Pre-Law: Choosing courses
The selection of courses that you take as an undergraduate is just as important as how well you do in the courses. Law school admissions committees are looking for students with a broad, liberal arts background. Your General Education requirements will start you off with a good distribution, but it is up to you to continue this diversity as much as you can. A strong candidate’s record will include:
- upper level courses outside your major(s) that can demonstrate the breadth of your academic strengths
- an appreciation and understanding of other cultures and languages
- a focus, passion, or strong interest in some area that is evidence of an ability to excel
Remember that not everyone who successfully completes law school will practice law, and not everyone planning to go to law school at some point in the future will decide to attend. The breadth of your education will be an asset in a wide range of possible jobs and careers, including teaching, public policy, government, social work, business, and much more. A good approach is to choose challenging courses from demanding professors. Follow up your survey level General Education courses with upper level seminars and research courses. Try to get as much practice as you can in critical thinking and writing. Strong writing skills are essential for success in law school and as a lawyer. You should make sure that you take at least a few classes in which you will get honest, detailed feedback on your writing. Seek out courses, in addition to your junior writing requirement, where you will be expected to write several papers. This is especially important for STEM majors and finance or accounting majors, where your major courses may not emphasize writing. Don’t put this off until your junior or senior year—good writing skills will serve you well regardless of whether you ultimately go to law school, and developing those skills should be a priority during your undergraduate career. Make it a point to get to know your professors. Although UMass is a big institution, your professors are available if you make the effort. Go to office hours, take smaller, upper level courses, and/or work independently with someone you respect. If you make a favorable impression on your professors, you will gain important allies when it comes time to apply to law school. A professor who really knows you and your work can write a much stronger recommendation than someone who just looks at their grading spreadsheet. Foreign language proficiency is not a requirement for admission to law school. However, it may increase your employment prospects after graduation depending on the type of law you practice. It is absolutely necessary (as is foreign travel) if you hope to work in either public or private international law.