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Bar exam loans

Where and how to get financing to cover bar study costs.

With bar study courses and licensing exams easily topping $2,000, recent law school graduates may not have the cash to cover this expense. You may be able to scrape a little off the top of your student loans, but often students need all they can get to cover the cost of the school year, and there isn’t much leftover. It might be necessary, therefore, to take out a loan to tide you over until you pass the bar and start practicing.

Where can I get bar exam funding?

Unlike lenders in the US, Canadian lenders don’t generally offer loans specifically designed to cover studying for, or taking, the bar exam. However, that doesn’t mean you’re without options. Start your search in one of the following places:

Personal loans

You can also use a personal loan as a way to pay for your bar exam costs, but you might want to apply with a lender that allows you to bring on a cosigner. That’s because most financial institutions that offer persona loans aren’t willing to work with you if you’re unemployed — even if you’ve got a six-figure job lined up.

You might want to reach out to your lender to make sure bar exam costs aren’t restricted, since many don’t allow you to use the funds for educational expenses.

Compare personal loans

Name Product Interest Rate Loan Amount Loan Term Requirements Credit Score Link
Loans Canada Personal Loan
Secured from 2.00%, Unsecured from 8.00% to 46.96%
$300 - $50,000
3 - 60 months
No min. income or employment requirements
Min. credit score: 300
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An online broker with the largest lender network in Canada. Get matched for free with lenders offering both unsecured and secured loans through one quick application regardless of your financial situation.
Spring Financial Personal Loan
17.99% - 46.96%
$500 - $15,000
9 - 48 months
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Min. credit score: 400
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An online lender offering unsecured personal loans and credit builder loans. Those filing for bankruptcy or a consumer proposal can also apply. If you're not eligible for an unsecured loan, you may be offered a loan to help rebuild your credit.
goPeer Personal Loan
8.00% - 33.92%
$1,000 - $25,000
36 - 60 months
Recommended income of $40,000 /year
Min. credit score: 600
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More Info
Canada's first regulated consumer peer-to-peer lending platform offering unsecured loans. Connects creditworthy Canadians looking for a loan with Canadians looking to invest. goPeer strives to offer the most competitive interest rates. Apply in minutes and get a response within 24 hours.
Mogo Personal Loan
9.90% - 46.96%
$200 - $35,000
6 - 60 months
Min. income of $13,000 /year
Min. credit score: 500

Mogo offers a 100-day money-back guarantee. If you're not happy with your loan, pay back the principal and get your 100 days of paid interest and fees back.
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An online lender who aims for a hassle-free process through same-day unsecured loan approval and funding. Get a loan fast and track your credit score for free.
ConsumerCapital Personal Loan
19.99% - 34.99%
$1,500 - $12,500
24 - 60 months
Min. income of $1,900 /month, 6+ months employed
Min. credit score: 600
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An online lender that provides fast unsecured personal loans. Complete an application in less than 10 minutes and get a decision within 24 hours. For faster loan approval, complete the Flinks bank integration in the app.
SkyCap Financial Personal Loan
12.99% - 39.99%
$500 - $10,000
9 - 36 months
Min. income of $1,200 /month, stable employment
Min. credit score: 550
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An online lender offering unsecured personal loans to borrowers with a wide range of credit scores. Apply in less than 5 minutes and if approved, receive financing in as little as 24 hours.
LoanConnect Personal Loan
Secured from 1.90%, Unsecured from 5.75%-46.96%
$500 - $50,000
3 - 120 months
Currents debts must total less than 60% of income
Min. credit score: 300
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An online broker who helps inform clients towards better finances. Get pre-approved by different lenders for unsecured or secured loans in 5 minutes with any credit score.
Fairstone Unsecured Personal Loan
26.99% - 39.99%
$500 - $25,000
6 - 60 months
Able to make monthly repayments on your loan
Min. credit score: 560
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More Info
An online lender with a team dedicated to professional service. Get a quote for an unsecured loan without impacting your credit score. Receive funds within as little as 24 hours. No prepayment fees.
Fairstone Secured Personal Loan
19.99% - 23.99%
$5,000 - $50,000
60 - 120 months
Must be a homeowner
Min. credit score: 560
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More Info
Use your home equity to get a secured loan up to $50,000 with flexible repayment options and a long loan term. Get a quote without impacting your credit score.
Loan Away Personal Loan
19.90% - 45.90%
$1,000 - $5,000
6 - 36 months
No min. income or employment requirements
Min. credit score: 300
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A lender that approves unsecured loans in as little as 20 minutes. Get affordable monthly repayments with any credit score.

