How to Spend Each Year of College to Prep for Law School
Unlike most graduate programs, law schools doesn’t require you to focus in a specific undergraduate major. And despite many colleges and universities offering pre-law programs, law schools admit applicants from almost every academic discipline.
“Whatever major you select, you are encouraged to pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills,” according to the ABA. “Taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education. A sound legal education will build upon and further refine the skills, values, and knowledge that you already possess.”
Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach and contributor at US News, recently offered advice on how undergraduates should structure each year of their college experience to best prepare themselves for law school.
Your first year of college is a time for exploration and curiosity. That means, it’s okay to mistakes. In fact, Kuris says, mistakes are part of the journey.
“Missteps are less excusable in later years, so concentrate above all on laying the groundwork for good grades by discovering classes in which you thrive, developing strong study habits and finding helpful mentors and campus resources,” Kuris says.
In your second year, focus on choosing classes that can prepare you for law schools. Any course that involves research, critical thinking, and analysis will be good preparation.
“As their coursework gets harder and their responsibilities increase, sophomores may need to master time management and get selective about where they put their energy,” Kuris says. “Students who tried out a range of extracurricular activities in their first year should focus on those that provide opportunities for leadership, organization, problem-solving and serving others – all skills that law schools value.”
Additionally, Kuris recommends building upon these skills outside of the classroom.
“Sophomore year is also a time to take internships and professional opportunities seriously, to build your resume and develop a relationship with a supervisor who could write you a recommendation letter,” Kuirs says. “Pursue work that enables you to take on responsibilities, prove yourself and work closely with mentors.”
Grades are paramount in your junior year. You’ll also want to focus on building relationships with professors if you haven’t already, as you’ll need to ask one or two professors to write you letters of recommendation. Junior year is also an ideal time to begin prepping for the LSAT.
“Start early to leave plenty of leeway to take the LSAT multiple times if necessary,” Kuris says. “Many test-takers prepare for the LSAT the summer before senior year, since it can be hard to juggle schoolwork and LSAT prep.”
In your senior year, start thinking about your timeline for applying to law school. For some, a gap year may make more sense—especially if you’re looking to build your resume or gain experience. For others, applying to law school direct may be easier.
“If you plan to apply to law school, aim to submit applications early in the cycle, ideally by October or November, whether or not you decide to apply early decision,” Kuris says. “The summer before applying, start to secure recommendation letters, brush up your resume and draft a personal statement.”
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