Thanks to the United States’ biggest economic stimulus package being implemented in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, many Americans will be receiving sizable checks. How do you plan on using your government stimulus check?
Rather than blowing your share of the pot with unnecessary items, you can treat your own check as a nest egg to help you accomplish your dreams. For example, one excellent goal to focus your stimulus check towards is going to law school and becoming a lawyer.
If that sounds appealing to you, keep reading to learn what you need to know about your stimulus payment and how you could use it to your advantage!
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You can treat your own check as a nest egg to help you accomplish your dreams. For example, one excellent goal to focus your stimulus check towards is going to law school and becoming a lawyer
How Much Will Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check Be?
As long as you’re not claimed as a dependent on your parents’ tax return, you may be eligible for a stimulus check of $1,200 if you’re single and you have an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000. After this income threshold, the amount of the check will start to phase out and be completely wiped out if you earned $99,000 or more.
If you’re filing as a married couple and your adjusted gross income is less than $150,000, your stimulus check will be $2,400. The amount of the check decreases after this income threshold and disappears after earnings of $198,000.
Head of household filers will get $1,200 if reported income was $112,500 or less. You’ll also receive an additional $500 for each child you have under the age of 16. Each person must have a valid Social Security Number for you to claim them as part of your filing status.
What Do I Need to Do to Get My COVID Check?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is largely using income tax returns to determine who is eligible for stimulus checks. If you filed taxes in 2019, this is the return they’ll base your stimulus check on and will use your direct deposit information from that return to deposit the amount into your bank account. If you don’t have direct deposit through the IRS, they’ll send you a paper check in the mail. However, this will likely take much longer, so you may want to set up direct deposit.
If you didn’t file taxes in 2019, the IRS will use your 2018 tax return. If you didn’t file either year (like if you had lower income because you were a student and didn’t have to file), you should file your tax return immediately if you want to be eligible to receive a stimulus check. If your income in 2019 went up considerably from your income in 2018 (like if you had graduated college and started a well-paying job), you might want to wait to file your 2019 taxes until after you receive your stimulus check if your income would push you over the income limit or cause you to receive a reduced portion.
The IRS has already extended the federal tax filing deadline to July 15 in 2020, so you could wait to file without incurring any penalties. However, you should check on your state’s tax deadlines as well to make sure that you won’t be penalized there if you wait to file.
The IRS has also announced that it will be setting up a web portal where you can update your bank account information if it changed since you filed your last tax return.
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If you don’t have direct deposit through the IRS, they’ll send you a paper check in the mail. However, this will likely take much longer, so you may want to set up direct deposit
Where Will Your Stimulus Check Go the Farthest?
With $1,200, $2,400 or another sizable amount, your dreams of becoming a lawyer may be more reachable than they were before. Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of your unexpected windfall:
Purchase LSAT Study Materials
If classes have already been cancelled and you’ve moved on to distance learning, you may have some extra time to study for the LSAT at home. Studying these materials at home allows you to practice where you feel comfortable without going out in public during the coronavirus outbreak. You can pace yourself and study on your own schedule.
There are a large number of self-studying tools that you can purchase. Consider purchasing the following with your economic impact payment:
- A general guide book that breaks down each section of the exam
- A book released by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)
- A drill book that focuses on specific skills
Here are some specific recommendations for these different study materials:
General Guide Book
One book with high ratings that falls under this category is The LSAT Trainer: A Remarkable Self-Study Guide for the Self-Driven Student. This book most closely resembles the Socratic learning method; it’s also easier to read and get through than some other options.
The LSAC administers the LSAT, so there’s really nothing better to study with than books from the organization that makes the test. You can purchase official previous tests to practice on like 10 New Actual, Official LSAT Prep Tests with Comparative Reading: (Prep Tests 52-61). However, you can also purchase older versions if you prefer. The LSAT sometimes repeats test questions, so you might actually recognize one (or more) of the questions on the LSAT you take.
Finally, it’s a good idea to round out your collection with a book that focuses on one key area of the LSAT. The PowerScore LSAT Logic Games Bible is a good choice for this portion of the test. Generally speaking, Powerscore is an excellent study resource for all things LSAT prep; check out some of their companion books for the logical reasoning and reading comprehension sections.
Other Books to Consider
There are plenty of LSAT books on the market that you might also want to consider, especially if you have six months or longer before you plan to take the LSAT. For example, LSAC publishes The Official LSAT SuperPrep II, which features old tests, answer keys and writing samples. You can also peruse Amazon’s Best Sellers list to try to find a guide that matches your study style and needs.
Purchase an LSAT Preparation Course
To prepare for the digital LSAT, you may want to start getting used to this way of testing. In order to figure out which of the many available courses will be the best fit for your educational needs, we’ve assembled a list of the best LSAT review courses currently available.
Pay for Private Tutoring
Whether you’re studying for the LSAT or the bar exam, a private tutor can make a big difference to your score. Private tutors work with you one-on-one or in a small group and can often provide you with a more customized approach. Your tutor can determine your areas of knowledge, study habits, learning style, and weaknesses to define a plan that is tailored to you.
