How I Paid For Law School | Simone's Story

Before I begin I must first pronounce a disclaimer. Well, several disclaimers. First, if you are reading this article in hopes of finding wise financial advice and fiscal planning strategies I’m afraid this is not the article you might want to read. Secondly, if you are as risk averse as I used to be, again, this is perhaps not the best article for you. Now I can safely say I did my best to prepare you. So now that your expectations have dropped a notch or two and you're interested enough to stick around, I’m glad to have you. My name is Simone Townsend and this is my story.

I started attending the Faculty of Law in September 2015 with no financial plans whatsoever. Wait....that’s not completely true. I did have some idea.. Scholarships and bursaries. So that’s basically no plan at all. Because if you live in Jamaica you know of our highly competitive academic culture and though my grades were good they were not good enough. My Unit one CAPE results made me eligible for the special subsidy on tuition offered by the Faculty of Law but my Unit two results were not as impressive. Not to me and evidently not to the Faculty of law or other potential benefactors. Or so I thought. So short of it is that though I applied for a multiplicity of scholarships and grants not one of them came through. 

So…why not student loan? I  had determined in my heart before entering the faculty that I would not apply for student loan. Not out of fear of repaying but because of a lone solitary scripture that kept echoing in my ears and reverberating in my heart and mind, Deuteronomy 28:12-13. Particularly the section where God promised the children of Israel that they would lend and not borrow.
You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.
 I took that promise personal... I internalized it... It was a crazy thing I did that September. One my family didn’t let me forget. It wasn’t just a huge leap of faith. It was a huge gamble and the stakes were no ordinary chips. I was gambling with my future. I wish I could say it was easy trusting that promise. It was the most nerve racking, nail biting, depression inducing thing I’ve ever done in my life. In fact in the middle of September I wanted to tap out. I had started the student loan process earlier in the year with all my friends (long before the conviction)  and sought to revive the process. If only to have one possibility of funding; you can guess what happened of course. So that avenue blocked I sought to apply to other agencies. I dug out and rooted up every hidden scholarship that I hadn’t  yet applied for and started applying with  fervor born of desperation. I applied for the Portia Simpson Miller foundation scholarship, the Mona Law Bursary and a plethora of others. It was a hard first couple of weeks. I wish I could report that I didn’t succumb to the pressure. The pressure from my own doubts, the suffocating uncertainty. Waking up everyday, still going to classes not being sure whether I would be able to exams.

September past, October rolled in still nothing. The only dim light that shone through the darkness of unpaid fees was the JAMVAT program. And so I was sure of about $350,000. So that was approximately half of first semester tuition paid. I needed the other half  when God suddenly "opened the flood gates of heaven", I could have described it better but I must employ this well used line. In one academic year I went from owing the University of the West Indies to the University owing me! I am now the proud recipient of two one million dollars scholarships from two different institutions, the Portia Simpson Miller Foundation bursary, funding from Jamvat and two other bursaries. It got so bad that the bursary department had to dig up some obscure, well hidden policy to revoke one of my scholarships!

So my secret? How did I pay for University? I closed my eyes, activated my faith, breathed deeply, trusted God and took the plunge. This may not be the best advice, especially for the anxious heart. So what do I recommend? Have a plan. My plan A was trust God. My plan B was….trust God. You may not want to follow the same plan. Yours may look something like this; Plan A trust Student Loan, Plan B trust my parents pocket, Plan C Scholarships and when all else fails Plan Z trust God. Not exactly in this order but any variant thereof. Keep your plan. Far be it from me to tell you to dump it. But what I would advise is to remember that many are the plans in a man's heart but it is God's purpose that prevails (Prov 19:21). Your plans may not work out as seamlessly as you would hope but don’t let that throw you into a frenzy. If faith in God is the underpinning of your financial plans for the faculty of law then you will graduate.

Simone Townsend
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