How to Open Your First IRA

How to Open Your First IRA

Saving for retirement may be the biggest financial goal many of us will ever set. So it makes sense to explore all retirement savings options, including an IRA. The sooner you open your first IRA, the more opportunity your savings have to grow over time, potentially leading to a nice nest egg upon retirement.

There are other benefits to opening an IRA. It can deliver attractive tax perks—either up front or in retirement—and can be especially attractive to individuals who don’t have an employer-sponsored 401(k), or have maxed it out already.

This article will walk you through the steps of opening an IRA—whether a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA.

What Is an IRA?

An IRA, or individual retirement account, is a retirement savings account that anyone with an income can open on their own (rather than through an employer, as with a 401(k)). This account can potentially grow funds through investment, and typically offers tax breaks, either up front, or upon withdrawal in retirement.

When people ask “what is an IRA” they might be wondering what types of IRA there are to choose from. There are three basic types of individual retirement accounts: a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, and a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) IRA. (There is also a SIMPLE IRA, for small business owners and their employees.)

How to Open an IRA in 4 Steps

Step 1: Choose the IRA That’s Best for You

Of the several types of IRAs, traditional and Roth IRAs are the most common types. Both allow you to put a certain amount toward retirement each year and invest in an array of assets. When it comes to choosing a traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA, it helps to be aware of their key differences.

Traditional IRA Accounts

If you earn a taxable income, you can open a traditional IRA regardless of how much you make per year.

One notable difference between traditional and Roth IRA accounts is that traditional IRAs allow you to deduct your contributions on your tax returns now, meaning you pay taxes on distributions when you retire.

You’ll also pay a 10% penalty tax (in addition to regular income tax) on any money you withdraw money from your traditional IRA before age 59 1/2, with a few exceptions.

It may be better to go with a traditional IRA if you pay a lot in taxes now and think you’ll be in a lower tax bracket after retirement. This is because you’ll be saving on a higher tax you’d be paying earlier (vs. the lower tax you’d be paying later, since you’d be in a lower tax bracket).

Roth IRA Accounts

Unlike traditional IRAs, there are income limits on who can open a Roth IRA. For 2021, individuals can only contribute the full amount—$6,000, with an additional $1,000 for people over age 50—to a Roth IRA if their income is below $125,000 for single people (people earning more than $125,000 but less than $140,000 can contribute a reduced amount); for married people who file taxes jointly, the limit is $198,000 (those who earn up to $208,000 can contribute a reduced amount).

Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax income. While that doesn’t offer any tax advantages now, it does mean that when you withdraw money upon retirement, you won’t have to pay taxes on it.

While IRAs are intended to serve as retirement savings, it’s typically easier to withdraw contributions in an emergency from a Roth IRA than from a traditional IRA. While contributions won’t be taxed upon withdrawal, any withdrawn earnings would be taxed and possibly subject to a 10% penalty.

A Roth IRA may make sense for eligible individuals who typically get a tax refund and expect to be in a similar or higher tax bracket when they retire (for example, if they plan to have substantial income from a business, investments, or work).

Still confused? Consult our IRA Calculator for help deciding which account may be right for you.

Related Content: How IRAs Work

SEP IRA Accounts

With the number of self-employed workers on the rise, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a third type of IRA that may be worth considering: a SEP IRA. A SEP IRA, or simplified employee pension, can be set up by either an employer at a small business or by someone who is self-employed.

For employers, it gives them a tax deduction when they contribute to their employees’ IRAs, and also lets them contribute on a “discretionary basis” (meaning that the employer doesn’t have to contribute in years where it’s not as financially feasible for the company.) This option may also allow you to contribute more than other IRAs, depending on your income.

Step 2: Open an Account

You can open an IRA at a bank, a brokerage, mutual fund company, or other financial services provider. Typically, the more personal care and advice you get, the higher the fees will be. A robo-adviser, for instance, might charge lower fees than a brokerage.

SoFi Invest® streamlines the process of opening an IRA online, allowing investors to transfer money from their bank electronically.

