What should I major in if I'm planning on law school?
Anything! There is no required course of study at the undergraduate level for law school. When you settle on a major, choose something that really interests you, and do it well. Many law school applicants have majors in political science, English, philosophy, economics and history, but law schools also welcome those with backgrounds in science, engineering and business. A technical or scientific background can be very helpful for lawyers who specialize in environmental issues or patent law, for example.
What classes should I take outside my major?
Words are the lawyer's most important tool. The first year Writing 1 course provides a great opportunity to improve your writing. After you complete Writing 1, look for additional courses that require significant writing. You should also take some courses that train you to think analytically, such as math, economics, statistics, science and logic. Take political science, philosophy, economics and history courses to develop an understanding of the traditions behind and development of our legal system. Use co-curricular opportunities and classroom presentations to sharpen your oral communication skills. An accounting course somewhere along the way may also be helpful.
Should I study a foreign language or spend a year or a semester abroad?
Yes, if it interests you. The law, like everything else, deals increasingly with global concerns, and the ability to communicate in a language other than English can be very valuable. In addition, mastering another language can help you communicate more effectively in English. Understanding other cultures can also be extremely helpful for a lawyer, especially one whose practice has international dimensions. Do not study abroad for resumé value, however, as it neither helps nor hurts your law school application
Should I do an internship?
Well-chosen internships can help you to learn about what kind of work environments you like, and whether law practice or other law-related work appeals to you. It's just as important to define what you don't like as it is to determine what you do like. Investigate internship possibilities at the Career Center . Look for something the summer after your first year, or during the second or third academic year.
How important is my GPA?
Law schools give great weight to the GPA as an indicator of likely success in law school, so you should plan to get off to a good start academically. Develop a good foundation during your first year for academic success in all four years. Go to class, work hard to understand the material, and take advantage of the many opportunities offered at Washington University to sharpen your study skills and test-taking skills.
How important is the LSAT? When do I take it?
The LSAT score is also very important to law school admissions officers. You should take the LSAT during the summer after your junior year or in the fall of your senior year if you plan to go directly on to law school from college. It is important to prepare carefully for the test. You can begin to lay a foundation now: in your early college years, be sure to take a variety of courses that will strengthen your reading comprehension, analytical thinking and logical reasoning skills.
Will I need letters of recommendation? What can I do now to lay the groundwork?
Yes, you will need at least two recommendation letters, preferably from faculty members, to submit with law school applications. The most effective letters are those that address in some detail your intellectual capacity and your writing ability. Begin thinking now about which professors might be able to write effective letters on your behalf, and let them get to know you. Participate in class. Use office hours to discuss any material you don't understand fully. Take a second class from a faculty member from whom you learned a great deal.
What if I want to work a few years before going on to law school?
Only about 50% of the first year students in most law schools entered directly from college. Working for a year or more before beginning law study can help you decide if law school is really right for you. You will also gain maturity and experience that may make you a more focused and successful law student.