hope college > political science > pre-law     

Pre-Law at Hope <
Is Law School Right for Me? <
Preparing for Law School <
Taking the LSAT <
Applying to Law School <
Choosing a Law School <
Paying for Law School <
Commonly Asked Questions <
Timelines & Schedules for Undergraduates <
Resources & Links <

Preparing for Law School

In brief . . .

  1. Know why you want to go to law school.
  2. Study a major you are excited about, and build a strong academic record
  3. Take courses that enhance your skills in research and writing, oral communications, analytical thinking, and problem solving.
  4. Work hard, do well, get good grades. You'll be glad you did.
  5. Find a limited number of extracurricular activities that are meaningful to you, and get seriously involved, even in a leadership position.

Hope College, like virtually all other colleges and universities, does not have a specific pre-law major. This is because there is no best path to law school. There are no required courses for students with a desire to go to law school, nor is any single major any better than another in preparing one for law school. Indeed, the decision of what to major in should be decided based on one's genuine interests and intellectual strengths. The best approach is to pursue a challenging program of study, one you find inherently appealing and consequently in which you are likely to do your best work. It is one's performance in college, more than any specific program or courses taken in college, which law schools are interested in. You are likely to do best, and hence be a more attractive candidate, if you are studying subjects that motivate and interest you as a student.

According to most law school admissions officers, the best preparation for law school is a solid liberal arts education.  In fact, many lawyers describe law school as an extension of the liberal arts education.  The American Bar Association (ABA) recommends an education that emphasizes strong analytical and problem-solving skills, critical reading abilities, writing and research skills, and strong oral communication and listening abilities. If you are studying a major that you feel is not giving you adequate training in these areas, look for elective courses outside your major that will give you these opportunities. Your pre-law advisors on campus can be helpful in directing you to such courses.

The ABA also recommends developing a broad knowledge base in preparation for making the best of a legal education.  Suggested areas of study include:

  1. A broad understanding of history, including the various factors (social, political, economic, and cultural) that have influenced the development of our society in the United States.
  2. A fundamental understanding of political thought and of the contemporary  American political system.
  3. Some basic mathematical and financial skills, such as an understanding of basic pre-calculus mathematics and an ability to analyze financial data.
  4. A basic understanding of human behavior and social interaction.
  5. An understanding of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States, of international institutions and issues, of world events, and of the increasing interdependence of the nations and communities within our world.

The most common areas of concentration for those considering a legal career are business administration, English, economics, history, philosophy, and political science.  However, you can major in anything from interpretive dance or Spanish to biology or Environmental Studies and still go to law school, as long as you develop the skills mentioned above.  The most important thing is to pick a major or discipline that truly engages and challenges you.

Meaningful outside experience will also enhance your law school application. Work or internship experiences, significant extracurricular involvement, study abroad, and other honors may serve to distinguish you from other law school applicants with similar numbers. However, do not fall into the trap of building a list of activities a mile long. Settle on a few limited activities, and get involved in a meaningful way, even in a leadership capacity.