Looking for advice for my rising HS sophmore. We are not a family with any members (or even many friends) in law. DS enjoys volunteering for nonprofits centered around food insecurity and the homeless. Interested in social justice issues. If you ask him today what he wants to do, he can’t really nail it down but feels as if he’d like to go to law school. While we’re still exploring colleges and even determining what type of student he is, any advice for a major? Is it assumed to major in political science or more worthwhile to chose something more niche? I keep hearing law schools value a high GPA and LSAT score over a major per se. But are there any specific majors we could consider that may help him stand out?
Any major that a student enjoys and can do well in is fine.
Indirectly majors/classes that involve a lot of logic and writing can be helpful to any given student who needs strengthening in those areas, but not b/c the law schools will be more impressed.
The best thing your student can do is work on learning to follow their own truest path- which is so much harder to do than say. For an undecided student- who is 15?16?! - trying different things, and using that information (like that game ‘warmer/colder’!) to inform the next choice- is valuable.
Read this: Applying Sideways | MIT Admissions
re: law school- at this stage the majority of students accepted to the top law schools have worked 1-3 years between ug & law school. Increasingly grad schools of all types are seeing an advantage to students arriving with more experience & maturity of perspective.
Finally, as with any grad school, the clearer an applicant is as to why they want to do the grad school the better- in application success, in enjoyment of the grad program, and in overall life satisfaction with having done it.
Well first…this student has only completed one year of high school so interests and potential career choices could change multiple times.
As others have noted, major in anything, get outstanding grades, and do very well on the LSAT.
He is only a sophomore this fall. Honestly I would not talk about college or career as yet. For some, it creates pressure and stress. His interests may change. Or, rather, probably will!
Eventually, he can major in anything. For some reason the lawyers I know all majored in history.
If his interest in non-profits dealing with hunger and homelessness continues, there are career paths in those areas as well.
As everyone said it doesn’t matter what you major in. Many lawyers do history or classics or philosophy or other liberal arts majors but plenty do stem or art or whatever.
Just going to echo everyone else’s thoughts/advice. Literally any major is fine, as long as it’s something that your child enjoys and is fired-up about. If it’s music, major in music. If it’s anthropology, major in that. Much more important is to take a couple of years after college (and before law school) to get work experience. And, that work experience can be in any field (doesn’t have to be law-related.) Most law students these days come to law school with some professional experience, so those students that do straight through from college to law school can be at a disadvantage when it comes to finding jobs.
Finally as others have said, your rising sophomore is likely to have many shifts in what types of career he may be interested in. I would just encourage him to keep an open mind in college and try a lot of different things. The nice thing about law school, in particular, is that you can pursue any major/path you like, and then go get a job in any field for a year or two after you graduate, and you will still be just a qualified to apply for, and attend, law school as someone who was pre-law, majored in political science, and worked at a law firm after college for a couple of years.
Finally, one last thing that is an exception to all of the advice I just gave. There is one area of law where undergraduate major is important, and that’s intellectual property (and specifically, patent law). Lawyers who want to do patent law need to be “patent bar eligible,” which means that they need to have majored, or gotten an advanced degree, in a hard science or engineering field. However, I wouldn’t advise someone to go into a STEM major solely because they might one day want to go to law school, and then they might one day after that want to be a patent lawyer. But, if you have a kid that is already interested in the sciences or in engineering, majoring in one of those fields does open up a potential career path later on if law school becomes a reality.
All of these replies are much appreciated and are giving me perspective. My rising sophmore is my oldest, so this is my first high school go round. Additionally, we’re in the Bay Area, at a high performing HS and surrounded by a majority of students who appear to know where they are headed. The notion of curating a theme with your classes, EC’s, etc is one I hear often. While he does have time, and his interests are still fluid, we’ve both felt a bit of pressure to hone in on interests to make a profile of sorts.
I’m glad to hear the advice in following your own path, even if it’s one that isn’t clear yet!
I think there is way too much focus on trying to encourage 16, 17, 18 year olds to have a set career path, before they’ve even had a chance to have any sort of real work experience or explore the vast array of academic pursuits available to them once they’re in college. If you’re interested, the book Range by David Epstein was really eye-opening for me. In this book, Epstein challenges the notion that early laser focus on one specific pursuit is the key to success. He argues that, in fact, people who are generalists and have explored a number of different fields are ultimately more successful and fulfilled.
