Many LL.M. students must cobble together tuition funding from a range of sources. But with such a vast array of in-school and external scholarships on offer, it can be hard to know where to start.
Many law schools offer a number of LL.M. scholarships themselves. Often the top prizes will be based on merit, or sometimes financial hardship. Some awards are directed at specific nationalities or on subject concentrations, while others aim to tackle gender inequality on law programs.
Nottingham Law School at Nottingham Trent University in the UK offers a mix of all of the above.
Dr Alexandra Kastrinou, course leader for all Nottingham Law School’s LL.M. programs, says the school offers scholarships ranging from around 25 to 50 percent of tuition fees. The scholarships are available to EU and international students.
And then there are the awards tied to nationality. For example, Kastrinou says, the school offers scholarships, specifically to students from sub-Saharan Africa. These scholarships cover half of an LL.M. program’s tuition fees.
For international students, it often pays to do a bit of research, as law schools offer a range of these kinds of scholarships. For instance, the University of Manchester offers LL.M. scholarships specifically for students from Thailand, and King’s College London has funding for Welsh students.
Some schools in the United Kingdom also take part in the Commonwealth Shared Scholarships scheme, open to candidates from less-developed Commonwealth countries. In the case of Nottingham Law School, the scheme offers an award for students on the school’s LL.M. in Health Law.
In the US, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law offers a similar group of internal scholarships, both of a general nature as well as those tailored to specific LL.M. concentrations, such as the school’s LL.M. in International Human Rights.
What makes you stand out?
As many LL.M. scholarships are highly competitive, it’s important for applicants to do what they can to stand out from the pack. Although things like strong undergraduate experience and previous publications can go a long way towards making an applicant competitive, some scholarships might have other requirements.
According to Adi Altshuler, director of international programs at Pritzker, what makes applicants stand out is a combination of previous work experience and commitment to community and service.
“We are always looking for students who have excelled in their prior studies,” she says. “We prefer students with some work experience, so that would be an advantage. But definitely some other interests and commitment to public service are important. And, of course, fitting our curricular concentrations.”
Academic excellence and impressive work experience are certainly what matter most when applying for merit-based scholarships, but depending on the type of scholarship, other parts of your profile can play to your advantage.
If you’re going for a scholarship related to a specific concentration, such as Environmental Law, showing how you have worked in this field – either within your career, or perhaps pro-bono, or even in your community – can be a great way to make yourself stand out.
External funds focused on particular nationalities, community groups or associations may want to know more about your community affiliations, your volunteer work, or your career aspirations – particularly if they are looking to support students aiming to go into a particular field of law.
Making sure you’ve read through a scholarship’s criteria and done some research on previous recipients can help you identify which aspects of your profile to focus on.
External scholarships make it easier to get school-funded grants
Altshuler notes that being the recipient of an externally-funded scholarship can increase the chance that a student will receive in-school funding as well.
“External scholarships are really an indication of merit,” says Altshuler. “Many schools would try to match that or even give something over that, just because it shows you are a very competitive candidate.”
While applicants have probably heard of the big-name scholarship funds like the Fulbright Scholar Program and Rotary International, Altshuler says there is a plethora of other options available to those who know where to look.
For LL.M. applicants hoping to move to the US for study, one resource Altshuler suggests they make use of is EducationUSA, a US State Department network of student advice centers spread all over the world.
“I think it’s important to work with the EducationUSA office in the country where you are applying from,” says Altshuler. The local offices help applicants to identify a fuller range of scholarships available to them via nationality, study interest, work experience or community association.
Altshuler also recommends investigating the US Chamber of Commerce in your own country, to enquire about scholarship opportunities.
External scholarship deadlines are sometimes a whole year ahead of LL.M. programs
“The best advice,” says Altshuler, “is to start early, especially for external funding, as many of the deadlines are actually a year before you apply [to law school]. It’s important to prepare and look at everything that is available long ahead of time.”
“Spending some time on the research to make sure you line up all the possibilities will help,” she says.
Nottingham’s Kastrinou agrees. “There [are] a lot of funding opportunities offered to applicants who struggle to fund their studies,” she says. “Part of the struggle is to actually identify what is available to them, so for that reason, my advice is to always contact the relevant schools and ask precisely what opportunities are available.”
One European program finding funding for its students
One European program working with a different scholarship model is the European Master in Law and Economics (EMLE), which is run by a consortium of 11 law schools spread across Europe and beyond. These include law schools at the Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam, the University of Hamburg and Ghent University, as well as others in Italy, Poland, France, Israel and India.
While on most LL.M. programs, the responsibility for finding tuition funding rests on the students, on this program, the administrators actively seek scholarships on behalf of their students.
The EMLE was recently awarded further funding from the European Commission, which in the past has supported many of the program’s students through their study. For example, in the current graduating cohort, eight students had their full tuition covered, as well as a living stipend, by the commission.
Program Manager Ilva Putzier says this time the program applied for an even larger number of scholarships, so that both European and non-European students can have their study covered.
She says that the European Commission doesn’t only represent a way for students to have their study on the EMLE funded, it is also the way in which many prospective students find the program in the first place.
“Non-European students are looking for programs through the European Commission website, so that’s advertising for us,” explains Putzier.
“Of course the funding from the European Commission also adds a certain quality aspect to our program,” she says. “It adds an edge to it.”
Image: Paperwork by Isaac Bowen CC BY-SA 2.0