Many paths can lead to law school and a law career. Lawyers practice in all aspects of society, and therefore students from a wide variety of backgrounds apply to and are successful in law school.
As a prospective law student, the most important thing you can do in your undergraduate years is to choose a course of study that engages and challenges you and that will help you to demonstrate to law schools that you are a serious-minded person who is capable of taking on the mental and academic discipline of law school.
It may also be helpful to keep in mind that law students and lawyers need to be able to think both analytically and creatively. If you find your academic interests tilt more to one side than the other, make a concerted effort to incorporate coursework and or experiential learning from the other area into your Oberlin education.
Refer to the American Bar Association's Statement page on Preparing for Law School for a general overview of what makes a strong law school candidate.
Choosing a Major
All majors at Oberlin are good choices for a pre-law student. Expertise in any subject area can be helpful in the legal profession because there are so many different types of lawyers. If you’re an environmental studies major, law schools may view you as a potential environmental lawyer. If you’re a theater major, law schools may see you as a future entertainment lawyer. The right major is one that is personally and academically compelling to you, and that you can use to showcase your best work.
The following majors are especially common among Oberlin students with a pre-law interest: economics, English, history, law and society, philosophy, and political science.
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) publishes a list of undergraduate majors who attend ABA approved law schools.
Courses Offered at Oberlin
Oberlin’s curriculum has a rich variety of courses that could be useful to a pre-law student. In fact, a lawyer could make the case that each Oberlin course, in the proper context, could be considered essential preparation for a particular student’s study of law. So, how do you choose?
Maximize your major
Study hard and don’t shy away from taking upper level courses in your major even if they don’t have an obvious connection to the law. Build connections with your faculty; you will need to approach them for recommendations later. Law schools want to see your academic commitment-- the transferability of your willingness to take on challenging upper level classes skills and the positive impressions you have made on your faculty will be more compelling to admissions committees than the transferability of general law related content you have taken across disciplines.
Have a balanced academic program
When looking for courses outside your major, think about bringing balance to your overall academic program. If you are a humanities major, make strategic choices about the natural science and social sciences courses you take; if you are a natural science major, make strategic choices about the social science and humanities courses you take, and so on.
Explore Oberlin’s courses
What follows is small sample of courses across Oberlin’s curriculum that would complement a pre-law course of study. Be sure to work with your academic advisor to make choices that are appropriate for your level and overall academic program. The pre-law advisor is also happy to help you identify pre-law related courses.
This list of courses is provided to generate ideas and conversation, it is not an exhaustive list and should not be considered a menu of pre-law offerings. Individual course numbers and titles are subject to change. Consult the course catalog for current course information.Departments listed in bold have an especially rich variety of law related course offerings.
This list of courses is provided to generate ideas and conversation, it is not an exhaustive list and should not be considered a menu of pre-law offerings. Individual course numbers and titles are subject to change. Consult the course catalog for current course information. Departments listed in bold have an especially rich variety of law related course offerings.
- AAST: AAST 132 - Introduction to African Studies: Patterns, Issues and Controversies; AAST 219 - Freedom Movements: Civil Rights and Black Power
- ANTH: ANTH 101 - Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; ANTH 278 - Human Rights, Universalism and Cultural Relativism
- ARTS: ARTS 319 - Cultural Heritage at Risk in Libya: a Working Archaeologist's Perspective; ARTS 466 - Cultural Property? Art, Heritage, Ownership
- BIOL: BIOL 047 - Biology of Infectious Diseases and their Global Impact
- CAST: CAST 232 - History of Race in American Cities and Suburbs; CAST 235 - Debating Citizenships
- CHEM: CHEM 051 - Chemistry and the Environment
- CINE: CINE 202 - Modern Latin American Cinema; CINE 306 - Global Women's Documentary
- CLAS: CLAS 111 - Greek and Roman Epic; CLAS 227 - Pirates of the Mediterranean
- CMPL: CMPL 200 - Introduction to Comparative Literature
- COGS: COGS 101 - Mind, Brain, and Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Sciences
- EAST: EAST 207 - Knight, Outlaw, Assassin: An Alternative Gateway to Chinese Culture
- ECON: ECON 101 - Principles of Economics
- ENVS: ENVS 101 - Environment and Society; ENVS 218 - Dissent; ENVS 222 - Environmental Issues Beyond Borders
- GEOL: GEOL 130 - Lessons from Life History
- GSFS: GSFS 306 - Gender and Migration
- HIST: HIST 227 - The History and Practice of Whiteness in the United States; HIST 251 - U.S. Foreign Policy
- JWST: JWST 100 - Introduction to Jewish Studies: Sacred Spaces and Promised Lands
- LAWS: LAWS 200 - Law and Society: An Overview
- LATN: LATN 101 - Elementary Latin
- PHIL: PHIL 122 - The Nature of Value; PHIL 200 - Deductive Logic; PHIL 201 - Reason and Argument
- POLT: POLT 119 - Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies; POLT 228 - US Foreign Policy Making; POLT 271 - Gender, Sexuality and the Law; POLT 309 - Justice
- PSYC: PSYC 207 - Memory; PSYC 218 - Social Psychology
- RELG: RELG 248 - Religion, Ethics, Environment; RELG 249 - Medical Ethics
- RHET: RHET 102 - Writing for College & Beyond
- SOCI: SOCI 112 - Introduction to Sociology: You're Not the Boss of You; SOCI 254 - Political Sociology
Additional Campus Opportunities
Studying away is an excellent way to challenge your assumptions and to see things you may have taken for granted from a new angle. This is especially useful in the study of law where it is important to be able to see issues from multiple sides and to be able to draw distinctions between similar sets of facts.
The Office of Study Away offers many opportunities for campus and off campus exploration. Visit the office and arrange to meet with a study away advisor.
Oberlin’s month-long Winter Term offers pre-law students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a law-related project. You might consider finding an internship in a law office, volunteering with a legal aid organization, doing in-depth research on a law-related topic, or joining a group project organized around an issue you care about.
Visit the Winter Term office at Oberlin to get a sense of the range of possibilities available during January.
Oberlin has a wonderful variety of student groups and organizations. It’s best to join one or two that connect strongly with your interests and where you might grow into a leadership position.
You do not need to confine yourself to law-related groups and organizations, but for those with that interest, the following list represents some of the currently active law-related groups. More are listed on the college’s Student Organizations website.
- Advocates for Reproductive Justice (ARJ)
- Animal Rights, Oberlin (OAR)
- Democrats, College (OC Dems)
- Effective Altruism
- Energy Justice, Students for (SEJ)
- Student Senate
- Undocumented Inclusion, Obies for (OUI)
Oberlin’s Bonner Center programs connect Oberlin students with schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. A sample of some of the community partners that might be especially interesting to pre-laws students are listed below.
When exploring community engagement opportunities, it is more important to choose something you feel passionate about than something that is “law-” related.
- The 49-9 Project
- Community Peace Builders
- El Centro
- Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Lorain County office
- Let’s Get Real, Inc.
- Oberlin Drama at Grafton
To learn other ways that you can serve the Oberlin community, visit the Bonner Center.
Career Exploration and Development (CED) staff are here to help you throughout your time at Oberlin. A professional career advisor can help you explore careers, research employment opportunities, network with alumni, and develop application materials.
Of special interest to pre-law students is the Law and Public Policy Career Community. Schedule an appointment on Handshake (Career Exploration and Development > Law & Public Policy Career Advising) to meet with a professional advisor.
Visit the Fellowships and Awards office to learn more about the process of applying for fellowships. Keep in mind that fellowship opportunities require advance planning.