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What you need to know 


What major should I choose if I wish to attend law school?


Law schools do not favor any one major over another. They are interested in having students with diverse backgrounds and will consider all applicants regardless of major. That said, however, there are some things you should consider when choosing a major and courses.

  • There are certain basic skills needed by lawyers and required by law schools:  excellent writing skills, strong critical and analytical thinking skills, strong reading comprehension skills, and public speaking skills. Law schools will look closely at your transcript to see if you have taken rigorous and challenging courses demanding these skills. A high GPA in lightweight courses will not impress them.

  • Students should choose courses they are interested in, since they are more likely to do well and improve their overall GPA. Law schools like to see that a student has developed a passion for learning whatever its direction. There are no required courses and there is no advantage in taking a lot of courses related to law. Law schools take the attitude that they will teach you what you need to know about the law. What they look for in an undergraduate program of studies is a general knowledge in a broad range of fields such as history, politics, philosophy, economics, sociology, etc. Students should talk to a pre-law advisor for more specific advice on course selection.

Read the official statement of the American Bar Association on Pre-law Preparation at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/prelaw/prep.html. 



What factors do law schools take into account in their admissions decision?


Law school entry is highly competitive and law schools take the best students they can get. The two chief criteria in their decision are a high GPA and a good score on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). These are considered together so that a high GPA will be undermined by a low LSAT score and vice versa.

From year to year law schools consistently accept students within a certain range of LSAT scores and GPAs. For a number of reasons, they may admit students outside these ranges but this is rare. The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools provides a complete breakdown of the LSAT and GPA scores of students admitted in the previous year for every US law school. The Boston College Law School Locator (http://www.bc.edu/offices/careers/gradschool/law/lawlocator) provides a quick and easy-to-use  index of the same information. You should consult these early on so that you have a realistic idea of what is required to get into the schools you are considering.



What is the LSAT?


The LSAT is a standardized test (similar to the SAT, but differing in content) aimed at testing the kind of skills mentioned above. It is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. The LSAT is administered by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). You must be registered with the LSAC to take the test. The LSAC records your scores and reports them directly to the law schools you nominate.  For details on registering, consult the LSAC website at http://www.lsac.org. The LSAC website offers a different sample LSAT question every day, as well as a description of the different parts of the exam.



When should I take the LSAT?


The LSAT is administered four times a year: June, October, December and February. Most advisors recommend taking the LSAT in the June following your junior year or in the October of your senior year. If you take the exam in February of your senior year your scores will not be submitted in time for admission the year immediately following graduation.  The June test has the advantage that, if necessary, you can take the exam again in October and still submit your scores in time. The disadvantage with the June exam is that your preparation is likely to overlap with the university exam period.  



What can I do to prepare for the LSAT?


Because your LSAT score is so important for getting into law school you should try to perform to the best of your ability. Some students are good at standardized testing and others are not, but all students can benefit from preparation. If you take the test more than once all your scores will be reported and most law schools will average the scores. Ideally, then, you should take the test only once and only when your are fully prepared.

There are a number of things you can do to prepare.

  • First, it is strongly recommended that all pre-law students take the mock LSAT offered by Kaplan at the beginning of their junior year. This will give you a concrete and realistic indication of what the exam is like and of how you will perform, while leaving you enough time to prepare for the June exam.

  • If you are well-disciplined and confident of your ability, you may choose to study by yourself. The LSAC has a package of self-study materials that they can send to you. You should obtain this and put aside time to work through it, so that you can get used to the style of the questions, develop answering techniques, and time yourself.

  • If you are not a good exam taker or think you need a more intensive and disciplined preparation, there are a number of commercial LSAT preparation courses such as Kaplan and Princeton Review. Temple also offers a LSAT prep course at TUCC. It is considered best to take the prep course as close as possible to when you will take the exam.


Other factors in the admissions decision


There are two other components that law schools consider in making their admissions decisions:

  • The personal statement. This a brief statement in which you can tell the admissions board something about yourself and bring to their attention factors that may not appear elsewhere in your application (e.g., personal hardships overcome, community service, special aspirations). You should take some care with the composition of the statement, as schools often take it as an indication of your writing skills.

  • Recommendations. Most law schools require a number of recommendations as part of your application. The best people to get these from are professors who know you well, from courses you have done with them or from activities outside the classroom.  Obviously, senior faculty or faculty with some expertise or law or law-related areas are an advantage. A good idea is to inform your professor at the beginning of the course that you are a pre-law student and that you might be asking for a recommendation from him or her at some stage. This is a good way to kick off a more personal relationship and it will also allow the professor to pay more attention to your work throughout the course rather than trying to remember everything about you at the end.


Is it best to apply straight out of college or can I take some time off?


Law schools give no preference to applications from students still in college. A large proportion of admissions every year are from non-seniors (about two-thirds at Temple Law). It is important, however, that if you take time off you do something constructive that will support your application. More important than a law-related job is a job that shows you are responsible disciplined, organized, and hard-working.  



Resources and further information


  • Students should consult a pre-law advisor either in their department or Academic Advising at Sullivan Hall.

  • The Career Development Service can also offer advice and has a library of law school catalogues and guides for pre-law students.

  • LSAC provides an excellent guide to all aspects of being a lawyer and getting into law school,  So you Want to be a Lawyer: A Practical Guide to Law as a Career (about $12.00). It can be ordered online at the LSAC website.

A wealth of information can be found on the internet. Visit the pre-law links library on this website for a good start.




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