Path to Professionalism

When people think of law or med school, common responses to "What undergraduate degree is best?" are prelaw and the sciences, but that's not always the case.

Law School

Prelaw is one of the most widely-held myths about it being the ideal undergraduate degree for entry into law school. At first glance, it makes sense: the name of the grads school is contained within the name of the program, making it seem as though it puts it aces ahead of all other programs. But one of the biggest surprises is that at many colleges, prelaw isn't even a program.

Some universities do offer prelaw, but as the general name for a program the way "science" doesn't necessarily mean biochemistry or genetics. Instead, students tailor their degree to what they want, and take classes that meet the degree requirements. For example, students at Boston University can take prelaw through the College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Management, but the school's site says that students will "have the freedom to concentrate on a subject area that truly excites [them]".

The more common path to law school, however, is to just get a four-year degree in what you're good at. At the law school level, the best minds are competing against the brightest, and marks matter. Imagine two students, one who has graduated with a B average in prelaw from a prestigious university, and another who got all A's in visual arts. As long as the latter student showed he or she is able to think critically, write and communicate well, and has excellent research skills, that A average will carry far more weight.

Med School

The path to med school isn't quite as loose and flexible as the one to law school, as students need to be able to show they have an understanding of the sciences to do so at the graduate level. More schools offer premed programs than they do prelaw, as a degree in the former encompasses all the core sciences that act as a foundation for more intensive studies.

However, this doesn't mean that premed is the only road to Rome, as med schools do like to see variety and diversity. As long as you take enough math, biology, chemistry and physics to prepare you for the MCAT, you can major in anything you want. Med schools are looking to diversify their student body, and so programs like the humanities and arts are now being increasingly favored.

However, marks are still the most important criterion. If you don't have a solid 4.0 GPA, then your chances of getting into med school decrease drastically. Med school is one of the toughest programs to get into anywhere, with acceptance rates hovering around the 4% at Harvard and 6.5% at Yale. Students who successfully get into med school do so because they not only have top marks in a diverse program, but have also focused on fleshing out their CV with volunteer experience.

So, while law school and med school remain tough to get into, in a sense, they're more open than ever before. Take what interests you, as you'll be more motivated to ace your classes, increasing your chances to get into grad school.

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