Rolling Over a 401(k) Into an IRA

If you are leaving a job with an employee-sponsored retirement plan, you can roll over your 401(k) into a traditional IRA to potentially give yourself better investment options and lower fees.

When you roll money over from a 401(k), there’s no limit to how much you can add to an IRA at that time. Going forward, additional contributions will be capped at the typical IRA contribution limit.

Step 3: Make Contributions

As of 2021, you can contribute up to $6,000 a year to a traditional or Roth IRA, or up to $7,000 if you’re 50 or older. If you take home more than the maximum earnings allowed for a Roth IRA but still prefer a Roth over a traditional account, you might be able to contribute a reduced amount.

In many cases, it’s a good idea to invest as much as you can up to that amount each year to take full advantage of the power of compound interest.

A retirement calculator can help you figure out whether you’re on track for retirement. A quick rule of thumb: By the time you’re 30, it’s typically good to have the equivalent of one year’s salary saved.

Step 4: Invest Your Funds

Investors can choose to invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, low-cost index funds, or exchange-traded funds (ETFs)—or a combination thereof.

One popular type of investment fund geared toward retirement savings is a “target date fund.” A target date fund is calibrated to the year you plan to retire, and is meant to automatically update your mix of assets like stocks and bonds so they’re more aggressive earlier in life and more conservative as you approach retirement.

Ultimately, the mix of investments in your IRA should depend on your personal risk tolerance, lifestyle, and retirement goals.

The Takeaway

Opening your first IRA is simple—possibly the biggest work involved is in deciding which IRA suits your personal situation and retirement goals best: a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA.

Getting started on saving for your retirement doesn’t have to be difficult. SoFi Invest makes opening an IRA simple. Sign up for an investment account with SoFi online, in less than five minutes.

You can be as involved in the investment process as you want to be—either with hands-on investing, or by using our automated investing technology, in which our algorithm will suggest an appropriate mix of investments based on your age and retirement goals. For a limited time, opening an account gives you the opportunity to win up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice. All you have to do is sign up, play the claw game, and find out how much you won.

Download the SoFi Invest app to start an IRA and start trading today.



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What is a Good Entry Level Salary?

Recent grads — or even just those starting a new career midstream — may wonder what sort of offer to expect when negotiating a starting salary. While it’s unlikely an early-stage hire will outearn senior management from the get-go, it can be key not to accept a pittance below the going market rates.

Since pay can vary greatly based on location or line of work, there’s no one answer to the question, “What is a good entry level salary?” The size of the paycheck will differ based on where someone lives, the industry they work in, the hiring institution or company, and other hard-to-tabulate variables.

So, how might a job seeker figure out a good entry level salary before sitting down with the new boss or an HR representative to talk pay? Here are some helpful resources to get a handle on entry level rates across the US, including tips for negotiating compensation:

Understanding Entry Level Salaries?

Entry level salary information changes on a regular basis, but many job-focused websites offer insights into the going rates. For instance, ZipRecruiter, a well-known American employment marketplace, lists the average U.S. entry level salary by state , which ranges, at the time of this writing, from $12.61 per hour or $26,219 per year in North Carolina to $17.09 per hour or $35,750 per year in New York.

Still, even state-by-state averages don’t show the whole picture. Although more than half of US states have minimum wage requirements higher than the federal minimum wage, which remains set at $7.25 per hour, the amount an early-career hire might expect can also vary by county and city within the same state.

According to Glassdoor, the average entry level salary in the Jacksonville, FL area is $14 per hour, whereas the average in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is significantly higher at $16 per hour.

Along with location, the industry one works in can play a big role in what kind of starting salary a new hire might expect. For instance, a data scientist at a tech company might be able to earn as much as $95,000 right out of the gate, while a newly minted journalist might expect something closer to $30,000.

(Psst: early-stage college students might want to align their eventual courses of studies with one of these high-paying entry level jobs.)

One way to grasp what sort of salary that might be expected is targeted research on the specific industry, location, and even position and company.

