Which pre-law degree is right for me?
Law school differs from graduate programs like medical school in that it doesn’t require specific prerequisite courses, or even a particular major. To apply to law school, one simply needs to have completed an undergraduate degree and taken the LSAT. For some, this makes choosing a major all the more difficult.
Do what you love
Law schools will admit students from all types of majors, so consider your own interests when choosing a path of study. Though you may think a political science major will look good to law schools, make sure you’re passionate about political science, independent of becoming a lawyer.
“We have admitted people who majored in music, business, art,” said Bryanna Hanschu, director of recruiting and pre-law programming, admissions, at KU School of Law. “It doesn’t make a big difference what your major is in undergrad.”
Hanschu advises choosing an undergraduate degree you enjoy and would fall back on if your law school journey didn’t work out.
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” said Hanschu. “Make sure you choose something you’d do for the rest of your life, because there’s always a chance you might not get in, or an emergency happens that requires you to drop out.”
What do law schools look for?
To be a compelling candidate for law school, you must have strong writing skills, critical thinking skills and a well-rounded record, says Shannon Portillo, associate dean for academic affairs for the KU Edwards Campus and School of Professional Studies.
“Students need to demonstrate they’ve taken a rigorous course load, and they can do that with any major,” said Portillo. “Be passionate about what you’re studying and do it well.”
If you choose a major you like, you are likely to study more and earn better grades and a higher GPA, which will make it easier to get into law school.
GPA is one of the two major academic components of an application that law schools consider, along with LSAT score, so taking challenging classes and preparing for the LSAT should be a pre-law student’s main focuses, says Hanschu.
She advises taking upper-level writing courses that will prepare you for law school, public speaking courses if you’re interested in being a courtroom attorney and logic courses that will help you with the LSAT.
KU offers a variety of resources and groups for any students interested in law school. Pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta hosts free meetings every other week which can help you meet other students applying to law school. KU also offers pre-law coffee hours, law fairs, information sessions and more.
Majors to consider
For students committed to pursuing law school, some good options available at the KU Edwards Campus are a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, Bachelor’s Degree in Literature, Language and Writing and Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society. Learn more about each of these paths of study.
While KUEC doesn’t offer a specific pre-law major, the law and society program is the most straightforward choice to help undergraduate students understand the role of law and how law, including the government and justice system, functions in our communities.
A bachelor’s degree in law and society offers a broader policy and social justice focus, preparing students for topics they will cover in law school.
“It’s a social science approach to law,” said Portillo. “The program is focused on how the law shapes the world and how it’s used in communities rather than covering specific legal cases.”
The law and society program requires a capstone course in which students work alongside faculty members, engaging in cutting-edge research that impacts and uses law. This project can be a relevant asset to showcase when applying to law schools.
The ability to think critically, reason logically and write clearly are essential to a career in law, says Ben Herron, academic success coach and honors program coordinator. A degree in literature, language and writing will teach all these important skills through coursework that covers technical and analytical writing, communication skills and more.
“In this regard, I think that the literature, language and writing program is an excellent choice for pre-law students, especially when paired with a minor in Law & Society,” said Herron. “This accomplishes the thinking and writing component while also exemplifying one’s interest in the law.”
A degree in public administration offers knowledge for working with government, public programs and nonprofits and advocacy groups, and develops analytical thinking skills related to public policy. For pre-law students, it can be useful for learning how policy is implemented in society and what it can look like in organizations.
Students interested in working in nonprofit or local government will find real-world applicability in the internship portion of this program, which they can emphasize when applying to law school.
Dare to be different
Though these three programs are all excellent options, don’t be afraid to follow your own authentic path, says Herron.
“More than the knowledge you have, law schools care about how you think and how your experiences inform your unique perspective,” said Herron. “What are you adding to the classroom that doesn’t already exist?”
In fact, the variety of experiences and education is precisely what distinguishes the law community.
“People with different backgrounds blending together is what makes the law school experience so great, because you’re learning from people who had different majors and experiences,” says Hanschu.