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What courses should I take?

Law schools accept students from all majors, and there is not one course required for all prospective law students. Law schools do not expect you to have any substantive legal knowledge before you begin law school. 

This doesn’t mean that your courses don’t matter. Your transcripts tell your academic story to law schools so choose carefully. Select courses that help you build skills, challenge you and perhaps even put you outside of your comfort zone. You should review the skills required for success in law school and identify skills that are weaker than others or that are not already built into your major. Work with your academic adviser to find courses to help you strengthen those skills.

Here is a list of Penn State courses for pre-law to consider based on the ABA core skills, values, knowledge, and experience. This list is not a checklist of courses that you must take to prepare for law school nor is it a comprehensive list of all courses that could help strengthen a particular skill.

Other ways to strengthen your curriculum:

  • Learn to write and speak clearly and effectively. Choose courses that emphasize skills in argumentation, rhetoric, presentational speaking, forensics, and logical reasoning.
  • Achieve depth in one or more fields of knowledge. Do not choose diversity at the expense of depth.
  • Develop an understanding of the moral and ethical problems of our time. These topics are addressed in any number of courses in sociology, philosophy, political science, African and African American studies, women's studies, anthropology, science, technology and society, human development and family studies, etc.
  • Develop an appreciation of other cultures and times. Take advantage of diverse course topics at Penn State: comparative literature, history, medieval studies, political science, English literature, and foreign languages and literature. Don't be afraid to explore!
  • Develop a critical approach to the ways in which we gain and apply knowledge in the areas of literature, art, history, math, and the physical and biological sciences.
  • While undergraduate law courses may be useful in familiarizing you with the language of the law and some basic legal concepts, law school admission committees typically do not give preference to applicants who have taken such courses. The first year of law school provides training in the essentials such as case study methods, legal research, briefing a case, and outlining and analyzing facts, issues, arguments, and decisions, etc.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to participate in honors programs and internships.
  • Gain some familiarity with the basic concepts of economics, accounting, and government, and be sufficiently skilled in mathematics to comprehend statistical analysis.
  • Maintain a strong, competitive grade-point average.

Katherine E. Garren, J.D.
Pre-Law Adviser
Division of Undergraduate Studies
The Pennsylvania State University
101 Grange Building
University Park, PA 16802
Email: keg146@psu.edu

Phone: 814-865-7576
Fax: 814-863-8913
Hours: 8am - 5pm (Mon-Fri, Eastern Time)

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