As an aspiring lawyer, your undergraduate years will be spent preparing you for acceptance into an excellent graduate law program. Leading law schools have an acceptance rate well below 20 percent with an average GPA of admitted applicants close to or higher than 3.8. Your undergraduate-level education directly impacts your ability to get into law school. Specifically, your major affects your ability to earn a higher GPA and your performance on the LSAT.
Some colleges and universities offer a pre-law major, but most do not. In addition, a pre-law major is not viewed as being a rigorous area of study. This can be detrimental because law schools analyze your GPA in combination with how challenging the program is. The American Bar Association does not endorse a specific major, but some majors may prepare you for success with the law school admissions process more than others. As you select your undergraduate major with the intent to apply to law school in the future, these are some of the leading majors to consider.
According to the Law School Admissions Council, 3,472 law school applicants in 2016 and 2017 held a 4-year degree in history. Of those, 85 percent were admitted to law school. The average LSAT score for this group of applicants was 156.1 out of 180.
With a solid undergraduate-level foundation in history, you will have a deeper understanding about how the American legal system developed. The current legal system has evolved dramatically since colonial days, and it is rooted in the English legal system. In addition, you will gain knowledge about landmark court rulings, treaties, the developing of other political systems, the development of legal system in other countries and other essential factors. This knowledge may prepare you for success in law school. Later in your career, you may rely on your knowledge of precedents and legal history to perform better.
While a history major is viewed as challenging, it also is one that many students can succeed in. Because your GPA heavily impacts your ability to be accepted to law school, finding a major that you can thrive in is essential. Having a personal interest in the major may also lend itself to improved success in the classroom. Therefore, majoring in history may be well-suited for those who succeeded in high school history courses and who are fascinated by the progression of historical events and the transformation of societies over time.
Majoring in business, such as in business administration or corporate business, may be a smart path for some pre-law students to follow. Business degree plans are often rigorous, which may make business majors more appealing to law schools. However, because the coursework can be more challenging, it may be more difficult to maintain a high GPA throughout all four years of school.
LSAC data reveals that students majoring in business administration had an average LSAT score of 150 and an average GPA of 3.22. More than that, approximately 67 percent of applicants with this major were admitted to law school.
Business coursework may be advantageous for pre-law students in several ways. For example, the coursework may be heavy in reading and writing, which can prepare you for success with the LSAT, in law school and throughout your career. Public speaking, contract structure, corporate structure, business processes, negotiations and more may also be covered heavily in these programs.
While a business degree may be well-suited for many potential law school applicants, the coursework may be most relevant for those who intend to pursue a career in corporate law or other similar areas. The specialized business degree obtained may make this major more or less relevant. For example, a marketing degree has minimal relevance to a legal career.
If you thrived in high school English classes, majoring in English may enable you to earn a higher GPA in college than you may earn in other areas of study. This major may provide other substantial benefits as you prepare for the future. Consider that 3,549 law school applicants held a degree in English in 2016 and 2017. The average LSAT score for these applicants was 154.4, and approximately 80 percent of applicants with this degree were admitted to at least one law school.
English coursework focuses heavily on reading and writing, including reading comprehension and persuasive writing. Students develop solid skills that enable them to process written information quickly and to use that information to create organized and analytical opinions, arguments and positions. Critical thinking skills, grammar, word roots and other concepts are developed fully as well. Such vital skills impact LSAT performance as well as law school and professional success.
A significant variation of an English degree is a degree in linguistics. Coursework focuses heavily in the scientific study of language. The average LSAT score for individuals with this major was 160. The average GPA was 3.57, and the law school acceptance rate was more than 90 percent.
Philosophy is not a major that may immediately come to mind when pursuing a pre-law path. However, law is heavily based on philosophical aspects, such as human nature, ethics and other topics that are thoroughly covered in college-level philosophy courses. In addition to this essential link between law and philosophy, some law schools have higher admissions ratings for liberal arts majors that are considered to be more challenging. Philosophy often falls into this group.
According to LSAC statistics, 2,294 law school applicants majored in philosophy. The average acceptance rate was 86 percent, and the average LSAT score was just below 158. These combined statistics make this area of study one of the most promising for potential law school applicants.
Pre-law students who major in philosophy benefit by refining their ability to focus on critical details, analyze facts and form an interpretation or opinion. They generally learn how to back up their opinion or argument in a logical manner by citing evidence. These useful skills are essential in a legal career. On a deeper level, philosophy students explore mentality and thinking from various viewpoints, including from different cultural and historical views. This develops an ability to frame an argument based on context and to present that argument with authority.
5. Political Science
Studying political science at the undergraduate level is a natural choice because of how closely it is linked to the legal system. Generally, pre-law students should select a major based on their personal interests and passion rather than what they believe would most likely bolster their chance of admission to law school. However, many students who are interested in law understandably have an interest in politics and government systems.
Approximately 81 percent of the 12,693 law school applicants who majored in political science were admitted. The average LSAT score for this major was 153.4. Political science is overwhelmingly the most popular major for pre-law students. In fact, 18 percent of law school applicants between 2016 and 2017 majored in this area of study.
Political science falls under the realm of social sciences, and it focuses on government systems as well as strong analysis of political behavior. Through political science courses, you can gain a solid understanding of how the judicial system works and how laws are created and executed. Coursework also delves into foreign political and legal systems as well as the impact of treaties and domestic historical cases.
A degree in political science prepares you for success in law school and in a professional capacity by improving reading, writing and public speaking skills. In-depth knowledge about the Constitution and its founding principles as well as the development of the court system also provide strong benefits.
