Depending on the balances reported on this Verification form aid awards will be adjusted (both increases and decreases). Find this form in your Admissions Binder or on our website. Failure to submit by the deadline will put a hold on all financial aid funds.

#4 – Financial aid (loans and scholarship) disburse three days prior to the start of the term – with no exception. That’s in keeping with federal regulations and there is no getting around that. What that means is there is no “early” disbursal of aid for any financial reasons or hardships. So you will have to come prepared to pay for critical things you need (shelter, food, etc.) with your own funds from the time you move to New Haven through orientation.

#3 – Refunds on Financial Aid need to be requested in order to disburse. Refunds are the technical term for financial aid funds you have accepted for the sake of your own living expenses. Refunds are generated when all the Yale direct charges are paid and there are still excess funds on your account. However, in order to gain access to these funds you must “request a refund” on the SIS system. And you need to do this each semester or anytime you want a refund (i.e. those funds are not going to come to you automatically just because they are yours). And the earliest you are going to receive a refund is the first day of term. But again because there is no set or guaranteed date for the refund (albeit per federal regulations schools have 18 days from start of the term to issue and Yale does an extraordinary job of getting refunds to students in a timely manner) make the necessary allowances in your cash flow to survive.

#2 – There are things you can do to expedite the refund. First, sign up for automatic deposit so that the refund is deposited directly into your own bank account and you are not waiting for a paper check to be issued. Instructions on this process can be found on the Student Financial Services website . Second, request the refund a couple of days before the first day of term so that as soon as the excess funds are generated the refund process will already be in process.

#1 – Reach out to the Financial Aid Office for questions and help. As as you have just read a lot of fairly complex things need to happen on a certain timeframe, in a certain order over the next few months to ensure that you actually have funds in hand come the first days of classes. Don’t let a missed step leave you without the money you need. (Try as some have you can’t survive by living off the free candy that the Financial Aid Office always has available in our candy dish). So call us, email us or come visit us anytime if something in the process needs to be clarified.

Apples to Apples (or at least Granny Smith to Macintosh): Comparing Aid Award Letters

Note this blog was updated from its original April 2013 publication.

This is the season when our office gets a lot of requests to match aid awards from other Law Schools. But as a need-based institution we can only review or change an aid award if there is a change in financial circumstances which affects need. The existence of an alternative scholarship does not affect need or allow the leveraging of additional YLS funds.

What we will do when you reach out to us with this request is two things. First, we will do a re-review of your Need Access and FAFSA applications to ensure that we have understood your financial situation correctly. We recognize the fact that the data on those forms often does not tell the full story of an applicant (or their parents) and as such it’s helpful to dig a little deeper into what has been reported. Sometime the student has miscalculated what assets they will have available as of September 1st (which is the key number we use in calculating the asset contribution – not the data that reflects the assets you had at the time you completed the application). Or sometimes we will note that the student or parent had a one-time influx of income which is not representative of what their annual income truly is. Again, adjustments to the aid award can be made if we determine that the financial need data should be revised.

Second, we will talk with you about how to look at our aid award in the context of other awards you may have received. We are big believers in the “look before you buy” philosophy. Often we share the following points in how to effectively compare aid awards:

— As previously stated, it’s not possible to do a direct (my apples to apples analogy) comparison of “merit” based awards vs. need based awards because they simply are not done on the same principles.

— With merit-based awards that support tuition only, you want to be conscious, therefore, of how you will then fund your living expenses (and what realistically are those living expenses). If you are borrowing loans to support your personal expenses and living in a high cost city this could be substantial loan debt. Which then leads to the question: is this loan debt borrowed for living costs covered under the institution’s LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program)? Which in turn leads to the larger question of comparing that LRAP to other LRAPs available.

— LRAPS in general have to factor into any aid award comparison as a “back end” scholarship. It’s not just about what you are getting in the initial aid award to fund those three (short) years of law school, it’s also about what support you will receive to assist in the long term repayment of the debt.

— How was the aid award made? At YLS we make it a point to show on the aid award letter the entire progressive calculation: Budget minus Contribution (Student, Parent, Spouse) = Need. Need is first met by unit loan and then by Institutional Scholarship. You can see exactly how we are arriving at bottom line numbers. It’s all very transparent and equitably applied to all students. If you are going to do a direct comparison of aid awards you will need to understand exactly how each element of the award was calculated by each institution.