Ultimately, an LSAT tutor can work with you to earn a higher score, which can mean acceptance into more law schools and better offers for financial aid. Bar exam tutors can also provide additional benefits, such as:
- Explaining fundamental concepts to you that you may not have fully understood in your law school class
- Teaching good study strategies to get through the material and retain it
- Teaching you strategies for tackling multiple choice questions or preparing essays
- Keeping you on track
- Giving you feedback on your essay answers
- Addressing areas of weakness
- Providing you with additional (and often better) study materials
- Creating a customized schedule for you
While a private tutor can be beneficial to anyone, some particular times when you might want to consider a private tutor to help with your bar exam preparation include:
- You took the bar exam and failed
- You don’t have as much time to prepare for the bar exam because you’re working or have a family
- You didn’t take a lot of classes that are tested on the bar
- You struggled a lot with your first-year courses (which are heavily emphasized on the bar exam)
- You learn better in a one-on-one environment
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Whether you’re studying for the LSAT or the bar exam, a private tutor can make a big difference to your score. Private tutors work with you one-on-one or in a small group and can often provide you with a more customized approach
Pay for a Bar Exam Course
While now is not the best time to participate in bar exam courses where you meet in a small room with a lot of other (potentially sick) people, it is an ideal time to pay for an online BAR review course.
Most of the big names in bar prep courses also offer remote versions of their programs. Depending on the program, these courses may include:
- Video lectures
- Audio lectures
- Study books
- Real test questions
- Apps that offer additional questions and features
- Study planner
- Essay grading
- Simulated exams
- Adaptive learning technology
Remote bar prep offers a number of additional benefits, including:
- You can continue to study regardless of what is going on in the outside world (like a pandemic!)
- You can study on your own schedule, which is good for people who are already having to work from home or take care of their children while schools are closed
- You have a plan to stick to
- You have someone to hold you accountable
- Law school professors, lawyers and others who have passed the bar are typically your teachers
- You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you can use strategies that have proven successful over the years
- You can take your studies with you; if you have to relocate because of the pandemic or you went back to your parents house because your school closed, you don’t have to lose money because you can’t make the live, in-person class
- You benefit from better technology; some programs offer adaptive learning technology that sees where you are struggling and adapts to meet your needs, which wouldn’t be as possible during a live class
- Many courses are less than the $1,200 or $2,400 you might receive from your stimulus check.
Taking an online bar exam course can give you a schedule to maintain consistent studying, even when times may be confusing or stressful. By following these companies’ time-proven plans, you can stay on track and make considerable progress in your studying.
Check out our comparison of Bar prep courses and our reviews to find a course that is right for you. Additionally, some of these programs are currently offering discounts— so you can maximize your savings if you start now!
Taking an online bar exam course can give you a schedule to maintain consistent studying, even when times may be confusing or stressful
Pay for Bar Exam Stay at Home Study Materials
You might also consider purchasing some bar exam stay-at-home study materials to replace a bar exam course or supplement it. Some options include:
- Amazon’s Best Sellers in Bar Examination Test Preparation
- Quickstudy Law guides
- Customized bar exam outlines based on how long you have to study for the bar
- Additional study books
Having these additional study-at-home materials handy can help you when you need a reprieve from your course. Some people have used only written materials to study for the bar and passed. There’s even a board game to study for the bar you can consider purchasing!
With a little extra cash in your pocket, you can make these additional purchases so that you can be as productive as possible while you’re sheltering in place. Use this time to your advantage by carefully selecting and using study-at-home materials. You can work at your own pace and potentially increase your score substantially by investing some extra time into your study prep.
Don’t Forget the Free Stuff
Even though there are many things you can purchase with your COVID-19 bailout check, don’t forget to take advantage of the free things too!
Many law schools have test preparation companies come in and provide sample lessons; some of these might be online. Additionally, some law schools have mandatory or optional skills labs and bar success programs aimed at increasing passage rates. You can check with your law school and see if any of these options are available.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) releases retired bar exam test questions and samples of MBE questions that you can review. Kaplan offers a free MPRE course.
Khan Academy offers a free LSAT preparation course. You can also check your undergraduate school, law school and local public library for study guides through the virtual portal, if available.
You can also check out our guide on how to study for the bar exam on a budget to help you make your stimulus check dollars stretch further.
It’s scary out there. You may be required to hunker down for the next few months and practice social distancing for some time to come. However, you can make the most of the situation and yield some control over it by choosing to use your stimulus check to invest in yourself. With the extra time and money on your side, now is the perfect time to get one step closer to beginning your legal career.
Valerie Keene is an experienced lawyer and legal writer. Valerie’s litigation successes have included wins for cases involving contract disputes, real property disputes, and consumer issues. She has also assisted countless families with estate planning, guardianship issues, divorce and other family law matters. She provides clients with solid legal advice and representation.