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Getting a law degree and passing the bar require tremendous dedication and sacrifice. Many law students and graduates don’t have time to work and study at the same time.

Once you’re ready to begin preparing for the bar, you might find you need some extra money to pay expenses. Private student loans for the bar are an option.

Taking the bar exam is expensive

The cost of taking the bar exam includes sitting for the exam, travel, lodging, filing fees, study courses, and materials. These costs can easily total over $5,000. Plus, these numbers do not include your living expenses that you still have to pay.

Let’s take a look at some factors to consider about bar exam student loans.

Eligibility

To qualify for a loan to take the bar exam, you typically must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Some lenders require that you are enrolled in the final year of law school, or that you are a recent graduate. Others require that you sit for the bar within 12 months of graduation.

Borrowing limit

Borrowing maximums are variable, but most are in the range of $12,000 to $16,000. If you have some extra cash saved up, or parental support, resist the temptation to max out your loan. Borrow only what you need.

Cumulative debt limit

Some, but not all lenders, place a cumulative debt limit on loans for taking the bar. This means how much total you can borrow from the lender which may or may not include the new loan. Limits can vary from $180,000 up to $225,000.

Origination fee

Pretty much across the board lenders do not charge a loan origination fee. But make sure you ask about this before you borrow as policies can change.

Grace period

This is the time from when you take out the loan until you have to start payments. This gives you time to start to work and save money to make future payments. Many lenders set a start date then establish a 6- to 9-month grace period from that date.

Interest rates

Rates on any personal loans vary with the prime rate and other factors. Some loans for the bar are fixed and others variable. Interest rates as of January, 2016 varied from 3.46 percent up to 12.99 percent. Rates also may depend on your credit rating.

Loan terms

Repayment terms vary and can also have an effect on interest rates. The shortest terms are around 7 years. Longer terms can be up to 15 years to pay back your loan.

Repayment incentives

With some lenders, you can get a discount for making payments by electronic debit. These incentives range from 0.25 percent up to 0.50 percent off the interest rate.

Lenders

Here are some lenders that provide loans for taking the bar exam:

Conclusion

If you need extra cash to study for the bar exam, consider a personal loan. Make sure you compare the options carefully before borrowing. Loan finder services can make this process much easier and faster.

Vincent Chough is a writer who earned his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and practiced in the U.S. for 10 years. He now lives in Argentina, where he’s involved in NGO management at the executive level.