Choosing Your Major for Prelaw

With a clear idea of the law schools that you want to attend, and the potential hurdles you face, you want to choose a major that is going to enhance your chances for success. Most people will tell you that your major does not matter to law schools. Those people are wrong. Your major is going to be a soft factor that is reviewed by every law school. Law schools want to see that you were challenged, and still excelled.

The first consideration in choosing a major is to consider your academic strength. Have you always been at the top of your class with little effort, or do you have to work hard for your results?

As an undergraduate your mission is to get the highest grades possible in the most challenging courses possible. If you have always had to work hard for your grades, you should opt for a less-challenging major. If you have always coasted to the top of your class, consider a more-challenging major.

Law schools will believe that a student with a degree in Chemistry was more challenged than one with a degree in Theatre. So, if the LSAT’s and GPA’s of those two students are close, the Chemistry degree will get an edge. In fact the Chemistry degree would probably get the edge even if its GPA was a point or two lower than the Theatre degree. But, if the Theatre degree boasts a 3.9 GPA versus the 3.3 of the Chemistry (all other things equal), the Theatre degree will be admitted first. Level of difficulty is important, but so is GPA.

Keeping in mind the level of difficulty you can handle, you should pick a major that interests you. Find something you can be passionate about. An interesting degree choice will go a long way towards helping you make great grades. It is easy to do well in subjects that you like. You are going to law school, so there is no need to have a “marketable” degree.

That said, I recommend science degrees if you can handle the work. Science graduates with high GPA’s impress admissions committees. Also, a science degree is a requirement for certain legal specializations. This degree enhances your law school application, and will give you more options for working as a lawyer.

You also need to remember to develop some depth in your course selection. Law schools are interested in seeing you master a subject, and you will need relationships with your professors that only come from working closely with them in several classes.

Majors with the Highest Acceptance Rates and LSAT Scores

Law schools want students who can think analytically, read critically, and write intelligently and correctly. They look for students who have challenged themselves academically. The idea that political science, history, or economics are the golden path to law school is a myth.

The American Bar Association has published a list of pre-law educational objectives. Most law schools use this list, or a something similar, to review your undergraduate choices. According to the ABA, successful law students and lawyers take courses that develop the following skills:

• Analytic and problem solving

• Critical reading

• Writing

• Oral communication and listening

• General research

• Task organization and management

• Public service and promotion of justice

• A good understanding of U.S. history

• A basic understanding of political and legal institutions

• Familiarity with ethics and theories of justice

• A grounding in economics

• Basic mathematical and financial skills

• An appreciation for diversity and cultural independence

Understanding the skills that law schools look for is instructive in finding a competitive major. Remember that there is no best major for a law applicant. But, there may be a best major for you. Find something that you can both enjoy and excel at. If you decide on a major like dance or kinesiology, remember that you will need to bolster your degree plan with courses that demonstrate the above skills by taking more challenging and diverse courses than the typical student.

Several years ago, pre-law advisor Carol Leach compiled a ranking of the top-20 undergraduate majors with the highest law school acceptance rates.

Majors With Highest Acceptance Rates to Law School (2001)
1. Physics
2. Philosophy
3. Biology (specialized)
4. Chemistry
5. Government
6. Anthropology
7. Economics
8. Biology (general)
9. History
10. English
11. International Relations
12. Computer Science
13. Psychology
14. Finance
15. Journalism
16. Political Science
17. Communications
18. Accounting
19. Sociology
20. Liberal Arts

You should remember that statistics can be deceiving. The utility of this list is that it identifies many different majors that will develop the pre-law skills that committees are looking for. You should also consider, however, the correlation between acceptance and LSAT scores. Some majors seem to help students score higher, which explains a higher acceptance rate. Here is a listing of the top 20 majors by score on the LSAT.

Majors With Highest Above Average LSAT Score (2008)
1. Physics/Math (+9.0)
2. Economics (+6.4)
3. Philosophy/Theology (+6.4)
4. International Relations (+5.5)
5. Engineering (+5.2)
6. Chemistry (+5.1)
7. Government (+5.1)
8. History (+4.9)
9. Interdisciplinary Studies (+4.5)
10. Foreign Languages (+4.3)
11. English (+4.2)
12. Biology (+3.8)
13. Arts (+3.2)
14. Computer Science (+3.0)
15. Finance (+2.4)
16. Political Science(+2.1)
17. Psychology (+1.5)
18. Liberal Arts (+1.4)
19. Anthropology/Geography (+1.2)
20. Accounting (+0.7)