As a young college student (or even high school student) contemplating a law career, it makes sense to start investigating activities and potential undergraduate majors that can enhance your prospects of law school acceptance.
As a general rule, doing well in college (getting good grades and participating in meaningful extracurriculars) is more important than what you major in. However, I know that many students like to think and plan ahead, so in this article I will break down some of the things worth thinking about if you are thinking about law school in the future.
Of course not. Grades matter, extracurriculars matter, work experience matters, and many other factors. What law schools really want to see in applicants are the skills necessary to succeed in law school and as a lawyer.
While law school admissions teams do not seek a one-size-fits-all background, certain skills are worth developing.
For instance, lawyers must be proficient at locating and compiling information from various sources, comprehending lengthy, intricate documents, and synthesizing information. Presentation skills are also vital, as lawyers frequently need to contest decisions and construct persuasive arguments.
The American Bar Association emphasizes the following core skills for a successful legal career:
A mix of extracurricular activities, such as interning at a law firm or participating in a school debate team or mock trial, and coursework can be beneficial.
When choosing an undergraduate major to prepare for law school's demands, remember that no major should be disregarded.
As you ponder the ideal major for law school, keep in mind that it's a good choice to pursue a subject that genuinely interests you. This will make studying more enjoyable and help you achieve the grades necessary for increasing your chances of law school admission.
There aren’t many bad majors when it comes to applying to law school. If the major you choose doesn’t directly apply to law school, then you may need to do an extracurricular activity, like Mock Trial, in order to show law schools that you have a real interest in being a lawyer. Additionally, the more work experience you have after college (meaning a longer time between college graduation and law school application), the less that your specific undergrad experience (and even grades) will matter to schools.
If you do want to focus your undergrad studies on a topic that will help develop the skills that law schools look for, then:
Studying history allows you to grasp the development of certain laws and regulations. You may also learn about significant cases that have established precedents for future cases. Studying history helps you learn about the past and how it has shaped the world we live in today. It looks at important events, people, and ideas from different times and places. When you study history, you learn how to find and analyze information from sources like books, letters, and photographs to understand what happened and why it matters, which is a critical skill for a lawyer. Studying history helps you become a better thinker and learner, and it can give you valuable insights into how to make the world a better place for the future.
Political Science (or PoliSci) helps you understand how governments and political systems work. It looks at the way people make decisions about laws, leaders, and policies that affect everyone's lives. When you study political science, you learn about different types of governments, like democracies and dictatorships, and how people can participate in the decisions that shape their communities and countries. This major can lead to many jobs, like working in government, as a journalist, or for organizations that care about social issues. Studying political science helps you become a more informed citizen and understand the world around you, which can be helpful in making a positive difference in your community.
Psychology helps you understand how people think, feel, and behave. It looks at the way our brains work and how our experiences and emotions shape who we are. When you study psychology, you learn about different aspects of the human mind, such as memory, learning, and relationships with others. This major can lead to many jobs, like being a therapist, a counselor, or a researcher. Studying psychology helps you become better at understanding yourself and others, which can be valuable in all parts of life, from school and work to friendships and family.
Criminal Justice teaches you about laws, crime, and how people who break the rules are dealt with. It looks at different parts of the legal system, like the police, courts, and prisons, and helps you understand how they work together to keep communities safe. When you study criminal justice, you learn about the rights of people who are accused of crimes, and how society can help them change their behavior. This major can lead to many jobs, like being a police officer, a lawyer, or working in a prison. Studying criminal justice helps you learn about fairness, safety, and how to make your community a better place.
English as a major focuses on reading, writing, and understanding different types of literature, like novels, poems, and plays. It helps you learn about how authors use words and ideas to create stories and share their thoughts with the world. When you study English, you also learn how to analyze texts, think critically about what you read, and express your ideas clearly in writing and speaking. Studying English helps you become a better communicator and thinker, which are important skills to a law student and lawyers.
Economics helps you understand how money, goods, and services work in the world. It looks at how people make choices about what to buy and sell, and how businesses and governments decide what to do with their resources. When you study economics, you learn about different ways to organize an economy, like capitalism or socialism, and how these systems affect people's lives. Understanding economics can be useful in many jobs, like working for a company, a bank, or even the government. Studying economics also helps you make smart decisions about money and learn how the world around you works.
Philosophy makes you think deeply about ideas and questions. It helps you understand how people have thought about big questions like "What is right and wrong?" or "What is the meaning of life?" When you study philosophy, you learn how to make strong arguments and use logic to support your ideas. This can be helpful in many jobs, like being a lawyer or a teacher. Studying philosophy also helps you become a better thinker and listener, which are important skills in life.
Studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) can be a great choice for students planning to go to law school. While STEM subjects may not seem directly related to law, they can provide a strong foundation for a legal career in several ways:
Ultimately, the most important factor when choosing a major for law school is selecting a field that genuinely interests you and allows you to excel academically. Law schools accept students from a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds, so focus on finding a major that aligns with your passions and strengths. Passion about the subject will lead to success, and success will open doors for future pursuits like law school.
I am the half of LSD that didn't take the LSAT, or go to law school (Sorry about that). But I did go to MIT business school while surrounded by law students and lawyers, so I am somewhat qualified to talk about the intricacies of law school apps and finances.
Windsor (the dog) didn't write this but he WAS a Resident Tutor and career advisor at Harvard College with me, so deserves some credit.