Financial Literacy


Berkeley Law Resources

  1. Presentations: The Financial Aid Office regularly holds presentations about financial literacy and loan repayment at the law school. We typically send email announcements about upcoming presentations, or you can find events on the Berkeley Law Events Calendar. You can view recorded presentations and a list of upcoming events on our Info Sessions page
  2. Appointments: Book a one-on-one appointment with a Financial Aid or LRAP advisor here.


Spending & Budgeting


COVID-19 Implications for Students

iGrad has a page dedicated to COVID-19 for students. Here are some related articles:

  1. How the government is helping with student loans in response to COVID-19
  2. Financial wellness touchstones during a recession
  3. How COVID-19 is affecting jobs & where to look for support

Additionally, check out our page on COVID-19 and impacts to student loans.


External resources for managing debt

  1. Funding Your Legal Education and Debt Management: information and tips about financial literacy from AccessLex.
  2. contains articles and tutorials on financial literacy for students. 
  3. Barbri 1L budget worksheet: sign up to download this 1L budget Excel workhsheet.
  4. Building Wealth Guide: The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas covers budgeting, loans, credit, investing and saving, and insurance.
  5. a free service that budgets, aggregates your assets and liabilities into an online portfolio, and is available online and on your mobile device
  6. Budgeting Templates


Making a Plan

Take the time now to consider what financial resources you will have available to pay for three years at Berkeley Law. Making a plan about how you will spend those resources can help you to avoid borrowing more in student loans than you need. 

  1. Make a list of your financial goals
  2. Set a priority level and deadline for each.
  3. Use the resources in the “External Resources for Budgeting” section to help reach those goals.


Budgeting During Law School

Developing a personal budget for the years you spend as a law school student will help you keep your expenses low with the ultimate goal of graduating with the lowest debt burden possible. 

  1. Create a weekly budget (see external resources for more budget templates).
  2. Keep track of receipts, bank statements, pay stubs, bills, and other payment records or maintain a daily log for future reference.
  3. List income and anticipated expenses like rent, utilities, food, transportation, etc. to determine whether your expenses exceed your income/other funding. Aim to increase discretionary income and reduce expenses.
  4. Cost of Attendance Adjustment: If you incur additional costs such as a computer purchase, medical bills, or relocation expenses within the current academic year, you can submit a Cost of Attendance Adjustment Request to increase your loan eligibility. You can learn more about the process and complete an application here.


Building a Portfolio

Keep thorough documentation of your income, lines of credit, and debt to help remove the barrier of uncertainty after graduation. Note that some documentation is required for LRAP (use this How to Apply for LRAP page for a comprehensive checklist). More generally, save a copy of each of the following documents, if applicable, in a physical and electronic folder:

  1. Student budget: found on our fees page each year. This will provide you a record of the fees you paid. You can also use this to build your post-graduation budget.
  2. Financial aid offers: found in CalCentral. This helps you track the exact amount of educational loans borrowed while at Berkeley Law.
  3. National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS) report: provides you with an overview of all your federal student loan details such as loan amounts, interest rates, accrued interest, the name of your lender and the loan servicing agency. (*required for LRAP application)
  4. Private loan information: The promissory note and other documentation for any private educational loans will not be listed on NSLDS and must be tracked separately. Obtain a copy of your credit report instead to see your private loans.
  5. Income tax return: This is important for tracking annual income and any educational credits you claim. Make a copy for each year that you file. (*required for an income-driven repayment plan application)
  6. W-2, 1098-T, 1098-E etc: for each year even if you did not file a tax return for that year.
  7. Employment contracts, offer letters, and job descriptions: for any summer jobs while you are a student as well as your jobs after graduation. (*required for income-driven repayment plan and LRAP application)
  8. Car or home loans, credit cards, and any other person finance documents: will help with the budgeting process.


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Loans & Debt


External resources for managing debt

  1. Loan definitions: understand what loan-related key terms mean
  2. Learn about the benefits of federal loans versus private loans and create an account to see an overview of your loans.
  3. Deferment: resource to get loan payments temporarily suspended.
  4. Forbearance: if you do not qualify for deferment, you may qualify for this temporary relief.
  5. Read articles linked below about different topics related to student loans and managing debt:


Student Loans

    1. Types of Loans: A law school education is usually funded through student loans. More information about the various types of loans can be found on our loans page in a convenient chart.
    2. General tips
      • Interest rate reductions are often more valuable than principal reductions (read full article here).
      • Read the fine print carefully. All the important things to know about your loan–fees, interest rate, grace period, etc.–will be in the promissory note.
      • Remember to set up auto debit of your monthly payment in the way the lender requires.
      • Make monthly payments on time. Otherwise, you risk defaulting on your loans.
    3. Private Loan Tips
      • Federal vs. Private: consider the benefits that come with federal loans (such as income-driven repayment, deferment and forbearance, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program) before applying for a private loan.
      • Co-signer: To get the best interest rate on a private student loan, consider applying with a credit-worthy co-signer.
      • Compare costs: Analyze and compare different private lenders for hidden costs (i.e. some may charge an insurance premium at the beginning of repayment period). 
      • LRAP ineligibility: If there’s the possibility that you will enroll in Berkeley’s LRAP program, remember that private loans do not qualify.


Loan Repayment

  1. Overview: Loan payments will vary depending on the loan type, how much you owe, and the repayment option you chose. It is important to establish a budget and determine how much money you will need to borrow in loans. Don’t borrow more than you need! You can always return unused loans before the end of the semester by contacting the Financial Aid Office.
  2. Monthly payments: If you are having difficulty making monthly loan payments, there are options.
    • In certain situations, such as re-enrollment in school, loans can qualify for deferment ( loan payments are temporarily suspended and interest does not accrue on subsidized loans). 
    • If you do not qualify for deferment but are experiencing financial hardship and difficulty making loan payments, you may qualify for forbearance
    • You can also apply for an income-driven repayment plan to reduce your monthly payment amount.
  3. Key terms: See other loan related key terms here.
  4. For other information on loan repayment and LRAPs, see the following links:

Consumer Debt/Credit

  1. Pay off debt before law school: Since consumer debt generally has a high interest rate and monthly credit card payments are not factored into the student budgets used to award financial aid, we encourage you to pay off as much of this type of debt as possible before law school.
  2. Good vs. Bad Debt: Having more student loan debt isn’t automatically bad for your credit score. Focus on making student loan payments on time. It’s likely to have the biggest impact of anything related to your student loans and credit score.
  3. Credit Score: Review your credit report each year by obtaining a free credit report from each credit bureau once per year It is important to understand your credit score and what lenders are looking for if you want to get a loan after law school.
  4. Read more about maintaining good credit and how to use student loans in conjunction with credit cards below:
    1. Qualities of good borrowers
    2. How to buy a house while having student loan debt
    3. What expenses you should and shouldn’t pay for with student loans
    4. Should I pay off my credit card debt or student loans first?
    5. How student loans affect your credit score
    6. Everything you need to know about managing debt
    7. Using credit cards responsibly


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Tax Benefits for Students

  1. Higher education tax benefits
  2. All the important details you need to know about education tax credits
  3. Tax deductions for student loan interest
  4. Tax tips for parents of students who are also students


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