Pre law rankings of mostly NESCAC

How would you rank the following colleges’ pre-law programs? Yeap, a very subjective question with lots of moving parts, so be assured, your ranking will be taken with a grain of salt. Thx in advance!

Middlebury, Tufts, Wesleyan, Williams, Amherst, Navy Academy, Bowdoin and Bates.

As a subjective approach, I might rate Amherst, Bowdoin, Williams and Middlebury most highly, based on their reputed emphasis on writing.


Really - you should focus on a major that will provide critical thinking skills. All those schools you mentioned are excellent choices. “Pre-law” as a major really isn’t useful or offered at many colleges. I’m looking to go to law school and I am majoring in Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Tufts.


About half the NESCACs are represented in a typical Yale Law School class:
Undergraduate Institutions Represented (YLS 2020-24) - Yale Law School


agree with L-Jade. All of those colleges are prestigious and can get you where you want to go, but major is more important that name of prestigious college. A major that works critical thinking and writing skills is much better prelaw background than other majors.

That said, the two most important pieces of your LS app are undergrad GPA & LSAT score. Name of college is barely an afterthought. OTOH, military service is a great soft factor, i.e., EC.



Major is important. But more important? I don’t know. Law schools are full of people from all kinds of academic backgrounds, and all kinds of those backgrounds excel in law school. Yeah, writing is important, but not like creative writing. You just need to be able to write well, meaning you can organize your thoughts and articulate them in writing clearly, concisely and quickly. You need to be able to handle volumes of reading with solid comprehension, night after night. And, yes, you need to be able to reason well. But people from a wide array of academic backgrounds pull it off. A smart kid from Hamilton who majored in French will do well in law school. Trust me. Go to a tippy top law firm website (say, Cravath) and look up the academic credentials of their lawyers. When asked for advice on this point, and I get asked a lot, I try not to over-engineer my answer and I try to avoid absolutes.

I’m not sure that’s altogether accurate. Generally speaking, the more elite the law school, the more you’ll find people from highly selective undergrad institutions. LS Ad Coms are aware of the differences.

1 Like

Well, @Koza , a couple of stats. Make of their relevance what you will:

From another thread on avg. LSAT score by school for 2017 (including only NESCACS per your request (Yale #1 btw). @Publisher put the list together ranking the schools in order of average score. Before you ask, I don’t know why Williams, Bowdoin and the others aren’t on the list. Maybe a bad test year. Maybe @Publisher has some insight. He only went through the top 56 schools.

#10 Tufts University–164.48
#17 Amherst College–162.79
#21 Wesleyan–162.61

Then there’s this list (adjusted for undergraduate size) of Top Feeder schools. Here’s the link and a snippet (NESCACS only) of the list:

#3 Amherst 41 JDs
#19 Williams 30 JDs
#20 Wesleyan 43 JDs
#25 Bowdoin 22 JDs
#27 Tufts 64 JDs

The ranking only goes to Top 30. It also gives the two top law schools each school feeds the most.

Then there is this blurb on the same site the rankings appear. It takes on a topic that I think often gets oversimplified on CC. Yes, I went to law school a long time ago. But I was on my firm’s recruiting committee for years and have been active as an alumnus of my law school, which is a perennial top 5. Yes, a great LSAT makes up for a lot. Yes, a crappy LSAT is hard to overcome. Yes, GPA matters. A lot. Yes, Harvard Law School has students in every class from obscure schools and those of low academic rank. That all said, you are still better off coming from a strong undergrad, and even rigor of undergraduate major is viewed favorably. They look at everything. Just just food for thought.

*Does institutional selectivity matter?

When applying to law school, yes, it appears that institutional selectivity does in fact play a role. In our sample, of the students who went on to enroll at America’s best JD programs, approximately 56% graduated from colleges categorized as “Most Selective” or “Extremely Selective.” However, 24% of elite law school students in our sample did graduate from schools indicated as minimally selective or non-selective, suggesting that attendance at a highly selective undergraduate college or university isn’t a prerequisite to earning a top-flight JD. Click here to see how we group colleges by selectivity.


And put on your critical thinking hat and suggest an another reason why highly selective undergrads place well into elite law schools. (Hint: highly selective undergrads do not accept poor test takers, on average. As a result, highly selective undergrads do well on the LSAT – just as they performed on SAT/ACT. And that is the reason that HLS takes folks from everywhere – there are just not enough high LSAT scores to go around.)

yes, they do, but if one has below quartile numbers, the rest barely matters, absent a big hook. OTOH, above 75th % numbers from Podunk State has an excellent shot at admission to much of the T14, including HLS.