Compare up to 4 providers

Private student line of credit providers

Unfortunately, you can’t get a federal loan to pay for bar study costs, so you’ll have to look to banks and other financial institutions to help cover the cost. TD Canada Trust, CIBC, RBC, BMO and Scotiabank (among other banks and credit unions) all offer a variety of graduate student financing options, including student lines of credit and credit cards.

Depending on which lender you choose, you can apply online, over the phone or in person. And rather than sending the funds to your school, your lender will either transfer the funds to your personal bank account or write you a cheque, which makes this type of financing more flexible in terms of what you can use it for.

Bar exam courses

The company offering your bar exam course may offer financing through a partner lender. These are closer to a personal loan than a student loan — shorter terms, wider range of rates and possibly more fees.

Leftover student loan funds

Still in law school and haven’t reached your student loan limit? You might want to apply for additional funds for your last year of law school to cover your bar exam expenses. That way, you won’t have to take out an additional loan and can take advantage of the lower rates — especially if you’re getting federal funding.

Why can’t I just take out a regular student loan?

Simply put, because you’re no longer a student. Student loans are meant to cover expenses related to getting a degree, and bar exam preparation has no effect on whether or not you graduate from your program.

The application process is slightly different, too. When you apply for a student loan, your lender bases it on your school’s educational expenses and often sends the funds to its financial aid office. With a bar loan, you receive the funds yourself since you’re using it to cover additional costs. So, while you can use leftover funds from a student loan, taking out a student loan exclusively to cover bar exam costs isn’t an option.

Student loans in Canada

Funding breakdown: amount, fees, terms and eligibility

How much can I borrow?

The amount you can borrow depends on the limit set in place by your lender and potentially on other factors as well including your credit history, level of need, academic standing and income. Each province and territory will have its own rules regarding how much students can borrow, and the amount your receive is generally based on the cost of your program, your household income, any savings or assets you have and your level of financial need. Generally, federal and provincial financing is easier to qualify for as it is supported by the government and does not usually require a credit check.

On the other hand, law students may often apply for lines of credit as high as $100,000 or more from banks and other financial institutions. In determining the actual amount you will receive, banks tend to focus more on factors that have to do with your financal profile including your credit history, current level of debt and the financial strenght of your cosigner (if you have one). Factors such as your grades and level of need do not usually influence the amount you end up receiving.

The lending criteria is generally the same for personal loans issued by banks or private lenders, although the limits to the amount you can borrow will be less. This is because student loans and lines of credit are issued in part on the understanding that you’ll eventually graduate from your program, get a job and start making money to pay back your debt. Whereas, personal loans can be used for anything (academic or otherwise) and therefore don’t come with the same level of assurance.

How much will it cost?

Like other student loans, most bar exam loans don’t come with application or origination fees, so the interest is the main cost to pay attention to.

Interest rates for student financing is usually lower than for other types of loans, usually ranging from 4% to 9%. Personal loan interest rates can be quite high, starting around 5% and going up to 46%.

You typically have the choice between a fixed and variable rate. Fixed rates stay the same over the life of your loan and give you more predictable repayments. Variable rates have the potential to change over time according to the market. This could save you money if the rate is lower than the fixed rate — but could cost a lot more if it’s higher.