— The cost of living differential is critical. Many people focus on the tuition and fees in looking at their student budgets. But let’s talk about the importance of the cost of living allotment. The reality is that the cost of living allotment is the only part of the student budget which you can control (you can’t change tuition, fees or health costs or anything else that will be billed from the school) but you can live on less (and more ) that what is budgeted for living. So it’s important to understand how exactly each school calculates the cost of living and if it’s a realistic number. In the case of YLS we conduct a Cost of Living survey annually with all our JD students to assess how much they are actually paying for rent, utilities, internet, phone, food etc. This year (2014-2015) the average monthly cost for all living expenses was $1,631 which at a nine month academic year was an average of $14,679. And we presently budget $17,000 in our 15-16 academic year student budget so we provide a buffer for other expenses. Bottom line — we are pretty confident that the cost of living allotment is accurate and is going to allow you to make out okay here in New Haven.

— Another related issue is evaluating if increased scholarship support is only supporting a higher cost of living. For example, say you received $3,000 more in scholarship support from another institution than YLS but in looking at their Cost of Living allotment in their budget (assuming their budget includes that breakdown) you see that it costs $3,000 more to live there than the YLS New Haven allotment. You really haven’t gained anything in that extra $3,000 because it’s just going to pay for a cost of living differential.

We recognize that deciphering multiple aid awards (all usually looking different, calculated different etc.) is a challenge. We are always willing to talk about how YLS calculates our award.

The “Execution” of YLS Financial Aid- A Welcome Message for the Class of 2016

With our Class of 2016 beginning to take shape, I thought it was appropriate to reach out and extend a welcome on behalf of the YLS Financial Aid Office. You’ll find our office tucked in the York St./Grove St. corner of the Law School in M13. In order to get here, you’ll have to pass through one of the Law School’s carved stone archways. But this one has a very vivid depiction of a man with a head in the guillotine and the executioner above (with a big smile on his face no less). Will that be symbolic of your financial aid experiences at YLS? Is there a little foreshadowing going on?
executionLet me give you all assurances that it will not be. Here is my solemn promise of no beheadings. I do, however, reserve the right to fill the moat outside my office with small alligators. (Yes, there is an actual moat outside our office windows).

Because for us, financial aid at YLS is a very personal process. Our small class size allows us to not only carefully review all the application forms and documents you submit , but also reach out to you directly if we see something that perhaps was done in error or doesn’t make sense. We also recognize that applications and forms may not truly capture unique personal circumstances and as such, encourage you to contact our staff and share those situations that may impact your aid award. And because managing financial aid may be a whole new world for you, don’t ever hesitate to ask the most basic questions related to the application process or the aid award itself.

Our office believes we have an obligation to ensure that our students are “saavy financial aid consumers” – we want you to understand the financial decisions you are making while in Law School, know the options and choices you have, and also leave here with a plan for how those financial decisions you made will then impact your life going forward. That’s why we counsel students not only as they enter YLS but all through their enrollment (and beyond because of our loan repayment assistance program COAP).

All Financial Aid Offices have their own “culture” and ours is to have an open door policy – literally the door in M13 is always open. You don’t have to make an appointment (although it helps), you can drop by and you won’t have to go through a “gatekeeper” to reach either myself or our Assistant Director, if we are available, we will welcome you in and try to help in any way that we can.

Because the real secret is this…I have the open door policy for a very selfish reason. The best part of my day is actually when I get the chance to sit down with a student and chat. Far better than preparing aid estimates on Excel charts or running statistical analysis. It’s those counseling sessions where I get to know our wonderful (and they are) students on a different level than just a paper financial aid application or a tax return. And FYI- we always have a full candy bowl in the Financial Aid Office as another temptation to drop by…just to say hello and grab a handful of chocolate. (Trust me, you may need that sugar rush some days here).

