What kind of background does it take to get into a great law school? You might want to look to Plato and Jane Austen instead of John Grisham.
New analysis from Earnest shows that those who earn a JD degree come from a wide range of prior backgrounds, with the majority having a background in the liberal arts.
The Most Popular Pre-Law Majors
Similar to our analysis of pre-med majors, our team studied the educational paths of more than 80,000 Earnest loan applicants to create a hypothetical typical class of 500 law students.
According to Earnest’s data, the most popular pre-law majors are:
- Social sciences
- Other arts
- Business administration
- Sciences and engineering
- Other majors
Our analysis found that nearly one-third (30%) had a background in the social sciences, with most having studied political science prior to law school. Other top liberal arts majors included humanities, classics, history, economics, and English. Among majors who didn’t study a discipline in the liberal arts, business majors made up 13% of law students, followed by pre-law study (11%).
Read more: How to Pay for Law School
A Deeper Look into the Most Popular Pre-Law Undergraduate and Graduate Majors
Unlike students pursuing MBAs and MDs, science and engineering majors only made up a small portion of our typical law class at 5% of the total. This doesn’t mean that law schools don’t look favorably on STEM majors—far from it—but rather that there are relatively few law school applicants with these backgrounds. This is similar to how medical school students, for example, tend to come from science and engineering backgrounds more often than the humanities.
Most Popular Pre-Law Arts Majors
Liberal arts and history majors focus on critical thinking, writing skills, and reading comprehension—all skills critical to succeeding in law school and later as a lawyer. The top 5 popular arts majors for pre-law are:
- Political science
- Other humanities
- History and classics
Most Popular Pre-Law Science and Engineering Majors
While business and pre-law degrees are studied more often than sciences before earning a JD, students with science majors are still accepted into law school. The most popular science and engineering pre-law majors are:
- Biological sciences
- Computer and information science
- General sciences
Other Popular Pre-Law Majors
While they might not fit into a larger bucket, many of these bachelor’s degrees utilize critical thinking skills needed as a lawyer. The other most popular undergraduate degrees in our study are:
- Public administration
- Physical sciences
- General studies
Not All Major Coursework is Equal for Pre-Law Students
Earnest’s data underscores advice from the American Bar Association, which recommends prospective law students take coursework in areas where they can gain experience in problem-solving, critical reading, writing, and editing, among other skills.
Notably, studying law as an undergraduate major may not necessarily set up you up for success if you’re hoping to earn an advanced degree in law. According to data from 78,000 law school applicants in 2011-2012, provided to U.S. News & World Report by the Law School Admission Council, students who majored in pre-law were less likely to be admitted to law school than those who chose other degree programs.
A Case for Studying the Classics in a Pre-Law Major
On the other side of the coin, data crunched by Derek T. Muller, an associate professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law, showed just how well classics majors (with a high GPA) do on the road to law school.
Those who studied Greek or Latin had the highest average LSAT score (159.8) and highest average GPA (3.477) of all majors who applied to law school. The next highest LSAT scores came from those who studied policy, international relations, and art history respectively. Lest your parents give you grief about pursuing your love of Mozart as an undergraduate major—music majors ranked 11th in LSAT scores, according to Muller’s analysis.
There is no formula for getting into a top law school apart from studying hard and developing your mind to work in multifaceted ways. If you’re planning to work toward a JD, your fate is less about what you study as an undergraduate and more about your performance as a student in that discipline. That means: Study what you love and where you have an aptitude, and the grades—and the graduate school—will follow. Good luck!
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