How do law school admission committees evaluate people with different undergraduate majors? I have a lot of information about this in The Law School Admission Game Chapter 3: Undergraduate GPA But here is an overview:
Are there good majors and bad majors for law school applications? I wouldn’t quite say there are bad majors – I think there are good things about most areas of study, and if you have good grades then you’re absolutely set. (This post is originally from 2009; I’m updating it on July 29, 2019).
For a deeper look at what at best majors for law school and how to get in, check out the bestselling book The Law School Admission Game.
Law schools want people from different backgrounds with a wide range of undergraduate majors, and from different schools for that matter. But the most important thing is that law schools are trying to determine whether you’ll be successful in law school. That’s why the rigor of your undergraduate major – and your performance in it – matters.
How Law Schools View Your Major:
Here is a rundown of the major types of undergraduate majors, and how law schools are apt to evaluate you based on your undergraduate major area of study:
1. Majors with scientific fields
You often risk having a lower GPA, but it can be excused because of the difficult curriculum and lab hours. Of course, it also helps to make the case that you want to be a patent or intellectual property lawyer if you have a science/math background. With a low GPA, you can risk looking like law school might be your “second choice.” This may be the case for people who started out thinking they might pursue a career in medicine. However, if you did well in a science major, you will find that law schools like that and it will help you in the admissions process.
2. Pre-Law Majors
Law and Society, Pre-Law, Political Science, and Criminal Justice studies show you have a sincere interest in the subject matter but they aren’t thought to be particularly challenging unless you studied political science or Government at a prestigious institution. For more on this, see this blog post about pre-law majors.
It’s helpful if you do a thesis and/or significant academic or internship work to supplement the curriculum. However, lackluster grades in these subjects will not impress an admission office. A 3.3 GPA in poli sci is not the same as a 3.3 in biomedical engineering or physics.
3. Art/Music Majors
A BFA makes things tricky, but if you do well academically and do a thesis or have something to show for yourself other than being an unemployed actor, then this absolutely works. Actually, I think Art History is one of the best majors for preparing you for law school, because it teaches you to look at something you’ve never seen before and apply the facts you’ve learned to determine what you’re looking at. That’s pretty much a law school exam in a nutshell. Anything that shows you’ve done some serious writing will help. Music composition shows you’re a thinking person.
4. Business Majors
Marketing is not so impressive to admissions committees, but if you have strong grades and showed a sincere interest in “serious” things, then it’s fine. Economics is better – shows more analysis and academic inclination. And if you have a degree in management or accounting, consider that you may need to explain why you’re pursuing law.
Again, writing and analysis. Great stuff.
6. Foreign Languages
These are good skills to have; lawyers need to communicate with clients from all backgrounds after all. It may be harder to find letters of recommendation that are relevant to skills you’ll use in law school, however.
Making The Major You Love Work For Law School
The question is this – knowing how law schools view your major, what can you do to make up for that weakness? If you haven’t had much writing in your curriculum, how about working with a professor as a research assistant, writing for your school newspaper or trying to get research published? This is just one example of a way you can use your weaknesses to build your law school applications.
1. Pick a major that sincerely interests you.
2. Get the best possible grades in that major.
And a final note: If you are worried that your physics degree will be competing against people who studied history, I would say that if your grades are solid, you have strong academic letters, and perhaps someone who can attest to your writing ability, then you’ll be absolutely fine.
Curious what else you will need to apply to law school? Check out this post about Law School Admission Requirements.