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8 tips every pre-law student needs to know

Originally published on Haley Marie Blog in March 2017, this post quickly went viral on Pinterest, amassing over 17,000 page views in one year.

Hello, beautiful! One thing you might not know about me that I haven't shared on the blog before is, surprise - I'm actually a pre-law student!

Here at BU, pre-law isn't a major or a track, but rather an advising program that can be combined with really any major (or majors, or major and minors) you want. Sure, there are some majors that are better at preparing you for law school than others - after all, to practice law you need to have a certain set of skills - but according to my advisor, there's really no one-size-fits-all major that's perfect for getting into a prestigious law school.

Law school isn't only for students who want to become lawyers, either. I knew law school was right for me early in my college career (my lifetime obsession with Legally Blonde may have been the first clue), but I also knew I didn't want to be a lawyer. Law school is also great for people like me who want a legal background so they can do other related work - for example, I want to work in Congress as a legislative aide! Granted, most people with a J.D. end up practicing law at some point in their lives - but that doesn't limit your options for what you can do with a law degree.

Honestly, deciding you want to go to law school is the easy part. The hard part is everything that comes after, from choosing courses to studying for the LSATs to financing your legal education.Thankfully, there's many ways to prepare for law school before the occasion arrives - that's why pre-law programs exist in the first place!

So, whether you're new to the pre-law program at your school or have always known you wanted to go to law school, these need-to-know tips will tell you exactly what you need to know as you're heading down the pre-law path.

1. You should meet with an advisor ASAP.

The earlier you can meet with an advisor and start preparing for law school, the better. You can read all the articles and blog posts you want, but nothing will give you more insight than meeting with a professional at your school. Here at BU, the recommendation is to meet with a pre-law advisor at least once a semester. However, if you know you want to go to law school, you can meet with one as often as you like to discuss your questions and preparations for the future! Meeting with a prelaw advisor will really help you establish a timeline for your law school success and stay on top of all those pressing deadlines. Plus, at a big school like BU with hundreds of advisors, it really helps to have a go-to person for all your academic needs!

2. Get involved in any way you can.

Simply getting involved on or off-campus throughout your undergrad experience can really boost your resume - and your chances of getting into a good law school! Even if your extracurricular resume doesn't look like that of the "typical" law student, there's value in simply stepping outside your comfort zone, dedicating yourself to an organization and getting involved in the college community. For example, I worried my sorority might make me seem unprofessional, but in reality, getting involved with philanthropic and leadership roles is a great way to make yourself stand out to a law school admissions board! That being said, nothing will better prepare you for a career in law than joining a pre-law organization on-campus. These organizations often host events and speakers that will teach you wonders about what a career in law is really like. Plus, at my school at least, the events only happen a few times throughout the semester, so getting involved isn't a huge time commitment! 

3. The "rules" are constantly changing.

You might have heard that to go to a reputable law school, you need a certain major, skill set or score on your LSATs. However, as my advisor recently told me, the legal profession is continually evolving. By the time this generation of freshmen graduate college, many things about it will have already changed. Nowadays, you can major in almost anything and still get accepted to a reputable law school with the right personal statement and credentials. So, don't worry about following the advice your mom/dad/grandparents/high school guidance counselor gave you way-back-when, because it probably won't be relevant in a few years anyways. Just stick to the basics: getting good grades, staying involved and meeting all those deadlines. As far as seeking advice, your advisor is the best person to talk to, as he or she is the most familiar with law schools' evolving needs.

4. Most students take time off before law school.

Between the high costs associated with law school and the rigorous demands of the application process, most students aren't eager to dive straight into law school after college. Nowadays, most college grads take at least a year off before applying to law school. Personally, I was relieved when my advisor told me this, because I had planned on taking a year off to work in journalism and wanted to make sure schools wouldn't penalize me for it. Rest assured, as long as you apply within a few years of graduation, no law school will look down upon you for taking time off to offset the costs and truly examine your decision to attend. In fact, taking time off to enter the workforce might even give you an advantage, as many law schools are looking for students with diverse academic and professional backgrounds.

5. Your credit score matters.

While focusing on your academics is probably the most important thing any pre-law student could do to prepare for law school, it's also important to consider your financial situation, too. In college, you probably got by with some help from Mom and Dad - but chances are that in grad school, you'll be shouldering most of the responsibility for financing your legal education yourself. Regardless, you'll probably need to take out loans either way - and banks just don't hand out loans without credit. Whether or not you pay your bills on time, if you don't have a strong history of good credit to show for it, you could easily run into difficulties down the line when you're planning for law school. Luckily, there's many ways to establish a good credit history while you're still in college! For example, check out this post from Creative Savings Blog for five great ways to build credit.

6. Develop relationships with professors early on.

You've probably heard countless times how important it is for all students, regardless of what their majors or plans after college are, to develop close relationships with at least a couple of their professors. For pre-law students, this is especially important, because those professors are going to be the people you approach for letters of recommendation somewhere down the line. However, when many of your classes are huge lectures where the professor barely knows your name, developing those relationships can be a challenge. One of the best ways to develop good relationships with your professors is, you guessed it, office hours! Going to your professors' office hours will help them remember your face and get to know you outside of class. Plus, the sheer fact that you took the initiative to go shows you are dedicated to your studies and will paint you in a positive light. 

7. Prelaw should be a plan - not a major.

According to this law firm's blog, Prelaw majors consistently score lower on the LSAT and have narrower job prospects after graduation - which makes sense. After all, if all you've studied is law for the past four years of your life, you're not displaying the range of reading, writing and critical thinking skills you need to succeed on the LSAT and in life! That's why at BU, "prelaw" is actually an advising program, not a major or set track of coursework. As long as you major in something that stimulates your brain, genuinely interests you and prepares you for a lifetime of writing and reasoning, law schools won't look down on you for not having a certain major. (However, if you're really curious, here are the top 12 majors that score highest on the LSAT! Remember, these are just statistics, not hard rules.) 

8. Find mentors early in your college career.

The hands-down best way to prepare yourself for law school, in my opinion, is to talk to people who have already been there! Finding a mentor early in your college career is a great way to learn what law school is actually like. Joining organizations on campus in areas of interest to you will help you connect with upperclassmen who are getting ready to go to law school, while reaching out to local firms and applying for internships will help you make connections in the field. Believe it or not, my sorority has been a great resource in this area - already, I've connected with an IR major who's planning to take a year off and apply to law school, just like I am!

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