If you’re planning to attend law school but aren’t sure what to major in for your undergrad studies, you’re not alone.
Many prospective lawyers find themselves unsure about whether to go for a specified pre-law course, business, or something else. While many students think it might be best to choose a major that relates explicitly to law, this is actually not usually the best course of action. Law schools look for students who stand out in their field of study, who can bring diversity to their school, and who excel in the skills necessary to succeed as a lawyer — like critical thinking and reading comprehension.
While it might seem counterintuitive to major in liberal arts or science, these fields actually help students stand out. Data shows that law school applicants who excel in these courses have a better chance of getting into a top-ranked law school than others.
To help you choose the best pre-law courses to gain admission to your chosen school, here are the majors that top law schools like to see.
The Best Undergraduate Majors for Law School
Top law schools look for well-rounded students who clearly possess the critical thinking, analytical, and research skills necessary to succeed in the curriculum and later on in their careers.
Students who major in the following are also better prepared to manage the scenarios that law school students and practicing lawyers regularly face. So, let’s take a look at some of the best undergraduate majors for law school.
Regardless of their niche, the cornerstones of every successful lawyer are exceptional reading comprehension and persuasive writing. These are skills that a major in English will improve. As a result, English majors have around a 79 percent acceptance rate into law schools, according to a 2018-2019 report from the LSAC.
English majors also learn about a variety of topics relating to writing and reading, most notably creative writing and literary history.
A solid grade point average as an English major indicates that the applicant has developed the skills needed to process written information quickly. They can also successfully extract information from their reading to form organized opinions and arguments.
When arguing in court, a lawyer’s position must be well-researched and developed. Strong reading and writing skills contribute to this by allowing you to absorb lots of information and formulate persuasive and intelligent arguments quickly.
Also, the grammar, critical thinking, and other skills gained from majoring in English are useful for tackling logical reasoning and reading comprehension questions. Both of these areas make up a large part of the LSAT exam. Because the admissions board knows the value of all these skills, English majors tend to have a high admission rate into top-ranked law schools.
A good alternative to an English major is linguistics, as it provides skills similar to those offered by English coursework. However, it focuses much more on technical English skills rather than abstract ones. When comparing the two, linguistics helps you analyze the finest details of the law, while English helps with broader strokes.
Classical studies is one of the best majors for law school preparation because of its high acceptance rate, which is over 83 percent.
Classical studies majors learn most about ancient language and how it affects society. They also learn how to interpret ancient texts, along with some anthropology. With a major in classical studies, you’ll have an easier time reading and understanding the meaning of older, complex laws or rulings.
Law schools are interested in these applicants because it means the student has a background in reading and understanding classical texts and languages. This is a valuable skill, considering that many of our laws and other legal documents were drafted in more antiquated English.
If you care about the environment, this is one major that can increase your chances of getting into law school and becoming a lawyer that can make a difference. Environmental studies majors learn about a mix of geography, topography, and how to strategize fieldwork.
Applicants that major in this area have an acceptance rate of over 85 percent. Law schools are interested in this major because these students have developed critical thinking, research, and problem-solving skills.
Also, environmental sciences teach students about patterns of human behavior, which is crucial for effective negotiation and arguing skills. Finally, environmental science should also give students a foundation for reading legal texts and decisions. Both of these aspects are necessary for legal practice.
Law schools also appreciate the diversity these majors add to their roster, especially if the applicant intends on practicing environmental law.
Literature majors have experience in reading a variety of texts, some written in archaic English. They usually learn about influential or provocative texts and how to interpret them; students may also study poetry and prose.
Being a literature major means you’ve honed your reading comprehension skills. The same goes for logical reasoning. Both are practical to extract and retain information from written works.
Also, literature majors can interpret the contents of books by applying literary theories — much like a lawyer that has to apply relevant laws to specific scenarios. Law schools are looking for these skills, and literature majors have a 75 percent acceptance rate.
Policy studies is another less-common major with a high law school acceptance rate — above 81 percent, in fact. By studying this as an undergrad, you’ll be introduced to a general knowledge of public affairs, conflict resolution, and which laws affect the public and how.
If you choose to become a government employee or run for public office after law school, this degree can be advantageous.
