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Home » Law › General Guide for Freshmen & Sophomores

Overview of Prelaw for Freshman & Sophomore Years

(The following general information is presented in brief. For a detailed discussion of undergraduate preparation for law school, see Preparation for the Study of Law.) Suggested readings referred to below may be found at Prelaw Publications.

Investigate pre-law resources

A good place to start is IUB's Health Professions and Prelaw Center (HPPLC) in Maxwell Hall 010. Read about all the services available to IU Prelaw Students at HPPLC.  Sign up for HPPLC's prelaw email listserve by clicking here. The prelaw list informs you of upcoming prelaw events, programs, LSAT and law school admission workshops, and visits to IU by admission officials from around the country.

To find your appropriate advisor and schedule an appointment click HERE.

Stretch yourself academically 

Take a variety of classes that require you to read, write, research and analyze. Read [PDF File] Law School Admissions—Questions and Answers for Freshmen and Sophomores, [PDF File] The Prelaw Curriculum, and [PDF File] Expert Advice on Undergraduate Preparation for Law School.

Choose the "right" major:

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Despite what many people believe, your "major" is a relatively unimportant factor in law school admissions.  What they value is EXCELLENCE in whatever major you choose.  The "right" major for a pre-law student is ANY major that you love to study, one in which you can excel, and one that will give you another career or graduate study option if you change your mind about law school. At IUB and at most colleges around the country there is no "prelaw" major!  Literally any major can prepare you quite well for the study of law (including science, math, humanities, or social sciences), and law schools absolutely do NOT prefer one major above others.  You may have also head that law schools to not like "prelaw majors."  This is also not true.  Stereotypical "prelaw" majors are not preferred (because no major is preferred), but neither are they discouraged. 

In other words, do NOT choose a major because of how you think law schools will react to it. In addition, law schools look for diversity in their entering classes. That diversity includes diversity of undergraduate major. See [PDF File] Selecting a Major for Law School, and [PDF File] Law School Admissions—Questions and Answers for Freshmen and Sophomores.

 

Get to know professors, at least one per semester

You are going to need letters of recommendation (at least 2--more is better).  Visit all of your professors at least once.  But target at least one to get to know reasonably well.  Resolve to do well in class.  Sit near the front.  Come early and be prepared to participate in class discussions.  Go to office hours even if you don't have questions about the material. Prefer smaller classes to larger ones; consider repeating a professor with whom you've done well, and whose teaching style you enjoy.  When the time is right, ask for a letter of recommendation.

Get letters of recommendation

You will need at least two letters when you apply to law schools (if you plan on entering law school in the fall following your graduation from IU, you would normally submit applications in the fall of senior year). Junior year is often the optimal time to ask, but sophomore (and occasionally, but rarely, even freshman year) may not be too early, depending on the circumstances.  Whenever you are ready to ask for a letter, consider opening an OPTIONAL account with HPPLC's partner Interfolio.   To help you decide if it makes sense for you to use Interfolio, including a list of possible disadvantages as well as advantages, click HERE.   Read about more options in detail HERE.   

Note: at this early stage of your college career, there is no rush to get letters. It is ideal if you can obtain at least one letter (two is even better) by the end of junior year if possible.  While law schools prefer academic letters (from professors or AI's, whoever knows you best), employers, internship or volunteer supervisors, coaches, or anyone with whom you have a professional relationship may be appropriate as well, especially as . 

Consider getting involved in the community

Your first job as a freshman is to establish habits that allow you to excel academically.  A wide variety of activities and experiences are available at IUB, but don't over-extend yourself freshman year.  Activities are important for law school admissions, but they will not compensate for a low GPA.  Do plan on getting involved at least as a sophomore or junior.   As with choosing a major, seek out opportunities that interest you, not what you think law schools "want to see."  Law schools, as stated above, look for diversity of experiences. For example, many recommend that you step out of the "college comfort zone" and find opportunities that put you together with people who are "not like you". Read [PDF File] What Law Schools Look for in an Applicant, and [PDF File] Law-Related Volunteer Opportunities.

Investigate legal careers

Sign up for the prelaw email list to receive notice of prelaw events at IUB by clicking HERE. Visit the IUB and other law schools-ask for a tour and to sit in on classes. Talk to attorneys and consider scheduling informational interviews. Read about the profession. Click HERE for a reading list suggested by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

Self-assessment: know why you want to be a lawyer

a. Be specific - go beyond:  "I've wanted to be an attorney since high school/middle school/kindergarden" or "I want to help people and serve the community" or "my parents always said I like to argue."

b. If you don't intend on practicing law, determine whether alternative credentials might more efficiently help you accomplish your goals.

c. Call local attorneys and arrange to shadow them at work for a couple of hours.  Most are quite flattered and more than willing to help.  

d.  Visit the admissions offices of various law schools, including the one at IUB (call the admissions office at 812-855-4765).  They are happy to have prospective students, and will help you pick out classes to sit in on, give you a tour, and/or talk to you individual.

e.  Complete a Prelaw Self-Assessment Questionaire by clicking HERE.

Get a resume and keep it updated

If you need or would like professional assistance in setting up a resume, make an appointment with the Career Development Center. Know the difference between a job-search resume and the kind you send to law schools. See the HPPLC publication [PDF File] Resumes for Law School Applications.

Keep a mini-journal

The personal statement can be crucial to your success. Find out about it by reading HPPLC's webpages HERE, plus the HPPLC publications: [PDF File] Writing an Effective Personal Statement for Law School, and The [PDF File] Personal Statement.

As relevant experiences, events, and ideas take place, jot down notes about them for your possible use later.  Any event or experience that is meaningful to you personally, as well as academically or professionally, is potential raw material for this essay.  Pay particular attention to experiences that influence your decision to pursue a legal career.  To investigate the actual process for drafting this document, click here.

Avoid debt

Students with heavy debt loads (educational and credit card) may have more difficulty getting government and/or private loans for law school and may unintentionally limit their job options upon graduation from law school. For information about financial aid for law school, see HPPLC's "Financial Aid for Law School Basics" webpage, and, for details about specific loans that are available, repayment calculators, etc., see www.accessgroup.org.

Stay out of trouble

You'll have to disclose and explain any brushes with the law, including speeding tickets and even incidents that have been dismissed, expunged from your record, or subject to Pretrial Diversion--no exceptions!   While such incidents seldom have a negative impact on your chances for admission, clean records are best, as there is nothing to explain. Your Prelaw Advisor can help you with the explanatory statement.