Maressa Singh

Our students talk about #excellencewithoutbarriers

Maressa Singh, JD/MBA Candidate 2019, Newton Rowell Bursary Recipient

Hometown: Rexdale, ON

Undergraduate degree[s]: Bachelor of Applied Science in Justice Studies with a Diploma in Law and Security Administration

Undergraduate institution[s]: University of Guelph-Humber

I want to be a lawyer because I want to pursue a career in which I am always learning and I am always being challenged. I want to advocate for others.

I applied to U of T because the Faculty of Law was the only law school that made an effort to remove financial barriers to pursuing my career goals. At the time that I applied, the OLSAS application was a few hundred dollars, and you had to pay an additional flat rate for each school that you applied to. I was hesitant in applying to the University of Toronto because I was well aware of the cost of the tuition. I was aware of the law school’s reputation and I wanted to apply irrespective of the fee, but at the time, I was not informed about the school’s robust financial aid program. I didn’t think it would be possible to pursue legal education at UofT and I was not going to delude myself into applying when I didn’t think I could afford the tuition. However, when I learned that the fee would be waived for students with financial barriers to accessing education, I decided to apply, as it cost me nothing. I am extremely happy I applied and extremely grateful for the waiver as I honestly don’t think I would be a student at this faculty if they hadn’t waived the fee for me.

As soon as someone learns that I am studying law at the University of Toronto, they are immediately impressed, likely because they are aware of the reputation of the law school and the caliber of students that the school accepts.

It has been very challenging, academically and economically. I have learned so much and I thank the high standards of my professors as well as my peers for that. I feel privileged to be able to say that I am a student at this Faculty. I do wish that there were more students like me. Students who have had to face an uphill battle in pursuing their education because of financial barriers. Students who at some point, contemplated giving up on their legal career aspirations because they did not think they could overcome the financial barriers.

I am not sure whether I will end up in litigation or transactional work. But I do know that wherever I end up, it will be a result of hard work, dedication, and my education from the Faculty of Law. I want to pay it forward and set an example for others from my community, and other similar communities. I want to inspire others to confront the barriers before them. And I hope to use my degree to help eliminate these barriers for future generations.

The impact of receiving the bursaries is immense. It alleviates financial stress and allows me to focus on my studies. I 100% would not be able to attend law school without the help of the student financial aid program.

To the donor, thank you for your generosity. Perhaps you understand the difference that you’ve made but I would like to put that into my own words. Without your generosity, I would not be able to study law. Not because of a lack of intelligence, commitment, dedication, or desire. But because if I have to choose between a roof over my head, and paying tuition, the former will undoubtedly prevail. That is the difference that your contribution has made. I am not barred from studying law because of concerns as to whether I can afford tuition, on top of rent and other necessities. I don’t have to work in the night while my peers are studying or attending networking events or immersing themselves in the plethora of extracurricular opportunities available at the Faculty of Law. I am not disgruntled because my family chooses not to support my endeavours. Rather, I can live comfortably while still being able to pay my tuition. I can get to know my peers and others in the industry as well as get involved in opportunities that will help me launch my career. I can study knowing that I do have support and there is someone out there rooting for me. Without your donation, none of that would be possible. Without your generosity, I would not be able to study law.

Student financial aid is important because it is imperative to recognize that there are barriers to education, and financial barriers do prevent students from studying law. If we want the legal profession to be representative of the population that it serves, we need to identify these barriers and do something about it. Student financial aid recognizes that a part of that process, is ensuring students who would be able to succeed in the program, but for financial reasons, choose not to apply, can study and can succeed, regardless of their ability to afford the cost of tuition. High academic standards are justifiable, but effectively basing admission on the ability to pay, is not.

There is no doubt that a law degree has changed your life. It has likely given you opportunities that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have your legal education. The ability to opens these doors, to fulfill your career aspirations, should not be blocked by financial barriers. But there are many students out there, who will not pursue a legal education because of their inability to afford the tuition. What if that was you? Surely you would hope that others out there, with the means, would pay it forward in support of eliminating barriers to education. The ability to pay for tuition should not be a de facto requirement to study law. If you are on the fence about giving to the student financial aid campaign, ask yourself: How different would my life be, if I did not go to law school for the sole reason that I could not afford to pay the tuition? If the answer to that question is very different, and not for the better, I am sure you can appreciate the necessity of your donation.

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