How To Study For The Bar Exam On A Budget
Not everyone has the same journey when entering law school, during law school, and after law school. For most law school students, law school is a considerable investment. Law school tuition for state and private law schools can range anywhere from $30,000 per semester to $70,000 per semester. In addition to tuition, a law student might need an estimated $10,000 to register and study for the bar exam.
Bar exam preparation costs can be high as they potentially include travel and lodging to the area where students take the bar exam, a bar exam prep course, state laptop-use fees and background check fees for the character and fitness requirement, and the list goes on. Keeping this in mind, we want to help by providing some steps for how to study on a budget. Read on to see the tips we recommend for studying for the bar exam on a budget.
How To Study For The Bar Exam On A Budget
Compare costs of bar prep programs.
First, a key consideration to studying for the bar on a budget is to compare the cost of bar prep programs. Most commercial bar exam study programs cost between $2000 to well over $4000. However, in making some comparisons, you will find that JD Advising offers an on-demand bar prep course for just over $1000. This course offers freebies to bar prep students who complete a certain number of esssays, providing a little bit more bang for your buck. Think you might be interested? You can preview this course for free! Also, JD Advising offers a free early bar prep program and a free 3L bar exam primer course. Check out our bar exam course selection to see if it might be a good fit for you!
Don’t stop comparing at the price! Course outlines, lecture format, essay feedback, and whether a course uses previously-used MBE questions are also factors to consider as you weigh bar exam course options!
Planning, budgeting, and saving before bar season.
Second, to successfully study for the bar exam on a budget, planning ahead is going to be key. This includes saving money for bar exam preparation costs. What are some of the fees that need to be included in a budget for the bar exam? Before you begin prepping, you’ll be expending funds for a bar prep course as well as for the state application that must be filed in order to take the bar exam in the first place.
At the beginning of their 3L year (or earlier!), law school student should begin budgeting finances for the bar exam. This includes adding up the costs of the state bar exam application and a bar exam prep course. Keep in mind that somestimes employers, especially if you have been offered a position post-graduation, are willing to pay for your bar prep course. Additionally, some employers are willing to throw in a stipend to cover some of your living expenses while you prepare for the bar exam. This is definitely something worth checking as you plan your finances for bar prep.
Additionally, be sure to factor in your living expenses. This is especially necessary if you don’t plan to work when studying for the bar. To understand how much money is required for living expenses, we recommend that you keep track of regular monthly expenses (including rent, other bills, utilities, groceries, and so on). This will help you determine how much money you anticipate spending between May and July or December and February.
Another period students may need to plan for is the limbo period after the bar exam while students await results. While many students anticipate working during this time period, it’s worth figuring out how you plan to handle finances for this period early, especially if you don’t yet have a job!
The budgeting plan to save for bar prep season, a bar prep class, and state bar exam application can be supplemented with money from a part-time job during the school year and even during bar prep. Still, we do recommend that students limit working during bar prep to a few days a week (or less if you can swing it). Bar prep is often as demanding as a full-time job.
Other less frequently discussed options to save money and study for the bar exam on a budget include applying to take the exam on or before the first deadline for that application. Many states offer a lower fee for bar exam applications that are submitted by the earliest deadline. In Illinois, for example, the fee for bar exam registrations submitted before February 15 is $950. The fee in Illinois for applications submitted after April 1 is $1450. That’s a significant difference!
Finally, another less frequently discussed option to save money on bar prep is to apply for bar exam prep scholarships. Some law schools and bar exam prep companies offer scholarships to students preparing for the bar exam. Additionally, some bar exam prep companies allow payment plans for qualifying students. Both scholarships and payment plans tend to be better options for most students than taking out additional loans.
Use free bar prep resources.
Another way to study for the bar exam on a budget is to take advantage of free bar prep resources. While we do not recommend relying solely on free resources, they can be useful supplements. JD Advising offers several free bar prep resources and, in fact, has a free bar exam resource center. JD Advising also offers free MBE Tips of the Day for those who want a little bit more practice with the MBE.
Additionally, students should ask their law school and law school library about what bar prep resources might be available. The National Conference of Bar Examiners also offers free practice bar exam questions as well as an MBE outline.
Keep in mind that there are also bar prep studying podcasts, YouTube channels, and other free online resources. Finding resources may take a bit of time, but there are resources available. However, be careful to ensure that these resources are reliable and accurate!
Become a table representative
Are you interested in a free bar prep course? Check out the table representative opportunities available at your law school! Many bar prep companies (JD Advising included!) offer free bar prep courses in exchange for manning their bar exam info table on tabling days. Tabling usually entails telling other students about bar prep courses and highlighting any current promotions from the bar prep company.
The short answer is you should invest so you can ensure you pass the bar exam on the first try! Law school is an expensive investment, but that investment doesn’t end the day you graduate. Instead, investing your time, energy, and resources into bar prep is also worthwhile for law school students. The risk is that students that don’t fully invest (personally, not necessarily financially) in bar exam preparation might not pass. While failing the bar exam is survivable, this risk comes with a unique set of other opportunity costs. For example, a student who fails the bar examination may suffer a career cost. This might mean a student doesn’t get promoted or less likely, has to find another job.
Evaluating this career cost further, a student who fails the bar exam will potentially lose income they would have earned by working as a licensed attorney. Further, that student will need to reapply to sit for their state’s bar exam (and pay more fees!). Additionally, some students who fail the bar exam will also need to again spend money on travel and lodging to take the bar exam again.
Zooming out and looking at the bigger picture, a student who fails the bar exam will usually need to sign up for another (or sometimes their first!) bar exam prep course to strengthen their studying regimen and access newer versions of bar exam prep books. Additionally, a student who fails the bar exam and wants to sit for the bar exam again will need to again set aside a significant amount of time to fully study for the exam. It is not impossible to successfully study for the bar exam while working part (or even full) time. However, most students still find they need to take a couple of weeks away from their job to study.
Does just the thought of taking the bar exam make you nervous? Visiting some of the materials a bit early might help you work through some of that stress. The idea is that a student refreshing their recollection of 1L legal concepts before bar exam prep course will make the transition to bar prep easier. JD Advising offers a free 3L Bar Exam Primer course that does just that!
Ultimately, the final takeaway is that there are ways to study for the bar exam on a budget. Regardless of how a student plans to pay for and prepare for the bar exam, we recommend students invest their time, energy, and resources (including their time and talent) into preparing for the exam.
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