The Pre-Law Program
Political Science is the preferred undergraduate major for anyone thinking of attending law school. There is no specific curriculum or course of study associated with pre-law - at IUPUI or at any other university in the United States - but in response to demand, we have a pre-law program designed to provide advice, to help you learn more about law school and the legal profession, and to offer courses you may find helpful.
We provide pre-law advising to any IUPUI student. Professor Erin Engels is available to help you with any questions you might have.
Our Frequently Asked Questions section should answer some of your basic questions. Please make an appointment with Professor Engels to discuss your individualized plan for law school.
We encourage students to sign up for our pre-law student listserv. Each semester we send a newsletter with updates, events and important information for students interested in law related careers. We also use this list to send important announcements about events and internships. To be added to the list, please send an email to Courtney Abshire.
The Political Science Department offers a Minor in Legal Studies. It is possible to major in political science and minor in legal studies. The minor includes a variety of courses on law and society from several IUPUI departments. Our undergraduate offerings in political science include courses on law and law-related topics, including Y211: Introduction to Law, Y304: Constitutional Law, Y305: Constitutional Rights and Liberties, and Y320: Judicial Politics, all of which can be counted toward a major or minor in political science. Other courses, such as Y103: Introduction to American Politics, Y213: Introduction to Public Policy, Y307: Indiana State Government and Politics, and Y380: Women and the Law, have components that you may find useful while attending law school.
Students interested in law school or careers in the legal field should consider joining the IUPUI Pre-Law Student Organization. For more information contact Professor Shana Stump.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR PRE-LAW STUDENTS
Is law practice like TV? What do attorneys do?
No, television does not provide an accurate picture of the average attorney work day. Most attorneys spend a great deal of time reading, writing and communicating with others. Very little time is actually spent litigating cases in a courtroom. Students should shadow attorneys to see what day to day law practice is really like.
What is the best undergraduate major?
The American Bar Association (ABA) does not recommend any specific undergraduate major. Law Schools are looking for applicants with a broad college education that is not vocational. Select your major based on interests and alternate career ambitions, and focus on courses that will develop skills for the LSAT and for law school success.
Political science is consistently the most popular major for law school applicants. Law school professors assume you are familiar with the structure and process of American government - including the differences between federal government and state or local government, the responsibilities of each branch of government, and the basic structure of the court system in the United States. Political science emphasizes important skills in reasoning, critical thinking, analysis and debate to prepare you for law school.
What classes should I take to prepare for law school?
Classes the emphasis the following skills are best:
- Critical reading.
- Writing, writing and more writing.
- Oral communication.
- Listening ability.
- Organization and time management.
- Service - Ethics.
- General Knowledge - history, math, politics, human behavior, international relations.
The classes associated with our Legal Studies Minor are designed to help you develop the skills necessary for law school success.
What is the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and what do I need to know about it?
Law School Admission Test - offered four times per year in February, June, September & December. The best time to take the test is in June following your Junior year. It is administered by the Law School Admission Council. Students must register for the Law School Data Assembly Service - database of application information.
The LSAT is a half day test which consists of timed sections covering Reading Comprehension, Analytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning and a Writing Sample which is not scored but is sent to the law schools. The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120-180.
Register early for the LSAT to get your preferred test location.
How do I prepare for the LSAT?
Begin your preparation 3-5 months before the test date. Create a study schedule and treat your test prep like a job. Commit to 10-15 hours of prep a week.
Here is a suggested study plan:
- Month 1: Diagnostic - study methodology. Take untimed practice tests or sections.
- Month 2: Review methodology. Complete timed sections.
- Month 3: Complete timed exams. Continue to review.
- Month 4 & 5: Complete full four and five section exams. Continue to review.
Take the actual LSAT after you have completed 10-15 full length, timed exams.
When taking practice tests, begin at 8:30 am to simulate the actual test. Be certain to set aside the full three hour block and time every second.
Always review practice exams. Take the test, let it sit and review and score it another day. The review should take up to three hours. Questions to ask: Why is this answer correct? Why is the wrong answer wrong? What pattern is revealed?
Study using old tests. There are over 70 old tests available and at least 40 full test commercially available that cover the current exam. Use the older exams first and then work up to the newer exams. Old tests are available from LSAC in packs of ten.
Use a strategy book as part of your study plan.
Some college courses that help develop skills needed for the LSAT:
- Elevated Readings Courses - academic journals, etc.
Some students decide to take a LSAT review course. Here is a list of courses and other study materials.
Can I retake the LSAT?
Yes, you may retake the LSAT three times in a two year cycle. But . . . . law schools receive all the test scores, some schools average your scores, large jumps in score are rare and highly scrutinized by LSAC, many students drop their score on subsequent tests, and a score change of 3-4 points should be accompanied by an application addendum explaining the increase (otherwise some schools worry about cheating on the test).
Advice: approach it as a one-time test and Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Retake the test only if the average of your last three practice test is 2-3 points higher than your actual score.