Podunk State guy is getting in with a tippy tippy top LSAT score, and a great story or hook. More often than not, it’s URM status.

Kids from highly selective undergraduates don’t always have great LSAT scores and/or GPAs. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. For those applicants, perceived quality of undergrad institution, and some of the other things you listed, matter. A kid from Princeton with a 3.4 GPA and a middle to upper 80th percentile LSAT is getting into some solid law schools.

There is no more prestige obsessed profession than the law, and law schools like to dress themselves up with students from name undergrads. This still goes on.


One strange thought that has occurred to me.

People have talked about how your undergraduate major is not particularly important for admissions to law school. However, it just occurred to me that it might have some impact in terms of what type of law you do after you get to law school.

I know several lawyers. Most of them majored in engineering or computer science as undergraduate students. At least one worked as a software engineer for a couple of years before going to law school. However, they all work in an area of law that has something to do with engineering and computer science.

There is also the issue of having an undergraduate major that might contribute to an alternate career if you do not decide to go to law school.

You might wonder why this has anything to do with your original question. What I am thinking is that what you intend to major in as an undergraduate student might have some impact on what college or university you choose to attend.

I also would be inclined to make sure that you will be able to afford law school assuming that you get accepted to one. Whether this has any impact on your choice of undergraduate college to attend will depend on whether spending more than $300,000 for a bachelor’s degree plus perhaps another $250,000 for law school (possibly more by the time that you get there) would leave you with any debt. Do you have any financial limit (even in the “over $500,000” range)? If so, have you run the NPCs?

The schools that you listed in your original post are all very exclusive schools. You do not need to attend a top ranked LAC to get to a very good law school.

1 Like

In my time, it was the patent lawyers who had engineering/natural science undergraduate backgrounds. I think that’s still true today. I had two science PhDs in my LS class, both of whom attended law school for the sole purpose of practicing patent law, and that’s exactly what they did and do now.


But the highly selective undergraduate schools have stronger students / test takers to begin with. So how much of that is selection effect (stronger students to begin with) versus treatment effect (by highly selective undergraduate schools being favored)?

1 Like

Do you mean mathematics?

But at the very top law schools, there is a strong affinity (mostly to themselves) to certain schools. For example, YLS gets about 50% of their class from 12 undergraduate schools.


YLS is the exception to the (HLS) rule. Being #1 for so long, and with a small class, Yale can pick and choose the best of the best. Not only great hard numbers, Yale admission also requires great soft factors, of which undergrad is one.

Does YLS favor Yale undergrads? Absolutely. Does Harvard tip its own undergrads? You bet. But one still has to have the hard factors, i.e., above median GPA & LSAT, for that tip to be of much value. Otherwise, that 3.95/175 from Regional Public U will get a long, hard look.

But this thread is about nescac schools, and they are all considered highest quality. The only real differentiating factor is the Naval Academy, which, with its service requirement, also provides a solid soft factor. (But also age/maturity vs a KJD.)


Sure, that was discussed. It’s absolutely the case; you’re right.

But this is an area in which I’ve been involved first hand, and as a person who understands LS admissions, I’m just flatly asserting that undergraduate institution matters independently of the test score correlation. Not more than the LSAT or GPA, but it counts and is not an afterthought.

Consider that there are great TO schools and that there are kids who get into schools like Cal with less than tippy top SAT/ACTs. Those kids take the LSAT and apply to law school. The University of Washington’s law school, a tougher admit hurdle than its ranking suggests, has been known to value kids from the UC system.



Thank you all for the advice, data and insights! The common advice here is to build critical thinking (and writing skills). I would assume that any college education either in Liberal arts or STEM would cultivate these skills —they better :-).

Currently, I’m undecided about the undergrad major neither I know what Law I want to practice in the future. I’m a junior in high school and the list above are the schools that either have approached me or I plan to approach for athletic recruitment.

Any general comments/thoughts about undergrad in the Navy Academy (yes, they do recruit athletes) vs. the NESCACs as a prelaw education? Please focus on the education rather than the hefty perks that come along with the military academy. Btw, I’m not interested in the JAG Corps.