So by way of further introduction, (yes we are indeed real people and not robots processing aid applications) … here are the folks you will come to know in YLS Financial Aid… …Roselyn, our Senior Administrative Assistant, is our office historian having been at YLS for 14 years (she has truly seen it all!) and, more importantly, is the undisputed “Queen of COAP”– our loan repayment assistance program. Kellie, our Assistant Director, came to YLS after spending 18 years at Yale Student Financial Services (so she is a great resource for dealing with that office on billing and loan issues) and now, in addition to making aid awards, also coordinates our Summer Public Interest Fellowship program. Fun fact about Kellie…she is an avid gardener and baker- two indispensable skill sets for the workplace! And myself, Jill, the Director, a relative newbie to YLS having joined the staff in 2011- returning to financial aid after a few years away in the student services field because I actually (gasp!) missed financial aid. Want to strike up a conversation with me (aside from talking about financial aid)- bring up college basketball (I live for March Madness!), cats (my husband fears I am well on my way to being the “crazy cat lady” of the neighborhood) or yoga (Om!) .

So now that you know us, it’s time for us to get to know you. We look forward to the opportunity to email, talk and meet as you begin and move through the financial aid process.

Just a reminder that we have a new website “ How to Apply for Financial Aid- New Admits” which will hopefully walk you through the aid award process. And this is the time when you should be submitting your FAFSA and Need Access application if you wish to receive a provisional financial aid award letter.

Scholarships and the Bewares…

How often do we read or hear about something and think, “Come on, that is too good to be true!” Well…

All scholarships are a form of gift aid, money that does not need to be repaid (a wonderful thing) and it reduces debt (another wonderful thing)!!!!

To find scholarships to help pay for school, personal expenses, etc., can be difficult because where does one start and how would one know what is legitimate and what is not?

ALWAYS keep your eye out for scams:

If it is too good to be true – probably a scam

If you are asked to come to a free seminar/information session – probably a scam

Scholarships are FREE to apply for, so if there is a cost – probably a scam

If it states, “cannot get this information anywhere else” – probably a scam

The scholarship establishment states that they can do all the work for you – probably a scam

When a scholarship is awarded, notification is always sent by mail, you will NOT be notified by telephone

Be aware of 900 area codes

Walk away from pressured sales

Be suspicious of endorsements

When awarded the scholarship, always keep a copy of the letter!

Here are a few legitimate scholarship websites to review:





Ask around…get ideas and suggestions on where to look for scholarships through other foundations, friends, family or public libraries in surrounding towns.

Good luck on your quest! Remember, the Financial Aid Office is always open…come by and visit anytime!

Kellie signing out…

Scholarships to help pay for your law degree…where do I sign?!

This is the time of the year when a variety of firms, companies, and clubs send the Financial Aid Office information about the scholarships they offer. Some of the scholarships are awarded based on where you reside, the field you are interested in, and/or if you are in good standing or as simple as writing a paper. These funds can help pay tuition for the fall semester or spring semester or both.

Why not take advantage of all that is available? Who could pass up “free money”, especially if this money can help pay for your law degree and lessen your student debt? Apply for any of these scholarships now for 2012-2013 financial aid year!

Toward your benefit, at Yale Law, outside scholarships are applied first to reduce loans (up to 50% of your unit loan amount) and second to reduce any institutional funds that were awarded. If you are only borrowing loans to pay for tuition, then the entire amount of the outside scholarship would be applied toward reducing the loans.

Intrigued by a “free money” offer? Then take a look at some of the recent scholarship opportunities that our office has been made aware of:

The Yale Club of New Haven – www.ycnh.org – the scholarships ($3,000 per year) are available through the generosity of the alumni of the Yale Club of New Haven. Scholarships are awarded to full time graduate and professional school students in the spring of their first and/or subsequent years and awarded to residents of the greater New Haven county.

New England Employee Benefits Council (NEEBC) – www.neebc.org – is an organization whose primary function is to advance knowledge and education about issues in the employee benefits field. The intent of this scholarship ($5,000) is to encourage students to consider the employee benefits field for career opportunities.

NPBA Foundation Fitzwater Memorial Scholarship for Second Year Law Students – www.norfolkandportsmouthbar.org – was established in honor of Elizabeth Fitzwater. The Foundation’s mission is to promote the administration to justice, to educate the public about the importance of law in their daily lives and to enhance the image of the legal profession in the community. This scholarship ($1,000) has been set up for those students who intend to practice in the south Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

Information on these and many more outside scholarship opportunities is available directly from the Financial Aid Office – come by to learn more!