If you did not prepare adequately for the exam, retake it, but you must develop a study plan and stick with it.
If you prepared for 3-5 months and the LSAT score is within 2-3 points of the average of your last three practice tests, you will need to adjust your expectations for law school admission.
Does my GPA matter?
Yes! GPA is a key factor for law school admission. The LSAC will calculate your GPA using transcripts from every undergraduate institution you attended after high school. LSAC factors pluses and minuses into your LSAC GPA.
If you do have poor grades during your undergraduate career, it is best to submit and addendum with your law school application. Take ownership of the problems that contributed to the poor grades and point out the trend of improved grades.
Your undergraduate goal is to get the best GPA possible.
I did not do well in undergrad. Should I get a master’s degree and then apply to law school?
Probably not. Law schools must report undergraduate grades to the ABA. So, law schools look at your undergraduate grades more heavily than post baccalaureate grade.
I had some bad grades, but I replaced the grades, so the law school will never see the bad grades, right?
No. The LSAC calculates replaced grades by averaging the original grade and the replaced grade. For example, if the original grade of F was replaced with an A, LSAC will calculate your GPA using a grade of C for the class.
Every class counts - work hard!
How do I select where to apply?
Select schools which accept students with your GPA and LSAT scores. Consider specialty programs and areas of interest. Look at schools in the region you would like to live after law school. Review rankings if that is important to you. Always consider all the costs of attendance.
How do I apply for law school?
Law Schools use the LSAC to store your information. You must create a LSAC account and pay the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) fee to apply to law school. Law school applications are typically available in mid-September on CAS. Most law schools stop taking applications on March 1st but some schools regularly extend this deadline. Please check with the individual school.
Law schools use a rolling admission process. When they have admitted the desired number of students, the admission process is over. Apply well before the deadline.
What is included in the typical law school application?
- Transcripts from every college or university attended. You must print a transcript request form from your CAS account to deliver to the school. You cannot touch the transcripts for CAS. The school must send the transcripts to the CAS.
- Letters of Recommendation from at least two sources are typically required. Most law schools prefer academic sources. Get to know your professors now. Work on projects with the professor. Take multiple classes with several professors. This gives the professor more material to include in your letter. Give the professors plenty of notice about the letter. The letter of recommendation request must be sent from your CAS account (either print or email). The professor will must send the letter, along with the letter of recommendation form to LSAC. You cannot touch the letter and you should waive your right to review the letter.
- Personal Statements are probably the most difficult part of the application for students. Professor Engels is happy to help you once you have a draft statement. This website has helpful information on starting your statement.
- Addendum. If you have a low GPA or LSAT score, you may want to consider adding a short addendum to your application. Keep this information to the point. Professor Engels is available to help with your addendum.
How can I decide where to apply?
View the Official Guide to law school from LSAC. You can search for schools using GPA and LSAT scores, geographical area and other search criteria. Review 509 Disclosures at each law school. This information is required by the ABA and is available on every law school website. The information includes application rates, GPA range, LSAT range, scholarship information, cost and bar passage rates.
How do I pay for law school?
- Merit Based Scholarships - based on LSAT, GPA, Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation. Offered on a rolling basis by most law schools.
- Grants - need based scholarships. Many require a separate application.
- Financial Aid - complete a FFSA whether you need it or not. This is good for needs-based scholarships.
Important questions when comparing scholarships:
- Is it for one year or is it renewable?
- What are the renewal conditions? GPA, class rank, etc. Ask if scholarship students are all put in the same section. If so, the chance of renewing is more difficult.
- Is it transferable? Or, if I transfer does the scholarship convert to a loan?
- What are the conditions for keeping the scholarship?
- Will they match other offers?
- Will they negotiate?
Negotiating for Scholarships
- Know deadlines. Miss the deadline and you miss the scholarships.
- Some schools do not negotiate. Try to negotiate and they pull the original offer.
- Be respectful. Negotiating is an interview with a professional in the field you want to join.
- What is the tuition?
- How much are the fees?
- Calculate the cost of living in each location.
Now compare the offers and determine the best school for the least cost.
I was wait-listed at the school I wanted to attend. I will just complete a year at my second choice school and then transfer to my primary choice next year, right?
Not likely. Most schools have fewer than 4 spots open to transfer students each year. To transfer, you need to be in the top of your law school class. Scholarship assistance is not offered to transfer students.
Where can I find more information on applying to law school?
ABA Accredited Law Schools in Indiana:
- Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University - Indianapolis.
- Maurer School of Law at Indiana University - Bloomington.
- University of Notre Dame Law School.
- Valparaiso University School of Law.
- Law School Admission Council, for information on the LSAT and law school applications.
- American Bar Association, which has a page on preparing for law school.
- ABA CLEO program for minority, low income and disadvantaged students.
- LSAC Official Guide to US Law Schools.
Pre-law advice in a nutshell:
- Pick a major you enjoy.
- Earn the highest GPA possible.
- Get the highest LSAT score possible.
- Meet with the Pre law advisor.