Mid- Atlantic colleges for someone interested in pre-law/sociology/ criminal justice

My DS is interested in possibly going to law school post-undergrad. GPA is on the low side - 3.8W due to illness in freshman year. Grades have consistently been upward trending since then. SAT 1200. ECs are primarily in Debate (State Champion, national competitor), theatre, some volunteering. Bright kid, articulate, passionate about social justice. Looking mostly for fit. We are in the DC area.

Interested in being a state prosecutor someday or going into the justice system. Gravitating towards a major in sociology or psychology, possibly criminal justice.

Looking for a school in the NYC to Richmond range with a more liberal bent, but religious schools are okay too. LBGT friendly a plus. Not interested in sports. Looking for a friendly campus with fewer big lecture hall sized classes. We can only afford about $30K per year, max. and little hope of financial aid, but will do what we can. Mostly looking for fit.

Have considered UMBC, Towson, Loyola, Goucher, Mt St Mary’s, Seton Hall, LaSalle, VCU, Pace, maybe George Mason, St. Joseph’s, Temple, PACE. Would a school like Dickinson even be possible?

Input on any of the above schools would be helpful, or any schools we might have missed a little further out.

From your list I am guessing that you are in-state for MD, in which case George Mason is probably not affordable, unless she commutes (OOS tuition =$32K/yr). Dickinson is a reach in both $$ and admission terms.

You have a lot of the usual suspects (and some very good options) already on your list.

Has she looked at Franklin & Marshall? her SAT is (just) inside the middle 50%, and COA looks ok. Also, Ursinus- though the COA may be close to the wire.

Not in the NE corridor, but reasonably accessible in KY is Centre College. Similar to Dickinson, it is often overlooked by coastal students (b/c, well, KY) but it has strong academics and the “Centre Commitment” promises that every student will study abroad, have an internship or research opportunity, and graduate in four years. The sticker price is high ($50K), but the average amount of non need-based aid is about $20K, so it should come in below your budget.

In answer to OP’s question: Yes, Dickinson College is possible. Likely to admit.

State Champion at Debate is a significant accomplishment.

Franklin and Marshall offers no merit aid and cost of attendance is over $75,000. Unless you qualify for significant need-based aid, you will not get down to $30,000. Dickinson, Gettysburg, and Lafayette do give some merit aid, but even half tuition wouldn’t get costs down to $30,000. Run the net price calculators on these schools (and if you haven’t already, the ones on your list so far) as well as Allegheny, Susquehanna, Lycoming, Juniata, Lebanon Valley, Elizabethtown and if Ohio is a possibility, add Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan, Denison. There are many, many good LACs in PA and OH .

@Publisher, why do you think that Dickinson is a ‘likely’ admit or likely to be affordable? The SAT is in the bottom 25% of admitted students. We don’t know the UW GPA, but the average UW GPA for Dickinson is 3.7ish. COA is ~$70K, average institutional grant is ~$28K, so COA is unlikely to be in the $30K range.

Completely agree that State Champ is great- but I don’t think it’s enough to move the admit needle from ‘reach’ to ‘likely’- or to generate enough extra merit $ to bring the COA down to the $30K level.

My bad on F&M! I read the wrong line. Thanks for the correction, @kidzncatz (& I agree with your other suggestions as well)

The OOS public on your list - VCU, Temple, and George Mason are all going to be too expensive. Run the NPC on the private schools to see if they sound like they will get down into your range.

What county are you in? Does that community college have a strong transfer advisor? I ask because I’m in Montgomery County, and the transfer advisors at Montgomery College are very good there. Two years at a CC might make the last two years at a private institution affordable.

As advised above, you should run the Net Price Calculators at the websites of each of the places your child is considering. If you have a normal financial situation (no divorce, no property other than the family home, not a business owner, etc.) the NPCs should be pretty accurate.

If she has any desire to go to Law School, I wouldn’t be a Criminal Justice major.

While I agree with @Eeyore123 that almost any other major is better for LSAT prep than the criminal justice major, have a look at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It should come in close to your price point.

Could also compare McDaniel with Mt St Mary and UMBC - all have distinct vibes.

@collegemom3717 : Son is likely to be admitted to test optional Dickinson College which accepts about 50% of all applicants. SAT score of 1200 is at 25% level, grades are fine, and state champion in debate is too good to pass up.

Of course, this is my opinion.

With respect to affordability, I have no opinion as I do not know OP’s financial situation other than the self-assessment by OP of “little hope of financial aid”.

Any reason why St. Mary’s isn’t on the list? Has a LAC feeling, nice students, LBGT friendly, instate tuition, small classes and not big into sports.

Sounds like Drew University to me.

My first thought was St.Mary’s of Maryland also. A friend’s son graduated from St.Mary’s and is currently attending law school.

BTW, don’t know about the affordability of Dickinson for you but Dickinson has been test-optional for years and is now test blind. His debate and other ECs would be noted and appreciated there. Looks like it could be a great fit.

Also, may be too far west, but consider College of Wooster in Ohio, known to be generous.


We live in Maryland and after a year researching for affordable colleges that our D can apply, we basically crossed out most of OOS public & privates schools nearby since our budget is around $25K to 30K a year.

We also looking for merit scholarship but our D probably will end up go to UMD next fall since it is closer to our home and cheapest option. I think UMD, UMBC, Towson and St. Mary college will be in range of your set price. Fortunately, schools in Maryland are pretty decent and should be able to prepare kids for jobs or grad schools.

Good luck !!!

There is no fixed “Pre-Law” major in practicality. Law School Admissions officers want to see good undergraduate grades, good critical thinking/logic, and good writing skills. Law school admission is very much grades and test score based. Therefore, matriculation at almost any undergrad college will do. Harvard Law used to publish a yearly list of the alma maters of its incoming class. Believe me, all kinds of schools were on those lists. The most important question you should ask the career counselors at your local MD colleges is “what’s you placement success rate like?” If your child simply must “escape” his/her home state and finances are a concern, consider solid small public colleges in the northeast like…

SUNY Plattsburgh
Richard Stockton University (NJ)
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
The College of New Jersey


Ohio University (5 hour drive from Washington DC)
Ohio Wesleyan U
U of Rochester

Bouders, we looked at John Jay, but it seems to be mostly a commuter school in NYC, for one of the city colleges there - no dorms or meal plan, and housing is down near Penn Station. The school seems to have a great Criminal Justice focus, but not the typical undergrad experience. Might have to do some more looking at it…

Eeyore123, we’ve heard this a lot regarding Criminal Law majors. It’s kind of odd, but it seems that Criminal Law / Criminology is regarded as more of a “vocational” major, while traditional majors like English, Psych, Sociology, History, etc. are encouraged as being better for those interested in law school. That is definitely a concern for us - we are urging more towards a traditional major with perhaps a minor in criminology if interest lies there. Of course, a lot of kids end up changing majors during their college careers, but we want to make sure whichever school is chosen will put him on the right path…