Coming into law school, practically every student knows they'll have to face the Bar Exam in the near-ish future. But for a 1L, the Bar Exam is the last thing on their mind as they battle the Socratic Method, the mountains of homework, and the critical thinking process. And then, in the blink of an eye, they're into their 2L year, and the Bar Exam is closer, but they're focused on completing required courses and passing the MPRE. And then it's their 3L year, and they know they need to get their bar application in as soon as possible, preferably before the first deadline so as to avoid any late fees. And this is where 3L applicants to the Bar Exam (in whichever state) realize the potential mistake in waiting until the last possible minute to apply. Yes, the Bar Exam applications tend to be incredibly long and at least somewhat confusing. They also tend to be relatively expensive - between application fees, fingerprints, and running down all those documents required. But none of these are good reasons for postponing your application. Learn more about state filing requirements and other resources here: The Bar Exam.
Some states, for example, require you to PASS your character & fitness application portion of the Bar application BEFORE you can even apply to sit for their Bar Exam. Other states, such as Florida, will allow you to sit for the Bar Exam, but you cannot be admitted to practice law in the state until you also pass your character & fitness application. In Florida, this process can take anywhere from 6 months to 24 months, dependent upon the individual application. As you can see, it is likely better to apply early and amend your application as things change (new residence; updated transcripts; etc.) than to leave your application to the last minute and spend months, possibly years AFTER taking and passing the FL Bar Exam to be admitted to practice law. And by that point you may need to take the MPRE again since it's only valid for so many months. A further incentive to applying early arises if you are interested in participating in a CLI program, which often requires approval of the same character & fitness application that you would file for the Bar Exam.
If you're a 1L now, and you talk to 3Ls or to recent graduates, they will all tell you to apply for the Bar sooner than later. It's best to get the majority of approval out of the way before you sit for the bar rather than graduating, taking the Bar Exam two months later, and then waiting anxiously for your results, passing, and having to wait many more months before you can actually be admitted to practice law. Remember, your student loans only carry you so far, and the world outside of law school comes fast and furious once you graduate.
If you're not sure where you're planning to take the Bar Exam, think about applying where you're possibly taking it, just to get the process started. If there's a good chance you'll end up staying, for example, in Florida, it's better to bite the bullet and start the process now rather than waiting until your last semester and scrambling to get all the pieces together. And remember to breathe. You CAN do this!