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Tips for Pre-Law Majors

university of michigan law schoolIs your homeschooler hoping to become a lawyer? If so, here are a few things you may wish to consider as you plan high school and look toward pre-law and law school.

Skills More Crucial Than Major
Law school doesn’t require a particular major or set of prerequisite courses. Rather, aspiring attorneys should focus on developing their skills in thinking, reading, writing, and public speaking. Popular major choices include history, political science, economics, English, and philosophy. Students should not feel limited to these majors though. Any area of study that will develop critical thinking and communication skills will be good preparation for law school. Specialized areas of study including STEM fields including hard sciences and computer science may help equip the student with the background needed for more specialized areas of the law.

Minimize Undergrad Costs
High school students aiming for law school are well-advised to consider undergraduate costs carefully and to avoid taking out excessive debt during undergraduate years. The vast majority of students who go to law school will need to take out student loans with an average debt of around $140,000. Developing a well chosen list for undergraduate education can maximize merit and financial aid. Your pre-law student doesn’t need to attend an elite college to be successful in law school admissions. A recent look at students admitted to Harvard Law School reveals that many admitted students did not attend elite colleges.

Law School Admissions
Pre-law undergrads should understand what factors weight heavily in law school admissions.Test scores are of great importance in law school admissions. The LSAT is the most commonly taken test, but some schools are now accepting the GRE as an alternative test. Scores show the student’s potential to think critically and handle the level of writing required to be successful in law school. As is the case with most graduate and professional paths undergraduate GPA is crucial. Lower GPAs will suggest a student is a slacker who isn’t committed to working through more difficult courses. Leadership ability as demonstrated through involvement in extracurricular activities and recommendations are also considered.

Enrollment Down, Tuition Up
Fewer students are going to law school. While graduate attendance is up in most fields including business and engineering, enrollment in law school is the lowest it has been in over 40 years. Students who choose to go to law school should be aware that law school tuition has been on the rise at both public and private institutions.

Research Costs vs. Benefits
Any student considering law school should look very carefully at the costs versus the benefits. Recent law school graduates were hit particularly hard in the recession. There is a common belief that right now too many students are graduating from law school. While law is still a good profession, students should not assume if they can be accepted to and graduate from law school that it will be easy to find a good paying job. Just over half of recent law school graduates have found full time employment. More than in fields in some other fields, the quality of the professional program makes a very significant difference in employment prospects. Students who are not competitive to be admitted to a highly ranked law school need to carefully consider if this is a worthwhile investment.

Develop Specialized Knowledge
Students who bring specific technical background into law school may be ultimately better positioned to be successful. Foreign language fluency, particularly in high demand languages such as Spanish or Mandarin, can be a worthwhile goal during college. Students who have strong background in STEM disciplines may find that helpful as well. Students with an understanding of finance or accounting may do well in corporate law. A major in a subject like biology, computer science, chemistry, or environmental science may give the student the foundation to pursue some more specialized areas of law.

Bottom Line
Law school is costly and graduates aren’t guaranteed good career outcomes. Students who are drawn to the law should plan carefully as undergraduates to build the strongest record possible while minimizing student loan debt.

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