This section assumes a commitment to pre-law preparation at the start of a college career. However, this is not the case with many, perhaps even most, applicants to law school. Those who arrive at the decision to apply to law school later in their college careers have NOT disadvantaged themselves. Any student can use the advice and suggestions offered here.
Students should seriously consider taking a gap year after graduation in order that (a) law schools have all senior year grades before making an admissions decision, (b) students have undivided time and effort after graduation to devote to the LSAT and law school applications and (c) students can devote all their senior year energies toward their grades, projects, and developing relationships with professors.
As a FIRST-YEAR, you should:
- build good reading and study skills (don’t get behind in doing the assigned reading in your courses, avoid writing papers the day before they are due, don’t skip class to hang out or play video games);
- construct a strong academic program for yourself by taking challenging courses from good teachers (check http://evaluations.scu.edu/);
- keep your grades up (you can get weak grades in first year before you know it and hurt your GPA);
- look into joining the honors program;
- schedule appropriate quarterly course loads that fulfill the Core requirements and help you find, or make progress on, your major;
- explore various majors which interest you;
- seek out a designated pre-law advisor;
- read articles related to the law in newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other major papers can be read online), magazines, and scholarly journals.
As a SOPHOMORE, you should:
- continue to strengthen your undergraduate record with courses that require argumentative writing and critically analyzing texts;
- keep working on finishing Core requirements (consult your faculty advisor or an advisor in the Drahmann Center if you need help with strategy);
- maintain good grades;
- develop relationships with faculty both within and outside your major area (talk to them during office hours as this is time the faculty formally sets aside for working with students outside of class, seek clarification of issues from class you don’t understand well, don’t hesitate to express disagreement with someone’s comments in class–including the professor’s– or to admit you’ve been puzzled by something);
- talk to people in the field about law as a career;
- consult with your pre-law advisor;
- become more involved in SCU and community activities (consider investing yourself in one or maybe two activities, try to assume leadership positions in them).
As a JUNIOR, you should:
- work with your faculty advisor to develop a strong major program and seek out appropriate courses outside your major (if you’re a political science or philosophy major, take the argumentation course in English; if you’re a finance major, take a political science course on the Constitution or one such as Psychology and the Law or Philosophy of Law;
- continue to work to get good grades and compete for honors;
- look into writing a senior thesis/research project related to law or public policy (this could turn into a note if you get onto the law review in law school);
- apply for an internship position related to your major or your interest in law;
- talk to law students and lawyers, and visit some law schools;
- familiarize yourself with the content of the LSAT and the law school application procedures of LSAC and the schools you may apply to (spring/summer);
- register for the LSAT early (so you can get a testing site on or close to campus) and decide how you want to prepare for the exam–you can study on your own with the help of a commercial preparation book (look for some of these books on reserve in the library under “Pre-Law Program” or the Director’s name), or you may take a LSAT prep course in the spring or summer (some prep classes cost only $300 to $400, while others can run $1200 or more); you MUST take LSAT preparation seriously–this is not the kind of test you can just walk into and ace;
- talk to professors about writing a letter of recommendation for you (spring); try to find professors who are willing to write a letter that reflects your individual academic work and personal character;
- plan and begin writing your personal statement (summer).
As a SENIOR, you should:
- after carefully preparing for it, take the LSAT (either in June or October); the problem with the June test date is that it usually falls during finals week for spring quarter; because most law schools have a rolling admission policy, it is not to your advantage to take the LSAT for the first time in December;
- evaluate law schools, look for those that will be a good fit for you as a person as well as a professional student, consider applying to law schools outside the top 25 as your chances of both getting in and being awarded better financial aid may well be greater;
- apply to law schools in the fall (preferably before Thanksgiving; by the end of October is better given rolling admissions); remember that law schools will not read your application until it is complete, and it is not complete until your LSAT score has been posted, all the materials for the CAS have been submitted and processed, your letters of recommendation have been received and processed by LSAC, and your personal statement has been submitted;
- look into financial aid for law school, be prepared to take out significant loans, don’t count on being able to land highly paid jobs as a summer associate, particularly after your first year, as these are presently in much shorter supply than in the past;
- continue internship work;
- continue to get good grades and compete for departmental, college, and University honors/awards;
- complete all undergraduate requirements in a timely manner and graduate on time; review your degree audit with your faculty advisor.