All good advice you have received so far. I would turn it around and say any classes and majors that emphasize critical reading and analysis, writing and verbal communication skills and a smattering of quantitative skills, would set up your student for a wide variety of careers, including law.
Choosing Your Major for Prelaw | Law School Numbers has some suggestions on the subject of choosing a major as a pre-law student.
But the student should also consider what non-law career paths are of interest, and whether specific majors matter for those career paths.
However, this does not really need to be decided now for someone about to enter 10th grade. Indeed, many students change interests and goals between 10th grade and 12th grade (when a student may have to consider majors of interest in selecting colleges to apply to and enroll in), or 12th grade and college frosh/soph (when the student needs to decide what major to study, if not already decided by then).
Agreed with all the advice given thus far. Never hurts to ask and become more informed about something, but much will likely change between now and college.
But, if LS is in your kid’s future, then long-term planning should include making sure he/she cultivates strong reading comprehension skills. LS is a real chore for people who find reading to be a chore, and there are a lot of smart people who do.
The other thing I would add is this: LS is a great education that can be applied in a number of career pursuits. But it’s 3 years, it’s expensive, and the real practice of law is not for everybody.
100% agree. Another reason why it’s important to go out and get some work experience after college and before making an expensive and time-consuming commitment to law school.
He can major in anything, as stated a few time above, but he should try out a few activities while in hs/undergrad that might show him if he’d even like law school. Debate, student government, the student newspaper. He might want to work on a campaign for a local or national office (certainly not glamorous at the high school volunteer level).
I went to law school with people who came from all kinds of undergrad majors and careers - teachers, engineers, accountants, govt workers. Those who liked to read and write had the easiest time adjusting to the course requirements.
It really doesn’t matter. My husband was a chemistry major undergrad and had a chemical engineering masters before he went to a T14 law school.
Tangent: I am going to put Washington and Lee University on your radar screen for college. Their Shepherd Program in poverty studies seems like it might be a good fit:
That actually would be a great narrative for law school, if your son continues his interest in these issues.
Very much appreciated!! This school and this particular program was not on our radar at all. Thank you.
My DD works in food insecurity/agriculture policy and will be attending law school this fall. She had majors in Political Science and German, but as the others have said, most majors work for law school. She also has worked for two years which was recommended by her undergraduate advisor as well as mentors.
If you son remains interested in food insecurity while in college, he might want to look at the Zero Hunger Internship and the Emerson National Hunger Fellowship which are both through the Congressional Hunger Center. I realize he is a few years away from applying, but their websites have bios of current and past interns and fellows, and by reading them, he might find some places with whom he could volunteer in high school to see if this is really something he wants to do. He might also find other career paths to consider.
My advice - don’t start stressing out about college majors!
Seriously - it’s bad enough that 15 year old kids are needlessly losing sleep over “what should I do to get into a good law/medical/business graduate program?”, adults should not be doing this.
As adults, worrying about paying for college is normal and unfortunately all too common, but “what major should my 15 year kid take in another three years, so that in another 7 years they can get into law school” is a waste of your time and energy. Time and energy that should be put into helping your kid do what they should be doing as high school students - doing well in school, and figuring out what who they are. If they are interested in a career in law this Thursday, then help them find extracurricular activities which will help them explore what a career in the legal professions is like.
Then help him find ways in which to engage in these things.
Again - don’t focus on major. In fact, he should barely be at the stage in which he is figuring out what type of college he wants.
So why, in the name of that is good and beautiful in life, are you already exploring which majors “are best for law school”? Let the kid decide what he wants to do first.
At least 1/3 of all undergrads change their major in college, and you are trying to figure out the career path of a rising high school sophomore who, as you yourselves write, is not sure what he wants to do.
For heaven’s sake, your kid has barely begun high school, and you are trying to plot out his post college graduation career.
Let him be a high school student.
I graduated law school in 2002 and there were a number of journalism students, business students, and yes, poli sci. I was a journalism students and all the writing classes I had in undergrad made a HUGE difference was likely why writing was the least of my law school challenges.