Researching a Good Entry Level Salary

Recent grads wanting to understand if they’re being offered current market rates for a particular job (or location) can turn to the internet to research details. Some sites that might offer resources for those job seekers include:

Payscale , for example, allows employees to create custom “pay reports” based on their job title, years of experience, and city.

Salary.com offers a similar feature, allowing job seekers to search for positions by keyword and compare them accordingly.

Glassdoor is another well-known web resource that publishes employee-generated information on salary by specific company and position. It also hosts reviews by current and former employees, which may help a job applicant learn more about what it’s, actually, like to work there. (In some cases, Glassdoor lists interview specifics that could help future interviewees better understand what’s expected from them).

After researching average pay by role, location, and company, job seekers might also next want to mull over how to negotiate an acceptable offer.

Negotiating a Higher Offer

So, what can a job seeker do if their dream job doesn’t (initially) come with a dreamy paycheck? What are some tips for negotiating?

While it’s not always possible to eke precious water from a parched stone, coming to the negotiating table prepared to negotiate can help job applicants angle for a more generous compensation package.

Negotiating a salary can be scary, especially for a recent grad who’s not used to the salary tango. Nevertheless, negotiating an offer up front can have a significant effect on one’s paycheck (and, by extension, one’s long-term earnings).

One Glassdoor press release estimated that the average US employee could be earning 13.3% more—if they negotiated.

Preparing to Negotiate

How might a new hire negotiate a higher-paid entry level salary? Well, having a well-researched entry level salary forecast in mind is one place to start.

Of course, it’s not likely that early-career hire can simply negotiate up to a data scientist’s $95,000 salary if that’s not the norm for the role or location they’ve applied for.

But, it’s still possible to make the case to hiring managers for why a higher rate is merited. When making this case, it could be helpful to give concrete examples of how a worker’s current skills might benefit the company. In these conversations, it may be possible to push an offer up a few percentage points (especially when the skills required are in high demand).

Glassdoor suggests that job seeker’s practice their negotiating pitch. Doing so ahead of time can help some to hone a confident delivery style. What’s more, knowing why a higher salary is being requested could also allow some new hires not to sell themselves short. Adopting negotiation tactics might help some new grads or career changers to meet their salary goal (or inch closer to it).

On top of baseline salary, it’s also possible in some roles and industries to negotiate for other valuable forms of compensation—such as, fitness stipends, work-from-home time, funding for continued education, and more.

Of course, negotiating a good entry level salary is not necessarily an easy undertaking. The Harvard Business Review warns soon-to-be negotiators to prepare for tough questions, especially where salary is concerned. Interviewers may put candidates on the spot, asking if they’re considering other offers or if the position is their top choice.

In an already uncomfortable situation, some candidates may stumble or misspeak if they don’t know how to justify what they’re asking for.

One simple place to start is asking whether it’s possible to negotiate the offer in the first place. Candidates may also inquire about future career growth and promotion potential, which could lead to a bigger salary later down the road.

Navigating Post-College Life, Financially and Beyond

Navigating life after college can be exciting and challenging. Trying to make ends meet on an entry level salary might be particularly tough, especially when on the hook to pay back student loans—as 54% of young adults who went to college took on some debt , including student loans, for their education.

A flexible and adaptable approach to finances and where one lives could make the transition to post-college life more manageable.

For instance, recent graduates who are in a position to choose a new place to live, might opt to move to one of the top cities for college grads. Cities like Houston or Nashville (to name just two) have boasted strong economies, affordable rent prices, and low unemployment rates.

Learning how to make a budget can also go a long way toward covering common expenses—even when one’s starting salary leaves a few zeroes to be desired. That said, there’s only so much instant ramen to eat or cups of coffee to skip out on.

For those feeling weighed down by student loans while earning an entry level salary, additional options exist. Those with outstanding federal student loans, for example, may qualify for income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness for public service, or deferment.

Refinancing educational debt with a private lender is one extra option that could save money each month—or help the borrower pay off student loans faster.

Student loan refinancing may allow recent grads to make lower monthly payments toward their existing debt, freeing up some extra cash. Or, it could help a borrower to save money on interest paid on the loan as a whole, allowing them to pay off the debt total faster.

