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Planning Ahead for College Programs: Law School

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, January 28, 2013

Are you thinking about college programs that will let you take on the bad guys or defend the falsely accused? As college draws near, perhaps you’re thinking about a career in law and have a million questions. Or perhaps you doubt whether you have what it takes to become a lawyer. Law school can be a daunting thought, but there are things you can do now to prepare and decide if law school is the right choice for you.

Law school normally takes three years of full-time classes after the completion of undergraduate college degree programs. In order to apply to law school, your four-year degree must be from an accredited college or university. Your application, transcripts, and college major should reflect rigorous undergraduate coursework, good grades, and excellent writing and critical-thinking abilities.

Which undergraduate college programs get you into law school?

Perhaps the most common misconception about getting into law school is that certain college majors are looked upon more favorably than others in the admission process. Many students believe that political science is the pre-law major, but the reality is that virtually no school has a required pre-law undergraduate major. Any rigorous program of study, from anthropology to zoology, is considered acceptable, so feel free to pursue what interests you.

Majoring in an area you enjoy is a smart way to ensure that you’ll get good grades, which can only help you on your law school application. Don’t fear that if your college major is engineering or physics that you won’t be able to apply to law school. Law schools are happy to receive applications from engineers, chemists, physicists, or mathematicians—or anyone else who majored in any of the so-called "hard" sciences.

Consider college majors and courses

Undergrads often believe that they should take college programs related to law to prepare for law school. By all means, plan to take courses in public law or business law if you are interested in those areas, but don't feel compelled to. Law schools often frown on student records that show lots of courses in law-related areas. They don't want students coming in with preconceived notions.

The best tools to take to law school are the abilities to write and analyze quickly, properly, and with economy. If you are a "hard" science major, make sure that you take elective courses that require sufficient writing—for example, philosophy or critical writing. Conversely, liberal arts majors should take courses requiring logical analysis, such as math classes ranging through calculus, or advanced courses in the physical sciences.

College majors are complemented by your extracurricular activities

Evidence of extracurricular activities can be important to law school admission personnel, especially activities that show your commitment to your community or to the disadvantaged. It may be nice that you were on the governing board of your social fraternity, but it says more about you to the school screening committee if you spent your weekends as a research volunteer for the Legal Aid Society or helped fix up the local battered-spouse's shelter.

Performance in college degree programs is a deciding factor

Law school admission committees generally make their decisions based on two factors: undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores. Most schools convert an applicant's GPA and LSAT score into an index score, a single number that is then used to compare the applicant to the rest of the applicant pool. Some schools require extremely high GPAs and LSATs, while other schools are more flexible in their approach.

Typically, the highest-ranked law schools require superior performance in terms of both grades and LSAT scores. As with admission to any graduate school, plan on studying hard and getting a high GPA during your undergraduate years.

Your checklist for planning your college academics

Thinking ahead to law school? Here are some points to consider:

  • Talk to your high school counselor about your academic strengths and weaknesses.
  • Consider taking high school AP courses in literature, writing, journalism, or government.
  • Think about appropriate weekend and summer jobs, such as volunteering at a legal clinic.
  • When selecting your college, make sure it offers a broad range of courses. You might discover that your interests lie in a different field, but remember that even science majors can apply to and get into law school.
  • If you are certain you want to pursue law school, consider a college that offers some pre-law courses.
  • Try to meet and talk with people working in the law field.
  • Once you're in college, talk to a pre-law adviser.

 

It may take some hard work and a little planning, but a career in the legal profession offers many rewards. If you’re serious about the commitment, get a head start in choosing your college programs and activities. It will make things easier in the long run. Good luck!

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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