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Pre Law Majors

Does my major matter for law school?
Tags: prelaw, undergrad
Apr 2, 2023

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. 

Is my major the only thing that matters when applying to law school?

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. 

Essential Skills for Law School Success and Legal Careers

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:

  1. Problem-solving
  2. Critical reading
  3. Writing and editing
  4. Oral communication and listening
  5. Research
  6. Organization and management
  7. Public service and promotion of justice
  8. Relationship-building and collaboration

How can you develop the skills that law schools look for?

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.

Selecting the Optimal College Major for Law School

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: 

Here are some of the top college majors for law school:

History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What about STEM majors?

Can you go to law school as a STEM major?

 Absolutely.

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:

  1. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills: STEM fields focus on logic, reasoning, and problem-solving, which are essential skills for a successful lawyer. These abilities can help you excel in law school and in your legal career.
  2. Unique perspective: A background in STEM can give you a unique perspective when dealing with legal issues, particularly in areas like intellectual property law, patent law, or environmental law, where technical knowledge can be beneficial.
  3. Strong academic record: Excelling in a STEM major can demonstrate to law school admissions committees that you are intellectually capable and have strong analytical skills.
  4. Interdisciplinary approach: Law is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, and having a STEM background can help you navigate complex legal issues that intersect with science and technology.

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. 

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Windsor MIT '22, Harvard College Advisor

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.

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@KetchupOnPasta: I appreciate the concern about partying but I'm not worried
jb2028
20:41
Oops, looks like the closing bracket got merged with the link. Delete that and the em-dash to get it to work
20:42
JB spreading fake news
jb2028
20:44
(Some people would in fact make that case, because the nonprofit worker, or journalist, or Hill staffer, or insert your choice of educateed-but-underpaid job here, has cultural capital and/or probably lives in a wealthier *area* even if they personally are not wealthy. You be the judge of whether that fits your personal understanding of working-class)
20:44
JB I am kidding
jb2028
20:45
Gotcha, just posting the rest of my wall of text
20:46
I really do not consume a news because I think it is all a little tainted. If I do, I normally synthesize a few different networks.
20:48
I don’t think working class for me is probably more an income amount more than occupation.
LostTime
21:21
anyone know what I should expect if my decision just went rendered at Georgetown?
could be WL tomorrow could be A
LostTime
21:24
i'll get to prayin then
Northwestern students just love ousting their administration, truly a wildcat tradition
jb2028
21:50
If this story is accurate, the Dean - Revamped the hiring process and pushed out HR people that didn't like the new way - Pushed out a person whose job was Twitter - Didn't make administrators help a student rent an apartment (?!?) - Does seem to have some unhelpful micromanagement tendencies, she should work on that
21:51
Fuck
21:51
That’s all
jb2028
21:52
Reducing HR/marketing headcounts would be an unvarnished pro at 90% of higher ed institutions, the rental thing really is not an administrator's job when you're a large adult human, the micromanagement stuff seems bad but the headline writes some checks the reporting can't cash
jb2028
21:53
If there's anything there that would give me pause before considering NU, it's the quotes from faculty (some do seem pretty upset and/or describe less-than-ideal management practices) but the framing of staffing changes in HR/marketing as some unthinkable wrong is nuts
Same with Northwesterns ousting of the football coach
You would think snitching didn’t align with the Chicago way
I will take any t14 and I will be happy
Should I send locis to every t14 saying that
jb2028
22:10
Any idea what might be hurting your app? With a 3.8mid and 178 I'd expect you to have some offers (or at least waitlists rather than denials at UChicago/Michigan)
jb2028
22:12
I wouldn't tell them you just want a T14. The schools want a reason you'll enroll there over their peer schools if you look competitive at both. If there is a school you would attend if admitted (other than Yale/Stanford, who assume that), that is worth putting in a LOCI.
22:33
they don't call me the waitlist collector for nothing
22:33
or at all
@jb2028: i have 2 years of retroactive withdrawls plus 3 year gap in UG after that due to a health condition. it's why I had to stop MMA
this is pretty much the app killer
ReturnOfRickySpanish
23:05
any chicago waves tomorrow?
jb2028
23:16
@KnowledgeableRitzyWasp: That's tough. Sorry to hear that but hope some places come through
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