It’s important to note that refinancing with a private lender causes borrowers to forfeit certain guaranteed federal benefits, like income-driven repayment (IDR).

SoFi refinances both federal and private student loans, offering no application fees and no prepayment penalties. Those who refinance their student loans through SoFi get access to a wide range of exclusive member benefits, including career coaching, financial advice, and more—at no additional cost.

Checking your refinance rate won’t have an affect on your credit score and could be the first step toward saving thousands of dollars—or making more affordable monthly student loan payments.

Interested in student loan refinancing? Applying with SoFi might be a smart money move for you.



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IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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Tips on How to Pay for MBA School

Getting a Master of Business Administration is an investment. Tuition costs vary widely depending on the school, but the average cost in 2020 was $195,416 for the top 25 two-year programs in the US.

The high price tag doesn’t mean that an MBA isn’t worth it. Calculate your return on investment by doing some research on the starting salaries of MBA graduates , and possibly, of graduates from the specific program you plan to attend. You might also consider doing some research on your field of choice to learn more about demand for employees and your growth potential. Then do the math—does the investment seem worth it in terms of the higher salary you stand to earn for a lifetime?

If you’ve committed to pursuing an MBA, the reality is that a higher income is probably still a few years away, but you’re responsible for the costs now. It can be daunting, but you have many options for making business school more affordable. The key is to plan ahead and do the research so you have plenty of time to take advantage of the opportunities out there. Here’s a few options to evaluate as you craft a plan to pay for your MBA program.

Saving Up in Advance

If you’re already employed, especially if you earn a high salary, it may make sense for you to stay in your gig for a few more years and put money away toward your degree. The more you save now, the less you may have to take out in loans later. If you’re interested in accelerating up your savings, consider cutting your expenses to prepare for the lifestyle change of becoming a student again.

Taking Advantage of Free Money

There are a plethora of scholarships, grants, and fellowships available for business students . If you manage to land one, they can help reduce your costs slightly or significantly, depending on the size of the award.

When hunting for scholarships, consider starting with the schools you’re thinking of attending. Many institutions offer their own need- or merit-based scholarships and fellowships, some of which may even fund the entire cost of MBA tuition. Many, but not all, of these are geared toward specific groups of students.

For example, Wharton , the University of Pennsylvania business school, offers fellowships aimed at students of specific populations, and those who’ve demonstrated leadership in public service.

Other awards are based on academic excellence, entrepreneurship, and for those committed to careers in real estate or finance. Contact your school’s admissions or financial aid departments to learn about the opportunities you qualify for.

Beyond grants offered by your institution, plenty of foundations, associations, and other groups offer support to MBA students. For example, the Forté Fellows Program and the American Association of University Women offers grants and fellowships to women pursuing MBAs.

Students who have served in the military can apply for Military MBA’s Merit Scholarships . The Toigo Foundation and the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting are among the organizations that offer support for minority students pursuing MBAs.

You can look for other scholarships using search engines like FastWeb , FinAid , and Scholarships.com . Even if some of the amounts offered are small, combining a bunch of scholarships can add up.

To increase your chances of winning an award, it’s worth putting in the time to polish your application materials and secure solid references, if any are required. Investing that time and effort today can help make your MBA much more affordable down the line.

Getting Sponsored by a Company

Some employers offer to pay for all or part of an MBA degree. In exchange, they may require that you work there for a certain time period beforehand and commit to maintaining your employment for some time after you graduate.

Some companies offer relatively modest grants, while others might offer to cover the bulk of tuition costs. Some companies that offer tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing MBAs include Deloitte, Bank of America, Apple, Intel, Procter & Gamble, and Chevron.

If you can land a job at a company that offers this benefit, it can be a major help in paying for school and reduce your debt burden. Just be sure that you’re willing to meet the commitments, which in most cases means staying with your employer for a while.

Taking Out Student Loans

If you can’t make up the full cost of tuition and living expenses through saving, scholarships, or sponsorships, borrowing student loans is another option. You might first consider borrowing from the federal government, certain borrower protections, and flexible student loan repayment options .

