Advising for Law School

Are you interested in a career in law? If you’re thinking of continuing your legal education, you’re in the right place. Washington University PreLaw Advisors are a valuable resource to help guide you on your path to law school and can provide support every step of the way whether you’re a first-year student or a WashU alum. 

But how do I know I’m ready? There’s no one right answer to this question, so rest with this question over many months and even years. Sometimes students remark that they feel they want to go straight through from undergrad to law school for fear of losing momentum. If this is your story, then perhaps you should take a break. While extrinsic motivators and pressures will often influence your decisions regarding when to start applying to law school (or whether you should be applying in the first place!), do take the time to look inward. Generally speaking, the most attractive applicants and the strongest law students are mature, settled, financially stable, and hungry for a challenge. And plan to meet with a WashU PreLaw Advisor to talk.

Click around to access resources, and be sure to join our email list. And if you’re in need of further insight as to whether a career in law is right for you, reach out to a PreLaw Advisor to learn more.

Application Timeline

There are many ways to approach the work of applying, but here’s a suggested timeline based on the advice that you only take the LSAT once (maybe twice…) and that you get your apps out no later than November:

Start working on your personal statement; review last year’s app requirements to get a sense of supplementary essays you may wish to or need to write; get your resume in order and meet with a prelaw advisor for review; contact your recommenders and remind them of your application timeline; register for the LSAT if you haven’t taken it already; plan to attend a Writing Center law school personal statement workshop (June or September).

Meet with a prelaw advisor to review data and develop your list of schools; finalize personal statement and work on supplementary essays; reach out to recommenders as needed; attend an LSAC Law School Forum, the WashU Law Fair, and individual schools’ virtual and in-person events; Clear up any credit-related issues (close unneeded credit accounts, pay off consumer debt, get your financial house in order); subscribe to LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service and submit all transcripts (if you’re still in school, wait until the fall semester has begun).

Take the LSAT if you haven’t already; meet with a prelaw advisor for a review written materials; submit any dean’s statements or certifications to at least two weeks in advance; complete and submit all of your applications ideally by mid-November.

Complete the FAFSA and any individual schools’ financial aid forms; as you’re able or interested, visit law schools you’ve been admitted to or are seriously considering; write Letters of Continued Interest (LOCIs) to schools at which you’ve been waitlisted; weigh competing financial packages.

Student Resources

From Washington University PreLaw Advisors

Access valuable tools like WashU's PreLaw Handbook and our Personal Statement Brainstorming worksheet.

Find Resources

For LSAT Prep

There are a number of great resources. Our students and alumni have had great success using Khan Academy, 7Sage, TestMasters, and Blueprint.

Find Resources

Tools for Researching Law Schools

Check out a collection of resources available to help you strategize where to apply.

Find Resources

WashU Student Organizations of Interest

There is no one “right” extracurricular experience to have as a prelaw student; browse our curated list of student organizations that tend to be of interest to prelaw students.

Find Resources

For Financial Aid, Grants and Scholarships

We know that law school is expensive. While the schools to which you are admitted will provide you a financial package, there are resources you can utilize to access funding opportunities and to more deeply understand the financial obligation you’ll commit to when you start law school.

Find Resources

PreLaw Handbook

This handbook is a step-by-step guide to preparing for and applying to law school. It is primarily for seniors and others who are applying to law school this year. It is also useful for juniors and younger students who are looking ahead toward the time they complete their applications.

View Handbook

Explore Your Options Each Year

For First-Year Students

You’re in luck: There’s nothing to worry about if you’re a first-year student who’s considering law school. Focus on your studies, enjoy yourself, and try to stay out of trouble. You may wish to challenge yourself a bit by taking a class that pushes you to read, write, research, and think critically, but there’s plenty of time. You also might want to start thinking about what to do during the summer before your sophomore year. You don’t need to be overly focused on building a resume, but perhaps you’d like to find a summer opportunity that’s at least tangentially related to the law.

For Sophomores

There’s still plenty of time to decide whether law school is the right choice. At this stage, if you’re thinking you might like to attend law school, look for ways to participate in activities that could put you in touch with the law. Internships, volunteer opportunities, or participation in student organizations can become great litmus tests to help you decide. And while any and every major and minor can be a great choice for a prelaw student, perhaps you’ll end up bringing one of those reading-, writing-, research-, and/or critical thinking-heavy disciplines on as a major or minor.

For Juniors

If you’re hoping to attend law school shortly after graduation, this is the year you’ll start setting things in motion. Get to know a few professors in a genuine in authentic way; these could be great options for the two letters of recommendation you’ll need to provide. This might also be a great time to deepen your relationship with a meaningful non-academic activity. Strong law school applicants don’t need to have the most massive resume, but meaningful experiences that keep you academically motivated and that bring you joy are always smart ideas. You could also start taking advantage of on-campus support like Writing Center statement-writing workshops or the assistance with resumes and job or internship searches provided by the Center for Career Engagement. You should also plan to attend Junior Jumpstart at the end of the academic year, or take advantage of virtual and asynchronous programming during the year and over the summer. And you’ll want to get the LSAT on your radar; starting your study during your junior year puts you on a smart timeline. Sometimes students share with us their plans to take the LSAT multiple times. There is absolutely nothing to gain from this strategy and you should not do this. Get yourself prepared by studying and then plan to take the LSAT just once when you’re ready. We say this with the caveat that you can certainly take it a second time, but only if you’ve significantly changed your approach to study (the LSAT will not change, so if you want your score to change then you must change).

