Does my College Major Matter when Applying to Law School?

Political Science, Government, English, Criminal Justice, History… when it comes to majors commonly associated with law school, you may think of these most readily. And, for good reason. Such majors often include courses in their curriculum that align well with legal studies. Yale University’s Political Science program, for example, requires courses to be taken that pertain to international relations, American government, and political philosophy. Similarly, at Georgetown, Government majors are required to take courses in political theory, political analysis, and comparative political systems. By majoring in programs such as these, students may gain a solid foundational understanding of political systems and governments and valuable experience in conducting related research, writing policy briefs and persuasive essays, and analyzing case studies. As you can imagine, such skills can be great training for legal studies where understanding systems of government and fluency in writing and critical thinking are essential. But are they so important that your college major makes a difference when applying to law school?

Does my college major matter when applying to Law school?

What about transferable skills?

Still, as the former Associate Director of Admissions at a top 20 law school, I encountered many applicants who had pursued a less traditional path of study at their undergraduate institution. I’ve seen applicants major in Chemistry, Biology, Religious Studies, Business, Social Work, and even the Performing Arts. Many of these applicants often had the most interesting applications. In these situations, I often searched for transferrable skills that demonstrated that the applicant was prepared to begin a challenging law school curriculum.  According to the American Bar Association, lawyers should have the following core skills, values, knowledge, and experience: problem-solving, critical reading, writing and editing, oral communication and listening, research, organization and management, public service and promotion of justice, relationship building and collaboration, background knowledge and exposure to the law. Many, if not all, of these traits can be acquired regardless of one’s major.

For example, a student with a background in Chemistry can develop strong problem-solving, critical reading, research and organization, and management abilities through lab work and research activity where they are required to synthesize and organize large amounts of data and information to resolve a question or issue. In compiling research papers, they would practice writing and editing and might even present their findings at a conference, which would provide an opportunity to improve their oral communication and listening.

In some cases, strong subject knowledge can be helpful post-law school. Students interested in intellectual property law, for example, could find a background in Art History or Biology helpful when working on copyright cases that involve artwork or patents for biomedical devices, respectively. 

The benefit of holistic review

As part of their admissions process, law schools will conduct a holistic review of an application to understand how a student might be a good fit for their school. In this regard, an applicant’s experiences and activities outside of their academic major are crucial and should reflect competency in the core skills detailed above. Involvement in extracurriculars dedicated to community service, advocacy, and social justice is important to have to show interest in legal studies. Similarly, intentional pursuit of professional opportunities that reflect an interest in the law or adjacent areas—legal internships, volunteering at local government offices, working part-time at an advocacy organization—are great activities that expose you to the law prior to law school. 

So, can I major in anything I want while planning on applying to law school?

In short, yes. Pursue an academic program that most interests you in college, making sure you excel in your courses. Supplement your studies with extracurriculars that will allow you to develop legal skills. Finally, make sure you clearly detail your interest in the law. You should be able to describe how all of your past experiences have culminated in your desire to attend law school. 

 If you need any assistance with your law school application, why not contact us today?

Admissions Evaluator at Vanderbilt Office of Undergraduate Admissions
Associate Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Vanderbilt Law School

4 Years in Vanderbilt Admissions
6,000+ Applications Read and Evaluated

Grace Chee is an Admissions Consultant with Solomon. She holds a Bachelor's Degree from Vanderbilt University in Human and Organizational Development and English, and a Master's in Education in Higher Education Administration from the same institution.

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