To apply, you’d fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) online just like you did during your undergraduate years. (Research the deadline for your state to make sure you’re applying on time.) The school you attend will determine the maximum you’re able to take out in loans each year, but you don’t have to take out the full amount. You might choose to only borrow as much as you need, since you’ll have to pay this money back later—with interest, of course.

Graduate students are generally eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans (up to $20,500 each year) or Direct PLUS Loans. Neither of these loans is awarded based on financial need.

Both of them accrue interest while the student is enrolled in school. Interest rates are set annually, for the 2020-21 school year the interest rate on Direct unsubsidized loans for graduate students is 4.30%. Unless you pay the interest while you’re in school, it will get capitalized (or added to the principal of the loan), which can increase the amount you owe over the life of the loan.

The Direct Unsubsidized Loan will have a six-month grace period after graduation in which you won’t have to make principal payments (remember, interest still accrues). The Direct PLUS loan doesn’t have a grace
period
, so principal payments are due as soon as you earn your degree.

If you aren’t able to borrow as much as you need in federal loans, you can also apply for student loans with private lenders, including banks and online financial institutions.

Taking out a big loan can be daunting, but there are options for making repayment affordable, especially with federal loans. The government offers four income-based repayment plans that tie your monthly payment to your discretionary income.

If you make all the minimum payments for 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan, the balance will be forgiven. (However, the amount forgiven may be considered taxable income ). If you run into economic hardship, you can apply for a deferment or forbearance, which may allow eligible applicants to reduce or stop payments temporarily.

If you put your degree to use at a government agency or nonprofit organization, you may also qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you meet the (extremely stringent) criteria, this program will forgive your loan balance after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments (10 years) under an income-driven repayment plan.

Refinancing Student Loans

If you’re still paying off student debt from college or another graduate degree as you enter your MBA program, you could consider looking into student loan refinancing.

This involves applying for a new loan with a private lender and, if you qualify, using it to pay off your existing loans. Particularly if you have a solid credit and employment history, you might be able to snag a lower interest rate or reduced monthly payment.

The Takeaway

MBA programs can offer a valuable opportunity to advance your career, but they can also carry a hefty price tag. Options to pay for your MBA degree can include using savings, getting a scholarship, grant, or fellowship, or borrowing student loans. Everyone’s plan for financing their education may be different and can include a combination of different resources.

Making existing loans manageable while you’re in school can go a long way to making your MBA affordable. Down the line, you can also think about refinancing the loans you take out to get you through your MBA program. You can get quotes online in just a few minutes to help figure out whether refinancing can get you a better deal.

Starting business school with existing student debt, or taking out loans to fund your MBA? Check out refinancing your student loans with SoFi.


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IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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A Guide to Law School Scholarships

So, you’ve been accepted to law school—congrats! You’re well on your way to embarking on a career that could help you fight for others’ rights and further the public good.

These are all laudable motivations, but chances are there’s something stronger weighing on you: How to pay for law school? It’s not necessarily clear how to find (or negotiate) scholarships for law school.

According to The Association of American Law Schools, on average, law school students paid $49,567 in tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 academic year to attend a private, out-of-state school—and, that amount doesn’t even include living expenses and other non-school costs that could pop up during graduate school.

U.S. News & World Report notes that the average annual cost of a public, out-of-state law school is $41,726, or $28,264 for in-state . (Even the lower cost option here comes to $84,792 for a three-year law program.)

Because students aren’t yet racking up those billable attorney hours, it can be helpful to research law school scholarship opportunities before applying. Here’s a broad overview of potential law school scholarships—plus some links to resources for students thinking about going to law school.

Crunching (and Swallowing) the Numbers

On the whole, according to non-profit organization Law School Transparency, law school tuition has been steadily rising over the last 35 years for all American Bar Association-approved law schools.

Per the numbers mentioned above, there might be a fair amount of sticker shock for those who haven’t yet applied for graduate school and are only thinking of someday going the lawyer route. (Here’s SoFi’s guide on how to apply to law school.) Fortunately, there are a range of options for aspiring attorneys seeking to fund law school.

