In college vernacular, “pre-” is thrown about quite a bit; pre-law, pre-med, premium-grade boxed wine. Many college-bound high school students or new college freshmen talk about how they want to study “pre-law.” But what exactly is “pre-law?” That is, what sort of prerequisites are required for law school?
The straightforward answer to this question is simply that there are few necessary prerequisites. For all intents and purposes, the term “pre-law” simply refers to one’s post-undergraduate plans. With medical school, “pre-med” entails a prescribed course of classes, such as the much lamented and often failed organic chemistry, that students must take in order to apply to medical school.
With law school, however, there are no required courses. You can major in anything from French to Physics to Romance Studies (yes, it’s actually a major at Boston University), any one of which would qualify you for law school. All you need is a bachelor’s degree.
In spite of this, some schools do offer “Pre-Law” as a major. These programs are certainly not necessary (or even sufficient) for law school admission. They can however, be a great preview for the kinds of classes you’re likely to take in law school. But unless you actually want to study the law during your undergraduate career, you should feel no need to major in the subject. In fact, most schools (and nearly all top schools) do not even offer Pre-Law as a major. Ironically, Pre-Law majors are correlated to some of the lowest scores on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
What will be weighed heavily, however, is your GPA. Thus, one of your “pre-law” responsibilities is maintaining a high GPA from your first semester, onward. The best way to get a high GPA is to study something that actually piques your interest, so major in something that you actually find interesting and stimulating. Also, law schools will see your GPA in relation to other people in your program, so if you major in a particularly difficult field, or if your school has a strict enforced curve, law schools will see and understand this.
The other main prerequisite for law school admission is the LSAT. In fact, your LSAT score is generally regarded as the most important part of your application. Because of this, you should spend a great deal of your time as an undergraduate studying for the LSAT. We say “great deal” because the LSAT is a difficult test that requires time to master. In addition to its complexity, the higher your LSAT score, typically the better the law school you can get into (and the more generous financial aid you will be offered). Because of its importance, it behooves you to take it seriously. The good news is that the LSAT is very learnable and can be mastered with practice. However, this can take many months to do.
While your LSAT score and GPA are for many applicants the most important factors in the law school application, there are other significant components. One of these is the requirement of multiple letters of recommendation, which should be academic in nature. Cultivating relationships with professors in classes you enjoy and perform well in is an important step in securing good letters. Some pre-law students find themselves in their senior year without prospects for securing good letters of recommendation. By planning early, you can avoid this situation altogether.
In the end, there is quite a bit of undergraduate freedom afforded by law schools’ lack of specific criteria. Take advantage of this to study something you actually enjoy, maintain a high GPA, cultivate relationships with professors, and, above all, prepare thoroughly for the LSAT.
Article by Jodi Triplett and Trent Teti of Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint has live LSAT courses across California and in New York, Boston, Austin, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Phoenix, as well as our online LSAT prep course, Blueprint: The Movie 2.0.