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Keeping a Good Credit Rating

Helpful Tips

  1. Limit the number of credit cards you have. One or two is plenty.
  2. Make your monthly payments on time. Even if you just pay the minimum balance, you must do so in a timely manner.
  3. Reduce or pay off your loan balances before law school.
  4. Obtain a copy of your credit report(s) once per year. Correct any mistakes.
  5. Beware of “hidden” credit accounts. First, close all accounts you aren’t using, like old department store accounts. Second, check to see if some of your services are treated like credit accounts (e.g., cell phones and ISP accounts).
  6. Give up luxury goods. ACCESS, for one, believes that a student does not need a cell phone. If you wish to claim poverty to receive financial aid, you need to demonstrate it. Cell phones and sometimes even automobiles are suspect.

A special note about "good credit." Some—well okay, only a few—of my students do not have credit cards. This can be a problem if you have to apply for loans to go to law school. Private lenders need to see some kind of credit history, and they may prove a bit leery of you if you have no credit history at all. To establish a good credit history, obtain one (yes, one is enough) credit card, use it wisely, keep your balance low, and always pay your bills on time. There is nothing wrong with good credit; indeed, it will help a lot when it comes time to get a student loan or buy a house. You need to be very careful, however, to use your credit card wisely to avoid the common pitfalls that most students face.

The other practical reason to have one credit card is that it will facilitate your law school application process. As mentioned earlier in this CD-ROM, most of the process is now electronic, and the fees are paid by you electronically by credit (or debit) card.


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