It will also be useful for getting into law school because the admissions board knows that this major develops your critical thinking skills. This major also boosts your understanding of human psychology and what factors influence human behavior —all of which are crucial to successfully practicing law.
This is a favorite on our list of best majors because of its real-world applications and nearly 89 percent acceptance rate.
By majoring in industrial relations, you’ll develop conflict resolution, negotiation, and personnel management skills: these are critical skills that a lawyer needs.
Furthermore, if practicing civil law, many of your clients (companies and industries) may need you for industrial relations-related cases (employment, compensation, termination, insurance, and others). Therefore, the actual concepts learned in this major can be valuable on the job.
History majors enjoy an over 81 percent acceptance rate, which makes it a top contender on our list of best majors for law school.
While studying history, your coursework will involve learning about famous trials, developing societies and political systems, and international events that shaped the course of the world.
You’ll do a lot of research, develop theories, and come to understand how society was affected by laws and political changes. You’ll also be introduced to the precedents that influenced the creation of specific laws.
As unlikely as it may seem, the top law schools in the US are big fans of students that major in mathematics. Students with a math degree excel at critical thinking and logical reasoning, which is why they tend to have high LSAT scores — well above 160, on average.
Also, the American Bar Association advises that pre-law students have a strong foundation in math and an understanding of financial math. This is because competence in math makes statistical analysis and the quick processing of other information easier. It also boosts the additional skills needed to fulfill law school coursework, such as logical reasoning.
Knowledge of math also enables lawyers to excel in niches such as taxation, bankruptcy, real estate, patent, and healthcare law, as well as legal niches related to trusts, securities, and estates.
If you have a background in math and a strong GPA, you’ll have an edge, regardless of the law school you are applying to. Math majors are also relatively rare, which can help as well.
Arts and Humanities
Not all colleges offer a broad degree in arts and humanities. But if you can find one that provides this area of study and graduate with a good GPA, you’ll be in good company. About 80 percent of law school applicants with an arts and humanities major get accepted.
Majoring in this course of study exposes you to wide-ranging coursework that law schools desire —applicants with well-rounded knowledge. An arts and humanities undergrad studies a wide range of topics, like language, arts, literature, history, music, religion, and more. Arts and humanities courses tend to take all these fields and teach students how to find commonalities. The rarity of the course also means there’s less competition and a higher chance of being accepted.
Law schools in recent years have looked to diversify their admitted students. While arts and humanities majors may sound unconventional for JD candidates, it actually might give you an edge over conventional pre-law candidates.
Top law schools target philosophy majors because their coursework has taught them how to understand, analyze, interpret situations, and build theories and apply ethical and rhetorical principles.
Philosophy coursework also trains students to create compelling, cohesive, and logical arguments by examining the available evidence. These students also develop an understanding of how humans think, are enlightened about various opinions and worldviews, and possess confident speaking skills.
All these attributes are essential for thriving in law school and practicing law, which explains the high LSAT scores (they average around 157) and above 80 percent acceptance rate of applicants with a philosophy major.
Psychology is one of the best majors for law school, not just because of its high acceptance rate in top law schools (over 73 percent) but also because of the real-world applications of its teachings in legal practice.
A psychology major gives you an insight into the human mind — how it is motivated, influenced, and operates. It also covers human behavior and how certain experiences may motivate certain actions. This is a powerful skill for a lawyer that can help predict an argument’s course and how best to counter it.
Law schools want applicants that major in this field because they have the skills to communicate effectively with various types of people in many situations. They also have the skills to steer conversations and root out answers through questioning.
Psychology also provides the skills for investigation and statistical analysis. These areas of study are needed for success in law school and legal practice, regardless of what area of law you hope to specialize in.
There are a variety of science courses that you can major in to increase your chances of getting into law school. Some of the most popular are chemistry, biology, ecology, animal sciences, natural sciences, and others.
Applicants who’ve majored in these courses have a law school acceptance rate of around 80 percent (but it can vary anywhere from 76% – 90% depending on the science). Law schools are attracted to this category of applicants because of the learned research and analytical skills and the unique niches of legal practice in which applicants may end up, such as pharmaceutical or environmental law.
Political science is one of the best majors for law school if you don’t necessarily intend on practicing law. Law school applicants who’ve majored in this course typically end up in public office or government jobs.
