Every year, I work with a number of students who, right off the bat, are bashing themselves:
“I didn’t major in PoliSci. I majored in Theater. We’ve got to do some damage control.”
“I was dumb–I didn’t think about the fact that I wanted to go to law school and majored in Photography in college.”
“Will the fact that I majored in Film affect my application negatively? It will, won’t it?”
Here’s the deal: Relax. Everything is going to be fine. This is what you need to do.
Your main strategy will be to focus your application on things that you may not have a lot of (depending on what kind of courses you took outside of your artsy major and, if applicable, artsy minor)–research-heavy courses that show you can handle the kind of work you’ll asked to do in law school. You’ll also have to spend some time explaining why you’re switching interests so radically (after all, while it’s fairly common to hear of lawyers turning away from law to pursue more creative endeavors, it is rarer to hear of a creative arts major veering sharply towards the law school path.
Take heart: Your artsy major and minor won’t bar you from getting into a good law school; in fact, if you play your cards right and frame your application correctly, it could actually work to your advantage. Remember, you’re actually bringing something to the table that is fairly unique–a major that admissions committees rarely see. However, as I mentioned above, you’re definitely going to have to show the admissions committees that you can actually handle the type of work that you’ll be asked to do in law school. Committee members will automatically wonder if you’ve got the chops for the high-level, intense academics required of law students. You can prove you’ve got what it takes in two ways:
- Highlight any research-heavy courses that you’ve got lurking around your transcript. The best kinds of courses will be in the social sciences and humanities, since they tend to be the most verbally-drive, and typically require a great deal of reading and writing. A good rule of thumb: If you had to write a lengthy research paper for the class (at least 15-20 pages long) and it involved spending considerable time in the library researching sources, then it falls into the research-heavy category you’re looking for.
- Have all of your recommenders focus on those same attributes that the research-heavy courses will: Your ability to handle heavy academic loads, willingness to learn, and academic adaptability. This will work best if you can get the profs from the courses in point number one to write you letters but you can also reach out to professors in your major and minor and ask them to focus on the things that law schools want to hear.
As I mentioned above, you’ll also have to spend some time explaining why you’re suddenly switching academic gears. AdComs may be wary of giving a spot to someone that could potentially not use the education at all, particularly when they could give it to someone that has demonstrated an affinity in the subject. Reasons such as “My father is an attorney,” or “I want to be academically challenged” will not, unfortunately, cut it for someone in your situation. Make sure to think long and hard about why exactly you’re pursuing this course of action, and spend some time writing a statement of purpose that really highlights it.
A high GPA and LSAT score combination will be paramount for you. In your case, it’s the LSAT that will carry the most weight. The LSAT is considered to be the predictor of academic performance during the first year of law school: If you do very well in it, and then combine it with solid letters of rec and a highlighted transcript like I mentioned above, it will go a long way to ameliorating the concerns of the AdComs.
Can you get into law school after majoring in [insert your arsty major here]? Absolutely. Just make sure to preemptively address the concerns of the AdComs, rock out the LSAT, and spend some time ensuring your recommenders sing your academic praises, and you’re well on your way.