In some cases, there are full-ride tuition scholarships and need-based grants out there. Full-rides of course, are not available at all law schools. If a law school doesn’t explicitly advertise or highlight information regarding full-ride opportunities, interested students can contact the school to ask. To offset the cost of attending law school, some school applicants may opt to apply only to programs that offer full- or partial- rides. One simple way to figure this out is old-fashioned Googling.

Students deciding whether to apply to law school may want to familiarize themselves with the language universities adopt to explain these scholarships. In some cases, specific scholarships are designated for particular students. Here are a few examples of how law schools describe their full-ride law school scholarship offerings— including, the University of Chicago Law School (which has several such opportunities), NYU’s Latinx Rights Scholarship, and Duke Law’s Mordecai Scholars. Magoosh, the higher education test-prep and study counseling company with the silly-sounding name, has published a 2018 list of a handful of others (along with suggestions on how to strengthen one’s resume when applying for such scholarships).

Full-ride law school scholarships can be highly competitive—with some schools offering as few as two to four per enrollment year. One potential tip for the search for scholarships is to target law schools with more tuition help.

U.S. News & World Report has organized and tabulated a list of 10 law schools that offer the most tuition assistance—reporting that “at least 77.8% of students who received grants at these schools got enough to cover more than half of tuition.” Some of the schools listed in U.S. News & World Report , like Pennsylvania State University-Carlisle, go as high as 93.2% of full-time students receiving aid in that amount.

If all of this is starting to sound like alphabet (and number) soup, there are dedicated resources like Fastweb to help prospective students find scholarships for which they may qualify. Fastweb is an online resource to help students find scholarships, financial aid, and even part-time jobs in support of college degrees.

The American Bar Association’s law-student division also has a running list (along with deadlines) of law student awards and scholarships. Additionally, the Law School Admission Council offers a list of diversity scholarships available to students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Here’s another guide on finding and applying for scholarships and one on unclaimed scholarship money.

Another resource that could be useful in factoring living expenses is this student loan calculator for aspiring law school students. Tools like this can, usually, auto-load the tuition and cost-of-living breakdowns for specific law schools. From here, it’s possible then to compare how much degrees from particular schools may end up costing.

Negotiating Wiggle Room

Doing all this research and the math around law school scholarships could put applicants in a more informed position when evaluating which program to attend—and, potentially, help them to identify schools more likely to be interested in their application.

A reality of today’s admissions process for law school is negotiating scholarships. Some schools have a strict policy against negotiating, but others fully expect their initial offer to be countered. That’s why it can help to save acceptance letters and anything in writing from schools that offer admission.

Offer letters could then be shared with competing schools, asking if they’re able to match another university’s aid. It might be uncomfortable asking for more tuition assistance upfront, but a little discomfort now could help applicants shoulder less law school debt later on. If arguing a position makes an applicant uncomfortable, it might be worth pondering whether to become a lawyer.

Doing research on law schools (and figuring out the likely cost-of-living expenses at each institution) could help applicants to determine which scores or grades to aim for in an effort to make law school more affordable for them. Tabulating expenses (and having them on hand) may also demonstrate to universities that the amounts being negotiated are based in well-documented expenses.

Law School Scholarships

There are lots of options for law-school hopefuls to find potential scholarships. The nonprofit organization Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has compiled a list of the many law school scholarships available to applicants .

From the LSAC’s list, the Attorney Ken Nugent Legal Scholarship ($5,000) and the BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change the World” Scholarship ($10,000) are worth pinning, due to the sizable chunk of change they offer.

Many law schools themselves offer competitive scholarships to attract stronger candidates. It might be helpful to check if a school also offers in-state residents specific tuition reductions or grants—especially true, if the applicant is considering a public school in their home state.

Similarly, some law firms offer scholarships. Usually applying is a straightforward process: Many, like the Rise To Shine Scholarship , only require a short essay to be considered. On top of this, there’s the rising trend of law firms helping new hires to repay a portion of their student debt once onboarded.