That said, majoring in political science can still be helpful if you intend to practice law since it exposes you to various aspects of the judicial system. For example, studying political science introduces you to the structure of the law, how laws are implemented, the operation of the Constitution, how different courts operate, historical cases, foreign policy, foreign legal systems, and more.
It also teaches public speaking, comprehensive reading, and writing skills, all of which law schools look for in applicants. The acceptance rate for political science majors is around 77 percent, which is up there with other high-acceptance-rate majors.
Majoring in corporate or business administration is a great pre-law choice. Law schools find applicants with this major appealing because of the difficult coursework involved and the courses’ skills. While some other majors are universal for law school, business majors are better for those going into a specific type of law.
Because of the rigors of studying this course, graduating with a 3.50 GPA or above may be more difficult than with the others on our list of best majors for law school. But if you do manage to graduate with a high GPA, top-ranked law schools will definitely consider you as a prime candidate for admission.
Law schools also want candidates that major in business because it hones skills like reading, writing, public speaking, document drafting, familiarity with business processes, negotiations, critical thinking, problem-solving, and more.
Other Good Options
Aside from the above majors, the following fields are also great choices for boosting your chances of getting into the law school of your choice:
- Inter-American Studies
- International Relations
- Natural Sciences
- Computer Science
- Health Professions
Any of these courses will distinguish you from other law school applicants, which is important because law schools aim for diversity among the candidates they accept.
Is Pre-Law the Best Major to Prepare for Law School?
Pre-law generally means any undergraduate course that’s being studied to get into law school. Because law schools don’t require you to major in any specific courses to gain admission, an undergrad course from any discipline can count as pre-law.
But certain colleges specifically provide pre-law programs for those aspiring to attend law school. These programs typically cover writing, politics, reading, history, and government to ensure students have the foundational knowledge needed to succeed in law school.
There aren’t too many schools that offer such programs. But the most popular ones are Cornell University, Kansas State University, New York University, Miami University, Saint Joseph’s University, University of Dallas, Carroll University, and Seattle University.
Since a pre-law program is created for the sole purpose of preparing students for law school, you might think it’s the best major for law school. But law schools aren’t on the same page.
First, top law schools don’t consider this type of pre-law program to be challenging or well-rounded enough to deliver the skills they desire in applicants. These upper-echelon law schools want students that have excelled in more difficult courses and subjects, which they feel the pre-law program doesn’t offer. Law schools want interesting thinkers, not students who need to prepare for four years just to enter.
As such, they don’t really value a pre-law program degree, regardless of the quality of an undergraduate’s GPA. For example, top law schools find a 3.5 GPA in math more impressive than a 4.0 GPA in pre-law.
Second, majoring in pre-law won’t help you stick out as an applicant. Top law schools want applicants from diverse and unexpected backgrounds, which is why the more unrelated a major is to law, the higher the acceptance rate of the applicant.
For example, applicants who majored in nuclear engineering and inter-American relations had almost a 100 percent acceptance rate in recent years. This is remarkable, especially compared to the 65 percent acceptance rate for applicants who majored in criminal justice or legal studies.
Yes, a pre-law major may give you an edge in law school by teaching you about the legal system and analyzing legal cases. But you may find it difficult getting into the law school of your choice with such a major, regardless of how high your GPA is.
For this reason, we recommend that you major in any area that you enjoy — one that you believe you can achieve a high GPA in. Law schools don’t care if the major is related to law or not. They are mostly concerned about whether your chosen course of study requires critical thinking, research, and other skills that are invaluable to legal practice. And all of that is just a factor alongside other application factors: LSAT scores, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
There are a lot of things you need to consider before choosing the best major for law school. But the one thing to avoid is selecting a major simply because it’s what everyone else is doing. Instead, find what makes you unique and study that: following your passions and learning to think critically about that subject will lead you to become the best student possible.
We recommend choosing a major based on your passion or personal interests. The more interested you are in your major, the higher your chances of doing well in it and graduating with a higher GPA. And the higher your GPA, the higher your chances of getting into your preferred law school.
Alternatively, you can pick a major based on what area of law you intend to practice in. The important thing is to graduate with a major that allows you to develop your reasoning skills, deepen and evolve your interests, and get a high GPA that will complement your LSAT scores and boost your chances of getting into a top-ranked law school.