Pre-Law Frequently Asked Questions
"Pre-law" is not a major but rather an advising track. There is no "best" major for students who plan to attend law school. You should choose a major that interests you and in which you feel you will perform well academically. Consider what career you would like to pursue in the event that you do not attend law school. No matter what major you choose, you should use your four years as an undergraduate to develop strong writing and problem solving skills. Admission to law school is competitive and so maintaining a strong grade point average is extremely important.
There are no set prerequisites for admission to law school. Having said that, there are courses you can take that will help you develop the skill sets that are useful to a law student and a lawyer.
- Writing Skills
It is important to be able to write clearly and concisely. Taking classes with a strong writing requirement will allow you to develop the ability to write well. Law schools are VERY interested in your writing ability. There is a “writing sample” on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Exams in law school are usually in essay form. It is not enough to have good ideas; you must be able to communicate them effectively. The bar exam, which must be passed to practice law, is at least half essay. Writing is one of the most important parts of what a lawyer does, as they spend a large amount of their time drafting briefs and memoranda.
- Analytical Skills
Course work that requires you to use critical thinking – learning information and then applying it in various ways – will serve you well as a law student and an attorney. Course work in philosophy, math, the natural sciences and economics, among others, provide you with opportunities to develop these skills. Being adept at thinking critically and analytically will help you on the LSAT exam. The exams in law school will require you to learn a tremendous amount of material and then apply the information to various situations. Practicing law requires that you apply existing law to changing circumstances.
- Interpersonal Communication Skills
Classes that include in-depth discussion help you develop the ability to speak clearly and concisely, develop and articulate your thoughts effectively, and listen to what others are trying to say. In law school, classes are very interactive and professors may require students to participate. Often a portion of your grade depends on the quality of your participation. Lawyers need to be able to listen, advise, persuade and negotiate.
Being a well-educated person will help you be a successful lawyer. The study and practice of law touches almost every aspect of society. Read outside of the classroom to enhance your general knowledge. Use your undergraduate years as an opportunity to develop a broad base for your education. Do not be afraid to explore courses that will stretch your mental capacity. Take classes from excellent teachers in any discipline, as this will make you a better student.
What you accomplish early on will be an asset to you when the time comes to apply to law school. Be honest when evaluating your academic strengths and areas that need improvement. Take classes that challenge you to enhance a variety of skills. Be sure to learn how to study effectively and to be invested in learning and understanding. It is important to achieve strong and consistent grades early on; C's and W's do not constitute strong and consistent. It is also important that you explore what law school and a law career are all about to be sure this is truly a good fit for you. Finally, without overextending yourself, actively engage in extracurricular activities that interest you. Extracurricular activities include employment, student organizations, community service, internship or co-op, and hobbies.
The Law School Admissions Test is a standardized exam designed to evaluate abilities necessary to study law. It is not a measure of knowledge; rather, its purpose is to measure your ability to think analytically and critically. Reading comprehension and writing skills are also tested. To learn more about the LSAT, visit the Law School Admissions Council.
It isn’t too early to start preparing yourself for the LSAT. There are no specific college classes that will directly prepare you in terms of content. However, courses that develop analytical skills, logical reasoning, reading comprehension and writing ability will help you. Purchase LSAT prep materials to become familiar with the test format and proficient in answering the questions quickly. Buy a book of logic games from a book store or supermarket. And read, read, read! Become familiar with reading, comprehending and analyzing factual material. Working with copies of past exams is extremely beneficial; by the time you take the LSAT, you should have taken multiple full-length practice tests under timed conditions. If you are proactive and begin preparation early enough, you will be able to better assess your need to enroll in a prep course. The Pre-Professional Advising Center can help you develop a preparation strategy for the LSAT.
The LSAT is offered four times per year. If you are prepared, consider taking the LSAT in June prior to your senior year so that you may begin to narrow your focus to appropriate schools early on. We understand that this may be difficult because this particular date often coincides with exam week. If necessary, taking the LSAT in the fall of your senior year is perfectly acceptable. We recommend no later than October of your senior year (or the year before you plan to begin law school).
We do not encourage you to plan on taking the LSAT mulitple times. The maximum number of examinations one may take the LSAT is three times in a two year period. While many schools will accept the highest of multiple scores, others will consider the average of multiple scores. Therefore, try to take it when you are as prepared as possible. If you have questions about whether retaking the exam is in your best interest, feel free to consult a Pre-Professional Advisor.
Consider registering through the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) by the summer before your senior year. The LSDAS is a clearinghouse of your information (transcripts, LSAT score and letters of recommendation) that law schools will have access to once they have received your application. You can also complete and submit individual law school applications through the LSDAS website. Law schools begin accepting applications early in the fall, one year before you plan to enter. Schools vary in terms of application deadlines. Regardless of deadline, we encourage you to have your applications submitted no later than Thanksgiving. The Pre-Professional Advising Center staff can assist you throughout the application process.
Yes. Most law schools require two faculty letters of recommendation and usually accept no more than three. The most valuable letters come from evaluators who know you well. Get to know some of your professors. Take some classes that require participation, research papers and essay exams. Those faculty will be better equipped to write a meaningful evaluation of your academic abilities. In some cases it may be appropriate to secure a recommendation from a non-professor. Personal recommendations are never acceptable. If you have been out of school for several years, professional recommendations are appropriate.
Law schools will consider any factors that bear on your potential as a law student. Grades and LSAT scores are of primary importance as admission is competitive. The mean GPA of accepted applicants was a 3.25. You will need to demonstrate strong and consistent academic skills. In addition, admissions panels consider course load, employment, leadership roles, maturity and responsibility. It is very important that you examine your reasons for wanting to enter the profession and educate yourself about law school and the legal profession. Law schools want to be sure that you have explored the profession enough so that you are knowledgable about why it is a good fit for you. The Law School Admissions Council and the American Bar Association are two great resources for career exploration.
Law schools are looking for students who have been successful in balancing academics and extracurricular activities. Do not load your schedule so heavily with coursework that you have no time for real life. Conversely, do not allow your grades to suffer because you are over extending yourself in some other area. Your personal statement is extremely important, as are letters of recommendation.
Yes. The Law School Admissions Council provides comprehensive information regarding financial aid.
Financial aid starts as early as fee-waivers toward law school applications, for those who meet the creteria. Most law schools also offer scholarship, mostly merit-based and some on need.
Preparing for admission to law school requires careful long-range planning and accurate information. The Pre-Professional Advising Center (PPAC) specializes in providing you with necessary information and helping you develop good planning skills. The staff of the PPAC provides you with help through each step of the way. Course selection, time management tips, information on individual schools, admissions test preparation advice, help finding alternative careers in or out of the law profession and links to ways to get experience in legal settings are some of the services provided.
You probably have more questions. Please contact us to schedule an appointment. It is never too early to start planning.