Learn the Degree You'll Need to Get In to Law School

An undergraduate degree isn't the only thing needed for admission

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Aspiring lawyers often ask college admissions officers what degree is required to apply for law school in the mistaken belief that certain majors might give them an advantage. The truth is, experts say, your undergraduate degree is only one of several criteria that most law schools take into consideration when vetting applicants. As the American Bar Association (ABA) puts it, "There is no single path that will prepare you for a legal education."

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Undergraduate Degree

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Unlike some graduate programs, like medical school or engineering, most law programs do not require their applicants to have taken specific courses of study as an undergraduate. 

Instead, admissions officers say they're looking for applicants with good problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, as well as the ability to speak and to write clearly and convincingly, conduct rigorous research, and manage time effectively. Any number of liberal arts majors, such as history, rhetoric, and philosophy, can give you these skills. 

Some students do choose to major in  prelaw or criminal justice, but according to an analysis by U.S. News, which annually ranks collegiate programs, people who majored in these subjects were less likely to be admitted to law school than students who had degrees in traditional liberal arts majors like economics, journalism, and philosophy.

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Although your major as an undergraduate may not be a factor in the law school admissions process, your grade-point average will be. In fact, many admissions officers say grades are a more important factor than your undergraduate major.

Nearly all graduate programs, including law, require applicants to submit official transcripts from all undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs as part of the application process. The cost of an official transcript from a university registrar's office varies, but expect to pay at least $10 to $20 per copy. Some institutions charge more for paper copies than for electronic versions, and nearly all will withhold your transcripts if you still owe fees to the university. Transcripts also usually take a few days to be issued, so plan accordingly when applying.

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LSAT Score

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Different law schools have varying requirements for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores of their potential students, but one thing is for sure: you will have to take the LSAT in order to be accepted to law school. Doing so isn't cheap. In 2017–18, the average cost of taking the test was around $500. And if you don't do well the first time you take the LSAT, you'll probably want to do so again to improve your marks. The average LSAT score is 150. But at the top law schools, like Harvard and California-Berkeley, successful applicants had scores that were around 170.

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Personal Statement

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The vast majority of ABA-accredited law schools require you to submit a personal statement with your application. While there are exceptions, it's in your best interest to take advantage of this opportunity. Personal statements give you the chance to "speak" to the admissions committee about your personality or other characteristics that don't come through your application otherwise and that can help prove your worthiness as a candidate.

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Most ABA-accredited law schools require at least one recommendation, but some schools don't require any. That said, recommendations usually help rather than a hurt an application. A trusted professor or mentor from your undergraduate years is a good choice who can speak to your academic performance and goals. Professional acquaintances can also be strong sources, especially if you're considering law school after several years in the workforce.

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Other Types of Essays

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Essays such as diversity statements are generally not required of candidates, but you are highly advised to submit them if you qualify for writing one. Keep in mind that diversity isn't necessarily limited to race or ethnicity. For example, if you are the first person in your family who will attend graduate school and you put yourself through undergrad financially, you might consider writing a diversity statement.

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Additional Resources

American Bar Association staff. "Prelaw: Preparing for Law School." AmericanBar.org.

Law School Admission Council staff. "Applying to Law School." LSAC.org.

Pritikin, Martin. "What Are the Requirements to Get Into Law School?" Concord Law School, 19 June 2017.

Wecker, Menachem. "Future Law Students Should Avoid Prelaw Majors, Some Say." USNews.com, 29 October 2012.

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Fabio, Michelle. "Learn the Degree You'll Need to Get In to Law School." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/law-school-requirements-2154961. Fabio, Michelle. (2023, April 5). Learn the Degree You'll Need to Get In to Law School. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/law-school-requirements-2154961 Fabio, Michelle. "Learn the Degree You'll Need to Get In to Law School." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/law-school-requirements-2154961 (accessed June 3, 2023).