Bar Exam Loans and Alternatives for Law Students

June 18, 2020 Loans & Finance

After you graduate from law school, you’ll still have one thing left to do before beginning your career as an attorney — passing the bar exam. Since you can’t work as an attorney until you pass the bar, a bar exam loan could help you cover your expenses while you prepare for and take the exam.

Here’s what you should know about how bar exam loans work and where to get one:

  • Bar exam loans cover your living expenses between graduation and taking the bar exam
  • Lenders that offer bar exam loans
  • How to get a bar exam loan
  • How bar exam loans are different than student loans
  • What to do if you’re denied a bar exam loan
  • Alternatives to a bar exam loan

Bar exam loans cover your living expenses between graduation and taking the bar exam

Law school student loans can help you make it through school — but your path to becoming a practicing lawyer doesn’t end there. You still have to pass the bar after you graduate, which can take months of studying and preparation.

Because you won’t be able to work as an attorney until you pass the bar exam, you might need to borrow money to cover living expenses, test preparation, and exam fees. Depending on where you live, these expenses could vary widely.

With a bar exam loan (sometimes called a bar prep loan or bar study loan), you’ll typically be able to borrow around $12,000 to $16,000 to cover your costs before you start earning a lawyer’s salary. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, student loans for international students might also be an option.

Learn More: How Long Does It Take to Get a Student Loan?

Lenders that offer bar exam loans

If you’re looking to take out a bar exam loan, it’s important to compare rates from multiple lenders to find the right loan for you. Here are a couple of Credible’s partner lenders that offer bar exam loans:

Lenders that offer bar exam loans Loan amount Fees
discover $1,000 – $16,000 None
$1,000 – $15,000 None
Compare rates without affecting
your credit score. 100% free!

Compare Now

How to get a bar exam loan

If you’d like to take out a bar exam loan, follow these steps:

  • Get your finances in order: Review your personal finances and credit history and look for any areas you might be able to improve before applying for a bar exam loan. For example, you might be able to improve your credit score if you can afford to pay off high credit card balances.
  • Shop around and compare multiple lenders: Compare interest rates and terms from as many lenders as possible. This way, you can find a loan that’s right for your needs. You can do this easily with Credible — after filling out one simple form, you can compare rates from multiple lenders for bar exam loans as well as other types of private student loans.
  • Complete the loan application and get your funds: Once you decide which lender you like best, you’ll need to fill out a full loan application with the lender on their website. This typically leads to a hard inquiry on your credit report. If you’re approved for the loan, the lender will disburse your funds.
Borrow responsibly! A bar exam loan will eventually have to be paid back — with interest. Be sure to use funds from a bar exam loan only for bar exam preparation and living expenses to avoid racking up extra costs.

Learn More: How Student Loans Work

Find Your Bar Exam Loan

How bar exam loans are different than student loans

Bar exam loans usually don’t have the same terms as federal student loans or other types of private student loans.

Here are some of the differences to keep in mind:

  Repayment term Loan maximum Eligible borrowers
Bar exam loans Up to 15 – 20 years
(depending on lender)
$12,000 – $16,000
(depending on lender)
Law school students and recent graduates
(based on credit and financial history)
Federal student loans 10-year standard repayment
(other repayment plans also available)
$138,000 limit for graduate students (up to $65,500 subsidized) Any enrolled graduate student
Private student loans Varies by lender
(typically 5 – 20 years)
Varies by lender Any student
(based on credit and financial history)

What to do if you’re denied a bar exam loan

If you’re denied a bar exam loan, you still have options. Here are two other alternatives for covering your bar exam costs:

  • Reapply with a cosigner: If you’re denied because of your credit history or income, consider reapplying with a creditworthy cosigner. This could help you get approved. But keep in mind that your cosigner will be legally responsible for the loan if you don’t make your payments. There are also student loans for bad credit available that might be easier to qualify for while still in school.
  • Federal student loans: You might still be eligible for federal student loans if you haven’t reached your borrowing limits and are still enrolled in law school. This could also be a good option for getting student loans without a cosigner. If you’re considering Grad PLUS Loans, be sure to compare interest rates from private student loan lenders, too, as you might be able to get a better deal on a private student loan if you have excellent credit.

Learn More: When You Should Apply for a Student Loan

Alternatives to a bar exam loan

There are also several alternatives to bar exam loans that could help you earn or borrow enough money to get you through your bar exam:

  • Employer support: If you have a new job lined up with a law firm, they might be willing to cover your bar exam fees and prep courses.
  • Scholarships or grants: If you’ve recently graduated from law school, you might qualify for grants or scholarships that can help you pay for the bar exam. Keep in mind that some scholarships are also specific to certain minority groups, legal fields, or locations. Talk to your school’s financial aid office to see what resources might be available.
  • Side hustles: A side gig could help you earn your way through taking the bar. Some possible options include rideshare driving, delivering food, or even helping out at a local law office.
  • Personal loans: While the terms might not be as favorable as with a student loan, a personal loan could also help you cover the cost of the bar exam.

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