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Commonly asked questions
Should I major in Pre-Law?
No. Colleges and universities typically do not provide a "pre-law major." This is because there is no single preferred route to law school or area of study that will best prepare you for law school. Indeed, law school representatives tell prospective students that the best preparation for studying the law is a high quality, well rounded liberal arts education. The liberal arts tend to focus on skill and intellectual development that serves one well in law school - communication skills, clear analytical thinking, exposure to a wide range of disciplines and subject matters, and much more.
What's the best major for law school?
There is no "best major" per se for law school. The ABA does not recommend any particular major, majors, or set of courses that should be taken in preparation for law school. Rather each individual's path to law school will be different. The best major is one you are genuinely interested in and motivated to study in and of itself. You will be more engaged, likely to do better gradewise, and hence will be a stronger candidate for law school once you apply.
Certainly some majors have a more direct relation to law and legal systems - economics and business, political science, philosophy, history, and English, to name a few. But the incoming class at any law school will have people who majored in fine arts, the natural sciences, engineering, psychology, and virtually any other major offered on most campuses. In short, lawyers come from all academic and professional backgrounds.
Besides my major, what other courses at Hope might help me prepare for law school?
In addition to picking a major that you're interested in, aim for challenging courses in which you are likely to develop skills that are important in law school and beyond - writing, researching, thinking, analyzing. You might also want to take one or more of the law-related courses offered, to see if you find the study of law inherently interesting. Finally, there are some basic areas of knowledge that are useful background for the study and practice of law - American history, government and political thought/theory, economics and finance, the study of human behavior and social interaction.
Remember that none of these are courses that are required for law school, nor are they necessarily viewed by law school admissions people as more attractive than other courses. They simply might make you a stronger law school applicant and student by improving your skills and enriching your understanding of the law and how it works.
How might I get some practical exposure to the law to see how I feel about it?
Hope offers an impressive menu of off-campus opportunities for exploring legal careers through practical experience. The Washington D.C. Honors Semester allows students to spend a semester in D.C., working with the U.S. Attorney, the D.C. Public Defender, the American Bar Association, the D.C. Attorney General, any number of public interest law firms or legal defense funds, or any number of other law-related enterprises. Other off campus programs are offered in Philadelphia and Chicago. Local internship opportunities may also be arranged through Dr. David Ryden of the Hope political science department. Finally a number of Hope alumni who are practicing law are open to mentoring and shadowing experiences that will give students a sense of the reality of practicing law.
What factors are considered in the law school admissions decision?
The two most important factors are one's GPA and LSAT scores. Secondary considerations that are important in distinguishing between candidates with similar GPA and LSAT scores include the letters of recommendation, the personal statement, meaningful extracurricular activities, and job or internship experience.
When should I take the LSAT?
If you plan on going to law school immediately upon graduating from college, you should aim for the June test (between your junior and senior years) or the October test (in the fall of your senior year). Some students prefer the June date, which is free of the distractions and responsibilities of the normal academic workload. It also gives test takers a jump on coming up with a list of possible law schools and in preparing their law school applications, since they have the LSAT results sooner. Others prefer the October date; they may find the summer too busy or full of distractions. They may be more focused academically and better prepared mentally to take a test such as the LSAT. Whichever date you choose, you should have sufficient time to adequately prepare, such that you can perform up to your capabilities.
What if I am not a particularly strong law school candidate based on my numbers (GPA and LSAT scores)?
With 193 ABA-accredited law schools nationwide, some less-than-impressive candidates get accepted to law school. There are strategies for marginal applicants to increase their chances of acceptance. Taking some time off before law school might allow one to strengthen the non-academic part of one's record. Letter writers might be willing and able to explain why your GPA doesn't accurately reflect your actual promise or ability. Night school or part-time school, often with easier admission criteria, might be an option.
Should I go straight on to law school or take time off?The answer to this question depends on your personal circumstances and predilections. The average age of those entering law school is around 25 or 26, so many do take time off to work before pursuing a legal education. Some want a dose of real life experience. Others might want to make some money and pay off some college loans before acquiring additional debt. Still others need a break of academic life before resuming what is a challenging curriculum. Some with so-so grades and LSAT scores may see significant work experience as a way of enhancing their chances of getting into a better law school. For those who are absolutely certain they wish to pursue a career in law and are prepared for the rigors of studying law, they may well choose to go straight on to law school. Talk over the pros and cons with your pre-law advisors.
Hope College Department of Political Science | Lubbers Hall | 126 E. 10th St | Holland, MI 49422-9000