Economics is a solid major to select if you are interested in delving into the corporate law niche. It may also be relevant to intellectual property law and other specializations. More than 2,700 students applying to law school between 2016 and 2017 majored in economics, and 85 percent of these applicants gained admission to at least one law school program. The average LSAT score for this group was 158.9, and the average GPA was 3.47.
Through this major, pre-law students can refine critical skills that are essential for success in law school and beyond. Economics students are required to think logically while analyzing large amounts of data. They are presented with problems and are required to create and implement a solution.
Economics coursework is also relevant as the economy and the use of money in modern society are driving factors. Students learn about the evolution of the modern economic system as well as the impact of recessions and booms. Economic conditions have historically been a catalyst for legal reform, and pre-law students with this major refine their understanding of defining factors.
7. Arts and Humanities
Depending on the college or university, a broad degree in arts and humanities may be available, or you may be required to select a niche area of study that falls under this umbrella. Arts and humanities seemingly have little to do with an interested in the legal system and a desire to pursue a career in law. However, this type of degree is logical for several reasons. First, law schools generally prefer applicants who are well-rounded and who have taken a wide range of coursework. A liberal arts degree, such as in the area of arts and humanities, accomplishes this goal. In addition, students generally thrive in college when they select an area of study that they are interested in.
A student studying arts and humanities gains knowledge about cultures and societies around the world. This includes languages, religions and other cultural factors. Approximately 80 percent of the 2,135 law school applicants with this major were admitted. They had an average LSAT score of 153.4.
Psychology is the study of the human mind, and it encompasses behaviors and general experiences. While there is a scientific aspect of psychology, this applied science also branches into principles of human behavior. Because the law impacts and moderates human behavior, law and psychology are intertwined. This is a popular major for pre-law students, with 3,778 law school applicants holding a degree in this area. Their average LSAT score was 152.5, and 78 percent of applicants were admitted.
An undergraduate-level education in psychology provides several benefits for students in law school and for legal professionals. In many areas of the law, lawyers must work directly with social services, such as social workers. Through coursework related to this major, students develop a solid foundation in what these professions and how they are relevant to their clients. In addition, on a broader scale, psychology coursework enables lawyers to communicate more effectively with many different people who they will come in contact with professionally. This includes their coworkers, clients, judges and others. Another benefit of this major is that coursework requires refined skills in researching and statistical analysis, which are essential for a legal career.
Fewer than 800 law school applicants majored in math, but more than 87 percent of those applicants were admitted to law school. Their average LSAT score was higher than 161, and their average GPA was 3.54. Notably, this group of applicants had the highest average LSAT scores than students with any other major. While the American Bar Association does not recommend that pre-law students select a specific major, the organization recommends a strong foundation in math courses. It specifically stresses that applicants should have mastery of math at the pre-calculus level at a minimum as well as an understanding of financial math concepts.
Math students refine their logical reasoning and analytical skills. They are proficient in statistical calculations and can quickly analyze finances. Logic and reasoning skills carry over to humanities studies and enable math students to generally thrive in related coursework.
In a working environment, math is used by lawyers regularly to manage time sheets and to bill clients. Many lawyers are self-employed and use math skills to manage business finances. Math also enables lawyers to more successfully specialize in niche areas of the law. These areas include bankruptcy law, real estate law, taxation law and other areas. Math majors may also thrive in legal niches related to securities, estates and trusts. High-level math may be used in patent and healthcare law. Many attorneys utilize statistics when presenting cases in a courtroom, which makes statistical analysis broadly vital for success in a legal profession.
Several dozen specialized areas of study fall under the science umbrella. These include biology, ecology, chemistry and more. These areas of study provide students with a strong background that can be essential for success in various legal niches. For example, chemistry studies may be essential for a successful career in pharmaceutical law. Ecology coursework is beneficial for pre-law students who intend to focus on environmental law.
These undergraduate programs are rigorous and may be heavily centered on science as well as math. Because they are challenging, students wishing to pursue any type of science degree with a focus on pre-law should have a profound interest in the niche area that they select. Through most niche areas of science studies, students refine their skills with the review of voluminous amounts of complex data. They learn how to analyze this data to reach a provable conclusion. Research skills, logical reasoning and other skills are applicable as well.
Approximately 5,159 law school applicants held a degree in an area not listed above, and many of these applicants have science-related degrees. Of this group of applicants, approximately 64 percent gained admission to law school, and their average LSAT score was 147.4.
When pre-law students select a major, multiple factors should be taken into account. While some students select based solely on what other pre-law students commonly major in, selecting a major based on your personal interests is a better idea for several reasons. Taking classes that interest you may lay the groundwork for general undergraduate success and help you to earn a higher GPA. In addition, many lawyers specialize in an area of the law that interests them, so a relevant undergraduate degree may provide the framework for professional success.
Nonetheless, law schools review multiple factors when determining admission status. Generally, a rigorous undergraduate degree program that establishes a well-rounded education is preferred by law schools. Therefore, it makes sense for applicants to consider a double major or to select a minor in contrasting areas of study. A chemistry major with a minor in political science or humanities is just one of many examples. Law schools also review your activities outside of the classroom, including internships and extracurricular activities. With this in mind, your coursework should not be so rigorous or demanding that it would prevent you from pursuing other interests.
Pre-law students have the freedom to major in any area desired, and this presents you with the incredible opportunity to create the undergraduate college experience that you desire. Because the areas of study listed here strongly relate to the legal profession and may be interesting to those who are drawn to this field, you can begin by considering them for your own educational pursuits. However, you also should feel confident exploring other majors that appeal to you.