What are the requirements for admission to law school and when do I apply?
A B.A. or B.S. is required, but no particular courses or majors are preferred. It is your performance, more than the specific courses you have taken, that will determine your attractiveness as a law school applicant. Whichever major you choose, you should plan to take a variety of courses to build a liberal arts background with a focus on courses that will develop your analytical and writing skills.
If you want to attend law school right after college, you should apply during the fall of your senior year. Although application deadlines are usually in the spring, early applicants have a distinct advantage. Plan to have everything in the mail before winter break.
What do law schools generally ask for from applicants?
Top law school admissions criteria include a high GPA and a strong score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Keep in mind that taking easy courses to earn a high GPA at the expense of gaining a diverse and rigorous education and sharpening your analytical and writing skills will work to your disadvantage in scoring well on the LSAT and being prepared for the rigors of legal study.
Beyond the GPA, schools look for a program of studies that develops skills and insights in written and oral comprehension and expression; the ability to think deductively, inductively, and by analogy; and, creative power in thinking.
Many law schools also consider subjective factors such as faculty recommendations, extracurricular interests, and work experience. These areas are considered less critical and typically do not compensate for mediocre academic performance.
Which courses should I take to develop the basic skills for law school?
If you intend to study law, you need to develop an excellent knowledge and grasp of the English language as well as a clear and concise style of expression. Seek out courses from any departments that require substantial writing and provide a thorough critique of that writing. A sound liberal arts education is often best for most pre-law students.
Courses in political science, history, economics, statistics, and anthropology can help you understand the structure of society and the problems of social ordering with which the law is concerned. Studying philosophy, literature, fine arts, foreign languages, and other cultures will make you familiar with traditions, thoughts, and trends which have influenced, or tend to affect, legal developments nationally and internationally. The examination of human behavior in sociology and psychology can help you to understand the types and effects of human behavior. Studying logic (Philosophy 201) and the sciences can help you analyze, understand, and rationally organize your thoughts. In some fields of law practice, it is useful for a student to have a fundamental knowledge of technology, engineering, computers, and accounting.
As a pre-law student, what criteria should I use in selecting a major?
The best guide is your interest and inclination. Major in a field that interests you and that you will enjoy. You will earn better grades in subjects you like. The most important thing is that you receive a well-rounded liberal arts education and perform well in the courses you choose.
How important are extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities are generally not a significant consideration in admission to most law schools. However, reasonable participation in activities can help you develop valuable leadership, communication, social, and logical skills, and you should take advantage of leadership opportunities as they arise.
You may also choose to join the Rutgers Pre-Law Society student group or the Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity to learn more about the profession of law and network with other students with similar goals.
When should I take the LSAT? Should I take it twice?
Prepare well and plan to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) only once. Ideally, you should take the test in June of the year you apply and no later than the September/October test dates to ensure you get your results back in time. If you take the LSAT more than once, all of your test scores will be reported to the schools you apply to, and most schools average the scores or deduct points from the second score if it’s higher.
If you feel that you are not a skilled test-taker, a Kaplan/Princeton Review course might reduce your anxiety and give you tips. While the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) claims that commercial courses produce no substantial improvement in scores, the Kaplan course, for one, claims a 5–7-point performance higher than the mean for its students. Score increases are much more likely in the middle range of scores than at the upper end.
Where can I get more information about pre-law studies and law schools?
Pre-law advising is available on the College Avenue campus and in downtown New Brunswick. The College Avenue advising takes place in Milledoler Hall where there are also reference books and pamphlets with information about the legal profession and law schools. There are also catalogs of most of the law schools to which Rutgers students ordinarily apply. You can visit our Helpful Links page to access online resources, but the best single source of information is probably the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools put out by Law Services.
When should I request letters of recommendation from my professors?
Our pre-law advisors recommend that you wait until second-semester junior year or first-semester senior year to request letters of recommendation. However, if you have requested a letter from a professor before your junior year, you have two options for filing it in the interim before applying to law schools.
Rutgers University Career Services has a partnership with Interfolio.com, an online credentials service. Interfolio maintains letters of reference for current students and alumni for use in applying to graduate school, teaching positions, or other employment opportunities. For more information, click here.
Your other option is to register early for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) at the Law School Admission Council. The Credential Assembly Service is the clearinghouse for LSAT scores, transcripts, and recommendations. Please note that there are fees for this service, but there are also fee waivers for qualified applicants.
Whom should I contact for a Dean’s Recommendation / Certification?
School of Arts and Sciences: Click here.
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences: Contact Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Robert M. Hills, 732-932-3000, ext. 512.
School of Engineering: Contact either Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Fred R. Bernath, or Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Lydia Q. Prendergast, at 732-445-2212.
If you are a student in ANY other School in New Brunswick and are seeking a law school Dean's Recommendation or Certification, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Education at 732-932-4001.