Pre-Law Frequently Asked Questions

What should I major in?

Anything you'd like. There are no required majors or courses for law school. Choose a major you like and will do well in, that will sharpen your skills in reading large quantities of information, writing and communicating, and analyzing. Law schools consider themselves academic institutions more than professional schools, so they have traditionally had a slight bias towards liberal arts majors over professional schools, though having a professional major will most likely not hurt your application at all.

When should I apply to law school?

You should apply to law school the fall before you plan to begin your studies. On a broader note, you should apply to law school when you feel that you are emotionally, intellectually and socially ready. 

Do I need experience in a law firm before applying?

Unlike MBA programs, you do not need to have any previous work or legal experience before applying to law school. However, we feel that it is invaluable for you to get some exposure to the law profession before entering law school, simply for the benefit of knowing that you have an actual interest in practicing law.

What is the Dean's Certification?

It certifies that you are in good academic standing and that you have no conduct violations. These certifications need to be sent to the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education which is located in Lecture Center 30.

How many recommendations do I need?

This differs between law schools, they may require one, two or three. The smart student includes three in her or his Credential Assembly Service (CAS) file.

Who should I ask for to write a letter of recommendation?

Full-time tenured faculty who are familiar with you and your abilities to write and analyze.

Will it help if I get a recommendation from someone famous?

No. Admissions committees are not impressed by letters from politicians, famous attorneys, or anyone else high profile. However, if you are looking for someone to write a recommendation and you have a true professional or academic relationship with someone well known who personally knows you and your academic abilities, then do not feel like you cannot ask them for a recommendation, either.

Which schools are the best?

Rather than taking this approach perhaps you should instead ask which law school will be the best for you. Researching the schools, visiting the campus and talking with your advisor will help you to determine this.

How many schools should I apply to?

We recommend 1-2 "dream schools", 3 "competitive" schools, and 2 "safety" schools. The national average for number of applications submitted, though, is less than 5.

If I don't go to a top-tier school, will I get a job?

Whether or not you get a job after graduating from any law school is largely dependent upon you. Factors such as the location of your law school and your class ranking will impact your job search no matter which school you attend. However, the general starting salary and the places where graduates seek employment may vary in relation to the admissions standards of schools. When reviewing potential law schools, be sure to find out the six-month employment rate of graduates, what kind of services the career center provides, and whether the school hosts onsite recruiting sessions.

How much does law school cost? How will I pay for it?

The cost of attending law school varies greatly from institution to institution, but you can expect to pay between $60,000-$120,000+ for your education. We strongly recommend that all students applying for law school also apply for financial aid by filing a FAFSA, even if you do not think you will qualify. Some schools will not consider you for scholarships unless you have applied for financial aid.  If you do not qualify for financial aid, you will still be eligible to take out commercial loans. The law school will be able to provide you with a list of preferred lenders that may have special rates for their students, but you can also receive loans from your bank or credit union, Sallie Mae or other commercial lending corporations.

How important is my LSAT score in relation to my GPA?

Equally, if not more important.

How many times should I take the LSAT?

Once. Since LSAT scores are averaged together, it is generally not to your advantage to retake it, even if you scored several points lower than you practice score, which is normal. However, if you were ill or there was another extenuating factor that caused you to test significantly lower than you had on previous practice tests (more than 5-6 points), then it is probably in your best interest to retake the test.

When do I take the LSAT?

The test is offered four times a year, in February, June, September/October, and December. We recommend taking the June test between your junior and senior year, or alternately the September test at the start of your senior year.

Can I get a fee waiver for the LSAT, LSDAS or application fees?

Yes, you must complete an LSAC fee waiver application and qualify. You can request it online at www.lsac.org.

Is it okay to drop a class?

It is okay to take less than a full load once or twice during your undergraduate years, but it would be unwise to drop below the standard number of credits more often than that. Law schools want to be sure that you are able to carry a full complement of classes and do well in them. A law school semester requires more work than an undergraduate semester, so anything in your record indicating that you cannot handle a full undergraduate semester sends up a red flag to a law school.  Most schools, too, allow a student to drop a class later in the semester with some designation made on the transcript - W, for example - indicating that the course was dropped but having no negative impact on the GPA. Again, one or two W's during an undergraduate career will have no consequence. Many more W's than that, though, may draw negative attention to the transcript. Admissions committees may think that the student shopped around for easy classes, that the student was unwilling to tough out rigorous courses, that the student put little thought into her/his course choices, that the student was unable to handle a full load, or that the student was just plain irresponsible.

What if I want to explain something in my transcript? Should I do that in my personal statement?

No. Keep your personal statement strong and positive. Do not use it to justify, explain, or apologize for a deficiency. Consider including an addendum to your application which explains anything which might raise eyebrows. Label it an addendum, write it in essay format, and target one-to-two paragraphs.

Will the fact that my grades have improved help me?

Yes. Admissions committees look for the "upward trend." Many students get off to a rocky start and show improvement later. Best case scenario: get good grades right from the beginning. Next best: get better and better grades all the time.

Will the admissions committee see my fall grades from senior year?

Maybe, maybe not. It depends upon when you apply. If you are a strong student and you apply early (November, for example), you may receive an admit before the fall semester is over. If you have not heard from your schools by the end of the semester, you'll send a supplemental transcript to LSDAS which will be forwarded to the schools. Then they will have your fall grades during any subsequent deliberations on your file.

I have a higher GPA in my major. That's more important, isn't it?

No, it isn't. Your cumulative GPA is more important. You don't want law schools to think that you believe some coursework to be worthy of your efforts and some not, especially considering that the courses outside your major are often the very courses that law schools value the most.

Is there anything I can do about my transcript?

Yes. You can take a year off. That way admissions committees will have your full senior year of coursework calculated into the GPA, which represents a full 25% of your entire academic program, rather than just the first three years' worth. This may be especially smart for an applicant who had poor freshman and sophomore years but a strong junior year. The junior year alone may not be enough to assuage the admissions committees' fears about your academic abilities but two full years of strong coursework might be. The bonus: taking a year off is considered a positive thing by admissions committees and will not harm your admissibility one bit.

How important are extra-curricular activities?

Law schools do not require any extra-curricular activities, and having them on your resume will not improve your application. However, volunteering or participating in student organizations, etc., will help you to learn and grow on a more personal level, so if there is an activity that you are interested in, pursue it. Keep in mind though, that grades are of great importance to your law school application, so never allow your participation in extra-curricular activities to diminish your grades.