For juniors planning on a gap year or gap years, perhaps you’ll focus on performing well academically and seeking out a job or an internship that builds your skills and stokes your interests. You may still wish to take the LSAT before you graduate, or you might decide to hold off. Heads up: alumni applicants report that it’s VERY tough to take on LSAT study while out in the working world, so unless you’re planning on more than a few gap years perhaps plan to take it while you’re still an undergraduate.

For Seniors

If you’re headed straight to law school and you didn’t take the LSAT your junior year, then you should plan to tackle it in the summer just before senior year starts or in the early fall once classes have started. This means dedicating time during the summer and/or early fall to studying. Ideally you’ll take the LSAT just once when you know you’re ready. And while law schools’ websites state that they’ll accept applications well into the second semester of your senior year, you will ideally get all of your apps no later than the end of November. That means you should connect with your letter-writers late summer/early fall so they have plenty of time to write glowing recs. If you’re holding off a year or more, use your senior year to the fullest by earning strong grades, having meaningful experiences, and strategizing how best to spend your gap year or years.

For Alumni

Perhaps you’ve always known you wanted to further your legal education. Perhaps not. Regardless of your background, as a WashU alum you have continuing access to prelaw advising.

Meet the PreLaw Advisors

Megan Peabody, PhD
Assistant Dean and PreLaw Coordinator, College of Arts & Sciences

Nicole Gore, JD
Associate Dean, Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards

Andy Harber, SPHR
Career Consultant, Center for Career Engagement

Paige LaRose, JD
Associate Dean, Director of Undergraduate Programs, Olin Business School

Susan Lowther, MA
Special Programs Coordinator, The Writing Center

Claire O'Brien, JD
Senior Director of Admissions and Lecturer in Law, WashULaw

Alison Smith, JD
Director, Career Center & Lawyering Practice Externship, WashULaw

Ahmar Ursani, MSW
Assistant Director, Career Development, Center for Career Engagement 

A judge's gavel

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I major in if I'm planning on law school?

Anything! There is no required course of study at the undergraduate level for law school. When you settle on a major, choose something that really interests you, and do it well. Many law school applicants have majors in political science, English, philosophy, economics and history, but law schools also welcome those with backgrounds in science, engineering and business. A technical or scientific background can be very helpful for lawyers who specialize in environmental issues or patent law, for example.

What classes should I take outside my major?

Words are the lawyer's most important tool. The first year Writing 1 course provides a great opportunity to improve your writing. After you complete Writing 1, look for additional courses that require significant writing. You should also take some courses that train you to think analytically, such as math, economics, statistics, science and logic. Take political science, philosophy, economics and history courses to develop an understanding of the traditions behind and development of our legal system. Use co-curricular opportunities and classroom presentations to sharpen your oral communication skills. An accounting course somewhere along the way may also be helpful.

Should I study a foreign language or spend a year or a semester abroad?

Yes, if it interests you. The law, like everything else, deals increasingly with global concerns, and the ability to communicate in a language other than English can be very valuable. In addition, mastering another language can help you communicate more effectively in English. Understanding other cultures can also be extremely helpful for a lawyer, especially one whose practice has international dimensions. Do not study abroad for resumé value, however, as it neither helps nor hurts your law school application

Should I do an internship?

Well-chosen internships can help you to learn about what kind of work environments you like, and whether law practice or other law-related work appeals to you. It's just as important to define what you don't like as it is to determine what you do like. Investigate internship possibilities at the Career Center. Look for something the summer after your first year, or during the second or third academic year.

How important is my GPA?

Law schools give great weight to the GPA as an indicator of likely success in law school, so you should plan to get off to a good start academically. Develop a good foundation during your first year for academic success in all four years. Go to class, work hard to understand the material, and take advantage of the many opportunities offered at Washington University to sharpen your study skills and test-taking skills.

How important is the LSAT? When do I take it?

The LSAT score is also very important to law school admissions officers. You should take the LSAT during the summer after your junior year or in the fall of your senior year if you plan to go directly on to law school from college. It is important to prepare carefully for the test. You can begin to lay a foundation now: in your early college years, be sure to take a variety of courses that will strengthen your reading comprehension, analytical thinking and logical reasoning skills.

Will I need letters of recommendation? What can I do now to lay the groundwork?

Yes, you will need at least two recommendation letters, preferably from faculty members, to submit with law school applications. The most effective letters are those that address in some detail your intellectual capacity and your writing ability. Begin thinking now about which professors might be able to write effective letters on your behalf, and let them get to know you. Participate in class. Use office hours to discuss any material you don't understand fully. Take a second class from a faculty member from whom you learned a great deal.

What if I want to work a few years before going on to law school?

Only about 50% of the first year students in most law schools entered directly from college. Working for a year or more before beginning law study can help you decide if law school is really right for you. You will also gain maturity and experience that may make you a more focused and successful law student.