Federal vs. Private Loans for Law School

Students wanting to apply to law school could consider the differences between federal and private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits not guaranteed by private ones (such as, forbearance or income-driven repayment).

Private loans—like SoFi’s—can also help applicants to cover the expense of graduate school. So, it might be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of both federal and private student loan options for law school.

For example, Direct PLUS loans for grads charge 7.08% in disbursement fees for the 2019-2020 academic year. (2020 numbers aren’t out yet.) SoFi Graduate Student Loans, by comparison, have no fees whatsoever—not even late or overdraft fees. Another great resource in understanding federal loans can be found over at studentaid.gov .

It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same benefits and protections afforded to federal student loan borrowers, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If a law school applicant is interested eventually in becoming a public defender or pursuing non-profit legal work, forgiveness and forbearance perks may play a role in their decision.

In addition to the financial aid resources mentioned above, more information can be found in SoFi’s overview of private student loans for graduate school. Those interested in figuring out how to pay for law school may want to check out SoFi’s competitive-rate private law school and MBA loans.

Law School Loans from SoFi

Going to law school is a big life decision. And, law school’s attendant costs add even more weight to this choice. If students interested in law school find themselves coming up short on funds for the JD after scholarships or federal aid, additional options may be available.

Some might seek out a student loan from a private lender, to name one possibility. SoFi’s private loans for law school offer competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and access to member benefits.

You can check your rates in just three minutes to see if a SoFi Law School Loan might help you pursue that dream of becoming a lawyer.

Learn more about private student loans for law school with SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

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The Ultimate GMAT™ Study Plan

Gearing up for a Master of Business Administration program involves a lot of prep, especially when it comes to taking the GMAT™—The Graduate Management Admission Test. It’s a standardized test that assesses potential business school students.

The GMAT was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and is now the most widely used assessment for graduate management admissions.

It’s available in more than 100 countries and taken by more than 200,00 students annually.

The exam is important for prospective MBA students because it may carry a lot of weight in the application, with some experts estimating it accounts for up to 22% of admissions decisions.

Because of this, getting prepared for the GMAT is crucial to getting into an MBA program.

Important Facts About the GMAT

There are four sections in the GMAT: quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. These sections are meant to test a student’s general knowledge—they’re not specific to business knowledge.

The total score a student can receive for this exam will fall somewhere between 200 and 800. This score is a combination of verbal and quantitative questions.

Students will also be given scores for each individual section. The section scores for the verbal and quantitative sections range from zero to 60.

The integrated reasoning score, which ranges from one to eight, requires students to analyze graphs and tables.

The analytical writing section is scored from zero to six and is based on how well students can analyze and write about an argument given in a provided text.

There is no set score that students must achieve to be accepted into a program, but students can figure out an estimate of how well they need to do by researching the average score accepted students got on their GMAT exam.

This can give prospective students a good idea of what score they should aim to receive to be considered for acceptance to a particular program.

Making a Study Plan

Making a GMAT study plan depends on when applications are due, which will differ by school.

It’s recommended that students take the exam at least three to four months before their application deadline.

This will give students enough time to retake the test if necessary. It can be taken up to five times within twelve months, with a lifetime limit of 8 times.

Once students know their application deadline, they can make a plan for when they want to take the exam.

Exams are available year-round, and students can register to take it in person or online at mba.com.

Each student will have to determine how much preparation is right for them, but usually, it’s recommended to spend three to six months preparing for the GMAT.

According to GMAC, the makers of the exam, students who studied 60 hours or more scored 500 or higher .

Studying more isn’t a guarantee of a high score, but it seems to help a majority of students find success. With this information, students can create a study plan that suits them and their timeline best.

Study Tips for the GMAT

With 60 or more hours of preparation recommended, how can students best spend those hours?

Here are some tips on how to study for the GMAT that may help students make the best of their prep time.

Taking Practice Exams

Familiarity with the format of the test means there are few surprises. Students will be familiar with each section of the test, the order of the sections, and how the instructions are worded.

Studying the content is important, but so is knowing what to expect when test day comes.

