Planning guide for new prelaw students


This section provides information on planning for admission to law school, beginning with your first semester in college. "Prelaw" is not an official major, program, or series of courses. Rather, it indicates a possible interest in entering law school or a law-related profession at some point after graduation from college. There are no prerequisite courses required for admission to any law school in the country, and only patent attorneys are required to have STEM degrees or equivalent coursework.

When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, mention your interest in legal professions. You will be subscribed to the HPPLC prelaw mailing list and receive invitations to participate in prelaw events, including Prelaw Orientation in the fall.

Consult University Division resources for more information on planning for summer orientation. 

Description of the profession #

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. Also called attorneys, lawyers can act as advocates and/or advisors. Several legal-adjacent or quasi-legal professions, such as paralegals, also exist.

As advocates, attorneys represent parties in criminal or civil matters. If the case goes to trial, they present evidence and argue in support of their client. But many attorneys never set foot in a courtroom. As advisors, lawyers counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest courses of action in business and personal matters. All attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions, and apply these factors to the specific circumstances their clients face.

Choosing your degree and major #

What is the “best” major for someone considering law school? In general, the best major is one you truly enjoy, and one in which you can excel. These two factors are often related.

We also recommend you choose a major that will give you options for further study or employment should you change your mind about law school or decide to work for a year or more after graduation before applying to law school.

In general, law schools do not have a preferred major. IUB graduates from every campus college and school have successfully applied to law school.

Law schools are looking for a diverse population of students, and diversity of majors is potentially one consideration. This is one reason why graduates in the sciences, music, math, or foreign language, to mention a few non-stereotypical prelaw majors, do quite well in the admissions process.

In addition, virtually all majors offer the opportunity to explore legal issues regardless of any obvious connection between the name of the major and the field of law. Students can work with academic and career advisors to move towards majors of interest and explore means of connecting their interests to the legal field.

What is extremely important, however, is the GPA you achieve in the major you choose. While it is not a good idea to choose a major because it might "look good" to law schools, a great GPA in any major can make an applicant much more competitive for admission.

The Explore Programs tool at IU can help you discover your options.

Your course load #

A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours per semester. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in from four to six classes.

During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful.

To earn strong grades and succeed in being admitted, most prelaw students need to devote about two hours per week for every credit in which they are enrolled. This means spending about 30 hours per week outside of class studying, going to office hours, and otherwise preparing for class.

Planning your fall course options #

Although law schools do not require specific undergraduate coursework for admission, using your academics to explore law can both potentially validate your choice to move toward the legal profession and provide law schools with evidence you have done so.

Law-related undergraduate courses exists all over campus. They are not centralized in any program, but some programs contain more than others. Some majors and minors even advertise as being good for prelaw students exploring legal issues. Still, do not feel compelled to take such courses unless you are genuinely interested in the subject.

All degrees require that you complete courses in a variety of subjects at IUB. When choosing courses for your first semester, you should follow the instructions for your intended major or for exploratory students. Keep in mind that law schools recommend you take a wide variety of courses from different subject areas. Courses in Arts and Humanities (A&H), Social and Historical (S&H) studies, World Cultures and Languages (WCL), and Natural Science and Mathematics (N&M), can all provide skills law schools are looking for in an applicant: analytical, problem-solving, research, writing, and communication skills.

We suggest you go beyond stated requirements or what you may have been told “looks good” to a law school. Think outside the box, and include courses that genuinely interest you. If your major does not involve much reading and writing, at least some of your elective courses should.

Other activities for prelaw students during the first year of college #

As you will soon discover, there are a multitude of activities and student organizations at IU. However, you should be aware that many prelaw students find their first semester taking college-level coursework surprisingly challenging, so don’t feel the urge to overload yourself with multiple extracurricular activities immediately.

Some student organizations on campus primarily exist to engage with the prelaw community and provide additional resources. Many others focus primarily or partially on legal subjects and activities. All are potentially interesting to prelaw students or useful for validating the decision to pursue a legal career.

You may wish to set up job shadowing with attorneys during your breaks from school so you can explore further your interest in law and confirm whether it’s the path you want to pursue.