How long are the terms?

You usually have 7-10 years to pay back government-issued student loans, while student financing issued by banks can come with longer repayment terms. Personal loans often come in terms ranging from 1-7 years. Bear in mind that the longer you take to pay back your loan, the more interest fees you’ll pay, so it’s wise to pay back your debts as soon as possible.

Most lenders don’t charge prepayment penalties if you want to make extra payments or pay off your loan early, although you’ll want to check to make sure. Additionally, financing geared towards students often comes with a 6-9 month grace period (or deferment period) after you graduate. During this time, you either don’t have to repayments or you only have to make interest payments.

Who’s eligible?

Generally, you need to be able to provide proof of full-time enrollment in an accredited law school to be eligible for student financing. This could come in the form of a class schedule for the upcoming academic year or a letter from your school’s registrar confirming your acceptance and enrollment.

You’ll likely need to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to apply on your own. International students might qualify if they apply with a creditworthy cosigner, however, as long as they have documentation proving their legal status.

Lenders take your credit score and history into consideration, but you can usually apply with a cosigner if you can’t meet your lender’s credit score cutoff.

What costs can I cover?

You can use personal loans or student loans to cover a wide range of expenses related to your education and preparation to enter the legal field. If you plan to dip into an excess of student loans, know that those loans may go straight to your school first to cover tution and fees, and any excess may be sent to you afterwards or carried forward to a future term. Check with your school’s financial aid office to find out for sure before relying on these funds to cover bar expenses.

Below are some of the most common bar costs you may need to cover.

Provincial licensing courses & exams

Many provinces and territories require would-be lawyers to take one or more courses and exams to become licensed. On top of this, you may also be required to complete a 6-12 month articling period in which you gain real-world experience by working alongside a qualified, practicing lawyer. Fees usually exist for all these bar components.

Bar prep programs and examinations have become a necessity and are likely the main expense you’ll need your loan for. That’s because they can easily set you back thousands of dollars. Here are the average costs you can expect in some provinces:

  • British Columbia (10-week course and 2 exams): $2,875
  • Ontario (articling program, law practice program and 2 exams): $4,300 (an optional 90-hour exam prep course is offered by Osgoode Hall in Toronto for $1,895)
  • Alberta (3 in-person modules + 7 self-study modules, 10 competency evaluations and 2 self-study courses to be completed within 1 year): $3,064
  • New Brunswick (4 weeks with assessments included): $3,000

Additional fees

Depending on where you live, you might have to pay the following fees, which you can typically cover with your bar exam loan:

  • Application fee
  • Professional ethics examination fee
  • Application fee for exemptions due to prior legal experience
  • Laptop fee
  • Licensing fee or law society membership fee
  • Administrative fees if you go on a monthly payment plan to pay for your prep course(s) and/or exam(s)

3 alternatives to bar study loans

Don’t want to take on more student debt — or can’t? Consider these alternatives.

  1. Community scholarships and awards. Check to see if any local community organizations or educational institutions offer awards for up-and-coming legal professionals, high-performing students or those who have been very active in their communities. If you’ve done well in school or have put a lot of time and effort into causes you care about, you may be eligible for some extra support.
  2. Ask your employer. Some law firms are willing to cover the costs related to the bar exam to bring in fresh talent.
  3. Reach out to friends and family. If you’ve got a strong social media presence, you might want to set up a crowdfunding campaign on sites like GoFundMe. Or you can just reach out to friends and relatives who may be willing to pitch in to help you realize your dream of becoming a lawyer.

Bottom line

If you need help getting over the last barrier to becoming a legal professional, you have a number of financing options to consider. And since many types of loans, particularly student loans, don’t come with prepayment penalties, you might be able to avoid a chunk of interest fees by paying off your loan as soon as you begin working as a professional.

Curious about more financing options? Check out our guide to student loans.

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