More Planning Ahead for Bar Exam: Personal Finances

Prof. Goldie Pritchard has posted excellent advice on the Law School Academic Support blog, about how students who will graduate in May can plan ahead for their personal financial needs during their bar review period through the bar exam in late July. For the best odds of passing the bar the first time, the law school academic support community strongly recommends NOT working between graduation and the bar exam if that is at all feasible. Your fulltime job from May through July should be to pass the licensing exam you must pass in order to start your real career — the bar exam. It is hard work to prepare adequately for it; and the bar has gotten measurably harder in recent years, so ignore well-meaning advice from lawyers who say you can easily work AND prepare for the bar. Prof. Pritchard’s advice is here:

 I offer the following few suggestions for students to consider as they prepare to financially manage their bar exam journey.

 

(1) What’s my budget and what are my expenses?

• List current monthly/weekly expenses

• Take stock of necessities such as rent, apartment related bills, food, car maintenance and repair, gas, etc.

• Consider all obligations including current debt

• Anticipate Bar Exam related expenses such as Bar application fees (registration, application, character and fitness, fingerprints, criminal history records, driving record, birth certificate, credit reports, laptop fee, notary fee, etc.); MPRE (registration fee and reporting fee); Bar review course and possible supplemental bar review program; Bar exam day accommodations and necessities (hotel for 2 to 3 days; transportation to and from exam by plane, rental car, or personal car; meals and snacks for 2 to 3 days; parking; etc.); and relocation costs after the bar exam

(2) What savings?

I often hear from students: “what can I save? I am barely making it.” In response, I tell them “a dollar or more here and there that is set aside on a regular basis can amount to quite a bit.”

  • Distinguish between what you need, what you want, and what can wait. You might not need to purchase all items immediately. Strictly assess your use of money and leave credit cards alone.

 

  • Embrace couponing and other cost savings options for groceries and necessities. A few of my students started a couponing group and they have saved and shared items and coupons.  The money saved goes toward they bar exam fund.

 

  • Bring your lunch and coffee to school. Instead of purchasing food on campus, you could probably save a few dollars that you can set aside.

 

  • Consider “staycations” for spring break and save your money. When I ask students how much their spring break trips cost, it is often a good chunk of money that could go to their bar review or bar application costs.

 

  • Save monetary gifts. Birthday money from grandparents, holiday money, graduation money and other such monetary gifts can be set aside for bar exam needs or emergencies.

 

  • Be specific with those who want to support you. Family and friends are usually elated to hear about individuals graduating from law school and typically want to offer support to you in their own way.  I have had students who were very specific about their requests, asking for monetary support to assist with bar applications, bar review programs and expenses during bar study.  It is often surprising how many persons are willing to assist once they become aware of specific needs.

In addition to the above, you can talk with your student financial aid adviser here at Emory about whether you are eligible to borrow any more in your last semester under government student loan programs. There are also private “bar loans” that a number of students will use; for details, go to the link above under General Information.

Finally, mark your calendars for April 9 from 12-2pm, when student financial services adviser Maria Carthon will speak in Rm. 5B about student loans and the various repayment options available to students (including Income-based Repayment, Consolidation, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and much more),  details about when repayment begins, what happens if a student goes into repayment but then returns to school, what the latest interest rates are, and more. This session is open to all law students but may be especially helpful for those in their last semester.

Featured image from www.pixar.com; copyrighted.

Bar Loans

Many law students take out a “bar loan” to cover living expenses while they study full time for the bar exam during the summer. Studying full time is highly recommended for first-time success in passing the bar exam, but it can impose financial challenges in addition to study challenges; only you can decide what your individual situation requires, but remember that a conservative estimate of the time it takes to prepare adequately for the bar exam is 600 hours total study, practice and review time. Anything that allows you to make studying your full time job is something to consider. You may also want to check with your Emory University financial aid adviser to see if you have any unused regular student loan eligibility that you could use instead of, or in addition to, a private bar loan. Some students may be able to look to family members for support; if you haven’t had that conversation yet, now is a good time to do that. If you will need to apply for a bar loan, you can do so now, during your last semester.

Four major lenders offer these private loans subject to credit checks: Discover, PNC, Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo. Other lenders may also make such loans and you can research your options. Some basic information is below; please make sure, however, to check directly with the lenders for the most accurate, complete and up-to-date information. Emory Law does not endorse any specific lender. For various loan analysis calculators, you can visit www.finaid.org.

Bar Loan Information 2