Tips for Pre-Law Majors

lady justiceIs your homeschooler hoping to become an attorney? If so, here are a few things you may wish to consider as you plan high school and look toward 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 thinking, reading, writing, and public speaking skills.  Popular major choices include history, political science, economics, English, and philosophy. However, students should not feel limited to these majors. 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 avoid taking out excessive debt during their 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 $130,000. Developing a well-chosen list for undergraduate education can maximize merit and financial aid.

Your prelaw student doesn’t need to attend an elite college to be successful in law school admissions.  Harvard Law publishes a list of the undergraduate institutions of their graduates, and it represents a wide range of schools from Ivy League to liberal arts to public universities.

Law School Admissions
Pre-law undergrads should understand what factors weigh heavily in law school admissions. Test scores have traditionally been an important consideration in law school admissions, but some schools are not test optional. Law schools vary in their test requirements – some use LSAT, some the GRE and some either.  Scores show the student’s potential to think critically and handle the level of writing required to be successful in law school.

As with most graduate and professional paths, a high undergraduate GPA is crucial. Leadership ability, as demonstrated through involvement in extracurricular activities and recommendations, are also considered. Law schools also consider the students’ life experiences and motivations for attending law school.  Law schools want to enroll resilient students with life experiences that will prepare them to be good lawyers.

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 in over 40 years. Students who choose to attend law school should be aware that law school tuition has increased at public and private institutions.

Research Costs vs. Benefits
Any student considering law school should look very carefully at the costs versus the benefits. There is a common belief that too many students are graduating from law school right now. While law is still a good profession, students should not assume that it will be easy to find a good-paying job if they can be accepted to and graduate from any law school.

The quality of the law school makes a substantial difference in employment prospects, more than in fields in some other fields. Students who are not competitive to be admitted to a highly ranked law school need to consider whether this is a worthwhile investment.

Develop Specialized Knowledge
Students who bring a specific technical background into law school may be better positioned to succeed. Foreign language fluency, particularly in high-demand languages such as Spanish or Mandarin, can be a worthwhile goal during college. Students with a strong background in STEM may also find that helpful. 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 drawn to the law should plan carefully as undergraduates to build the strongest record possible while minimizing student loan debt.

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