The most effective way to use practice tests is to take one first and use it as a baseline so it’s easy to see where improvements need to be made and how much progress is being made after each consecutive practice test.

When taking practice tests, students should try to reproduce the test experience as closely as possible, in a similar environment and with the same time constraints that the real test has.

The time allowable depends on whether the test is taken in person or online.

The online exam takes two hours and 45 minutes, whereas the in-person exam takes three hours and seven minutes because it includes the analytical writing assessment.

Taking practice exams is also a good way for students to learn how to pace themselves through each section of the test.

Strategies recommended are keeping a consistent pace throughout the entire exam, keeping in mind how many questions are in each section, and estimating how much time is allotted for each question.

•   The quantitative section includes 37 questions over 75 minutes.
•   The verbal section gives test takers 75 minutes for 41 questions.
•   The 12 integrated reasoning questions average two minutes and 30 seconds each for the section’s time allotment of 30 minutes.

Students may choose to use official GMAT exam prep packages, which vary in cost (one is free).

Hundreds of quantitative and verbal questions, as well as integrated reasoning questions can be accessed through these official packages.

Students can also purchase unofficial GMAT practice tests if they need more resources.

Tutoring and Peer Study Groups

For students who want extra help preparing for the GMAT, getting a private tutor, taking a prep course, or finding a study group may be options to consider.

A benefit to these strategies is the addition of regular feedback and accountability, which can help students stick to their GMAT study plan.

For students with a tighter budget, finding a GMAT support group and free practice exams may be more affordable routes.

Staying Healthy

Performing well during a stressful examination can be made easier by maintaining good physical and mental health.

It’s recommended that students get plenty of rest in the days before the exam, as well as keep up a healthy diet.

Both rest and nutrition can impact physical wellbeing. Going into the GMAT in good physical condition can help students reduce stress and build confidence.

During practice tests, students can practice stress management techniques, which may make it easier to use them during the official test.

Test-taking anxiety is a common phenomenon, and each student may want to learn which coping techniques work best for them.

What About Finances?

Students who are considering an MBA program may be shocked when they see the high cost of tuition.

For a few of the most prestigious schools, the cost averages $137,500, a price that may be out of reach for students.

Options for decreasing the cost of earning an MBA may be getting a master’s degree online or getting financial aid to help cover the cost.

There are a few options when it comes to paying for graduate school. As with undergrad, students can start by applying for federal financial aid.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) as a graduate student means the aid is given based on the student’s income, not their parents’. This could help students receive more federal aid than they did as undergraduates.

After submitting the FAFSA, students will receive their Student Aid Report (SAR), which provides information about their federal student aid eligibility.

The schools to which a student has applied and been accepted will send a financial aid package offer letter, and the student can decide whether to accept or decline the offer.

Federal student financial aid can come in the form of work-study, grants, or loans. Grants usually don’t need to be repaid, but loans do. Graduate students are not eligible for subsidized student loans, only unsubsidized, so interest will start accruing as soon as the loan is disbursed.

Another option may be working while getting an MBA, with some employers helping to pay for tuition. There are more part-time and online MBA options than there used to be, making it easier for students to work while finishing school.

Students can also apply for scholarships through the school they are attending, as well as from private or professional organizations. Scholarships usually vary in their eligibility requirements, and it’s recommended that students seek out and apply for all they may be eligible for.

Another option for funding an MBA program may be private student loans. Private student loans do not come with the same benefits and protections that federal loans do, like income-driven repayments and fixed low-interest rates. The interest rates and repayment options vary by lender, so students are encouraged to do their research carefully before considering this option.

The Takeaway

Students who already have student loans from their undergraduate education may want to consider refinancing their student loans, which could mean a lower interest rate or a repayment plan that works better for their particular financial situation. The choice to refinance student loans depends on a lot of factors, like whether those loans are federal or private and whether or not the new loan will be beneficial to the borrower. Figuring out how to prepare for and pay for graduate school can feel overwhelming, but help is available for both.

Learn more about private student loans and student loan refinance options from SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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