Academic preparation

Choosing a major #

Law schools do not prefer any major course of study! Allow this point to sink in: law schools are not concerned with the specific major you chose. In fact, because law schools seek broad diversity among applicants, including diversity of majors, having an unusual major is absolutely fine. You can find lists of admission rates of applicants by undergraduate major. Some have higher rates than others, but in a way, this is like listing rates of admission based on an applicant's favorite color. On such an imaginary list, blue might have a higher admission rate than green — but it is obviously not because of the particular color. The same is true for majors. Every year students from over 50 majors at IUB are admitted to law schools around the country. Law schools do not have a preference for a “prelaw major” either. If law schools really cared about certain majors, we'd tell you. They don't.

So, do not choose a major because of how you think law schools will react to it. As implied above, your major per se is simply not an important factor in the law school admissions process. Your excellence and passion in whatever major is by far more important. Choose a major that you thoroughly enjoy, one in which you can excel (these two factors are often related), and one that will give you an alternate career or graduate study opportunity should you change your mind about law school.

It is important to follow an academic interest in which you enjoy being immersed for hours at a time (e.g., reading and studying). Expect to make up your mind and then change it at least once! Most students do. Don't be surprised if finding your major takes a long time — sometimes a year or more, since experience (taking courses, experiencing multiple professors), reflection, soliciting advice, and increasing maturity are crucial elements of this process that cannot be rushed.

Coursework #

Law schools require no particular course of study, and there are no prerequisite courses. Admissions officials prefer to see transcripts that include challenging courses that relate to one another without appearing narrow or vocationally-oriented, and they like to see a pattern of intellectual growth. They look for intellectually curious "renaissance people" with a wide range of interests. It is recommended that potential applicants include in their program courses that emphasize writing, research, critical thinking, and close reading (try to obtain letters of recommendation from professors who can discuss your skills in these areas). In addition, consider courses that develop skills in analysis, argumentation, and quantitative methods, and professors who will closely edit your written work. If your major is not in the social sciences and humanities, consider taking some upper level courses in these areas. Avoid taking courses on a pass/fail basis.

Finally, students who choose to pursue study of a foreign language in college will benefit from analysis of the basic elements of verbal and written communication and from cross-cultural insights. Students are encouraged to consider including overseas study as one part of their undergraduate experience.

Some students believe that law schools will be impressed if they take lots of undergraduate law courses, and that these courses will make law school much easier. Generally this is not the case. While it is absolutely fine to take one or more courses that have the word "law" in the title, do so for the same reasons you would take any other course: you've heard the professor is excellent, the subject matter interests you, or friends recommend it. Do not feel any pressure to "load up" on these courses. Note that (unlike medical schools, for example) no law school in the country has even one prerequisite course that you must take in order to be admitted. Taking a wide variety of rigorous courses from demanding professors is the best preparation for law school.

Academic record and GPA #

Law schools do not stipulate minimum grade point averages, although they do provide data that candidates can use to evaluate their competitiveness. The range of acceptable GPAs varies tremendously from school to school (generally corresponding to the school's ranking, with exceptions), from a bare minimum of around a 2.3 at schools with more open admissions policies, to a 3.7 or better for the more competitive, "elite" schools. For fall 2018 admission, the average GPA for students admitted nationwide was 3.28. A higher LSAT score may be needed to compensate for a lower GPA (but note that the reverse is not necessarily true: a higher GPA often will not compensate for a lower LSAT score). It is important to take rigorous [e.g., upper level] courses, especially during your junior and senior years. Any trend in grades will also receive close scrutiny. A bad semester or even year is not necessarily fatal, although it usually should be explained. A recent upward trend in grades can also be significant. A HPPLC prelaw advisor can help you with how to address such issues in your application.

GPA calculations #

Note that when you apply to law school, the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) will recompute your GPA. The main differences with IU's system are that they include all credits and grades if a course is repeated. For example, if you repeat a course the CAS will count the original grade along with the new grade. They also will count an "A+" as 4.33. For more information on how grades are converted, see the LSAC website.