First Year Students

Considering law school? We are excited to support you on your journey! We serve students from all majors with any level of interest in law.

First-year students are able to make 1:1 appointments with CPLA starting their second semester on campus. There are NO coursework prerequisites for law school. Take what interests you, find a major you’ll really enjoy, and work closely with your academic/major advisor(s) to ensure you’re making degree progress/getting involved and connected more broadly both on and off-campus.

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Each fall, CPLA hosts a Pre-Law Orientation Workshop specifically designed to support you to make the most of your first year, better understand important campus resources beyond CPLA, and clarify the big questions often on first-year students’ minds about preparing to apply to law school. These workshops are your starting point for working with CPLA!

1. Explore Majors

At UW-Madison, there is neither a pre-law major nor a pre-law track. Why not? Because your classes in law school will teach you what you need to know to practice law. According to the American Bar Association, “The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education.” You should devote your undergraduate years to developing a broad base of knowledge. Take advantage of this freedom and major in something that you will truly enjoy studying. Declare any major you want but make every effort to do well academically in whatever you choose.

Want to meet with someone to discuss your options? Cross-College Advising Service meets with students from all schools and colleges who are exploring majors, and the Career Exploration Center (CEC) meets with students from all schools and colleges who are exploring career options. The CEC staff is specifically trained to help you weigh multiple career options! Click here for how to make an appointment with the CEC.

2. Consider Skill-Based Coursework

There are no specific classes that you need to take before applying to law school. However, the American Bar Association (ABA) does recommend using undergraduate coursework in combination with extracurricular experiences to acquire certain skills and knowledge that can help prepare you for law school.

For more information, visit our Majors & Coursework page.

3. Get Involved

One of the benefits of attending such a large university is the opportunity to involve yourself in any one of the 800+ student organizations and/or hundreds of local volunteering opportunities. Law schools prefer students to demonstrate involvement in their communities and to take on leadership roles in those communities to the greatest extent possible. Such involvement tends to indicate that you will be an active participant in your law school community and the community in which you will practice. Academic involvement, including research with professors through the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, is another valuable form of involvement.

4. Confirm an Interest in Law

You do not need to be 100% sure about your interest in the law for quite some time, but you should use your early years in college to investigate the profession of law further and to confirm your continued interest. Consider joining a pre-law student organization, taking a law-related class, attending pre-law events on campus, and talking to or shadowing attorneys. Consider attending pre-law events on campus, panel discussions, or reaching out to your personal network to connect with attorneys.

New Networking Resource: Career Conversations Module from Successworks

Career Conversations is a non-credit Canvas module that takes about 30 minutes to complete and will help you learn more about the value of networking. We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of finding people to network with – Successworks Career Services has identified UW alumni who are ready to have one-on-one conversations with students like you about all things careers. You can filter the list to show folks who are working in “Government, Policy, International Affairs, and Law” to find folks in law related careers.  This would be a good resource to find mentors, folks to do job shadowing with, and folks to do informational interviews with to find out more about their jobs.

5. Connect with the Center for Pre-Law

Schedule an appointment with one of our professional advisors, or browse the rest of our website for helpful information and to find events.

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