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Author Topic: History Undergrad Major...and more  (Read 8658 times)

jayknoesbest

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2008, 11:20:40 PM »
Okay, I'll bite here as well.

I think that what everyone is trying to get at here is that planning your college experience around goals that are so far down the line is unwise for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that you might change your mind before you get out of school.

It's great that you have strong interests right now, but probably the most beneficial thing in terms of your future to do with them is to try and dip your toe into those fields.  Instead of thinking about how you can get to a fancy law school or become a politician, spend college interning at a law firm, or better, for a political campaign.  There are SOOO many jobs in politics that do not require a law degree, and not every politician has one, either.  Not only will you not be locked into a career path already if you find you don't like these fields, but this will also help build your resume, which will be useful whether you apply to law school or decide to go into another field.

I don't know how other schools work, since I went to a small liberal arts school, but trust me -- you don't need to definitively declare a major as a freshman.  And in terms of recommendations/relationships with professors, it's much better to find professors who are known among the student body for being "good" professors than to take classes with profs who are famous.  A great rec from someone that an adcomm has never heard of is far, far better than a mediocre one from someone famous.

That makes sense to me, and I understand where you guys were going with that now that you put it into perspective. I guess I can sometimes put myself into holes in situations like these when I plan for the future; I have a bad habit of thinking to far ahead and not just allowing things to happen. I guess the main thing I'm concerned with is really split between two things: One being that I want to have a plan if I end up staying away from law and two being that if I end up going into law, I want to do something I enjoy which might consist of being something other than just another lawyer completely in it for the money/flair/etc. I want to do something different I suppose rather than just being another old corporate lawyer which is what I hear the most about where I'm from.

BadAdviceTagger

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2008, 02:57:44 AM »
First of all, you can disregard a lot of these comments because I can tell that you're smart and ambitious.  I was sitting in your place only a few years ago, and, God willing, I'll be attending one of those shiny "top" law schools in the fall.  (Hint: Hyde Park.)  When I was your age, I had a feeling that a legal career would be right for me.  Was my gut feeling correct?  Possibly not.  But I'm going with my intuition and my perception of my aptitudes.

I've tried to be a poet, a guitarist, a music critic, and, now, I want to be a top-flight clerk, helping an important judge draft opinions.  Will it happen?  I hope so, but possibly (even probably) not.  The important thing, however, is that you have a dream, which you can always modify in a way commensurate with the realities of your future situation.  Don't let anyone tell you that it's too early to start planning, because the early-planners are usually the most ready to capitalize on the system.  While all of your friends will be disregarding that minor "F" they received in a PolSci class they forgot to drop, you'll know that such a mark will be a scarlet letter on any LS applications, jeopardizing your acceptance to a top school.  (LSAC averages all of your grades, including community college courses, which means that two "F"s from Harper could sink your application.)

Now, to answer your questions:

1) If you're set on law school, major in a subject which will produce the highest GPA and reduce your debt load as much as possible.  The double major sounds frivolous unless you're set on Academia.  Even in the real world, few employers will care about whether you studied Religion in addition to, say, Mathematics.  They'll judge your interview and your pedigree -- regardless of GPA in some cases.  Since you're living in, presumably, Chicago, it's best to go state: UIC or Urbana-Champaign will open a lot of local doors without the hefty price tag of the expensive private schools.  I have a friend at the latter school who loves it.

FYI, I studied a discipline which I deeply loved, and my GPA reflected that passion.

2) Start thinking about the LSAT.  I can tell that you're done some preliminary research since you've mentioned that crucible of entrance tests, but delve deeper into the exam.  Take a diagnostic.  Look at the sections and ask yourself whether you can excel at them, or whether you're willing to put forth the effort to do so.  Above all, Law Schools look at your GPA and LSAT.  

That's it.  I'm not kidding.  A high GPA and a high LSAT score will ensure an acceptance at a top school.  A 3.8 GPA from UIC and a 172 on the LSAT will probably send you to Georgetown with a scholarship.  Law School admissions is mostly a numbers-game.

Good luck, and feel free to send me a private message if you have any questions.
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Astro

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2008, 04:28:45 AM »
Hi. I am a junior in high school and have been looking around the internet for some college advice for law-school bound students, and I came across these message boards. I'm hoping to get some questions answered so here goes nothing...

I currently plan on going into law and practicing for a certain amount of time before possibly going into politics. With this being the case, my question is which undergraduate major would be the best idea for me? I assume political science, but I guess you never know.

Furthermore, what is the advice on double-majoring while getting an undergraduate degree with the plan to go into law school? I ask this because I have a keen interest in history (primarily U.S.) as well as politics, and if the legal field did not work out I would highly consider going into teaching at the high school level and history would be the most likely course. I have a feeling you guys are going to suggest not double majoring so that I have time to study for the LSAT, and if that's the case, then it brings me to my next question...

In my situation, would you suggest majoring in history or political science? I am as sure as I can be (at this point, anyway) that I want to go into politics at some point. Also, if not a double major what would your opinion be on major/minor combo? Same feeling about the time-constraint on this one?...

I am very highly ranked in an extremely competitive and deep high school class but will probably not get as high of a score on the ACT to get into one of the upper-tier undergraduate schools. Right now my considerations are  DePaul (for a more moderate workload and better chance of finishing high on the GPA and class rank scale) and Loyola Chicago (which, if I'm not mistaken, has a highly acclaimed history program correct?).

I have hopes of getting into a top-tier law school which is why I want to ensure that I will do well in my four-year school. By top-tier I was thinking along the lines of Colombia, Georgetown, and possibly some lower-tier ivy league schools as my "dream." That is my goal, although I would settle for some more realistic possibilities as well for law school.

Anyways, now that you know my life plan, I'm interested to see some of the answers to my question, and thanks for reading this post (sorry for the length).

Major in History, minor in Philosophy with a focus on political philosophers.

You'll enjoy yourself, and you won't waste time with a program that is usually (though not always) superficial and antiquated (I'm talking about PoliSci).  You'll get better depth this way.
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officeguy

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2008, 12:54:36 PM »
Major in w/e you'll make the best grades at, period. That will open the most opportunities, history and poli sci are fine, but they will not set you apart. American Studies seems like it would be a good major for you. But you def should be worrying about doing well on the ACT/SAT so you can get a scholly somewhere and graduate with little to no debt.
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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2008, 10:05:14 AM »
I have a history major, got a 3.8 in my degree, focused on military history.  It is worthless, and now that I may not go to law school I have no idea what it will hold for me. Theres no jobs for history teachers out there, I assure you...I was told by several teachers when I was looking for a job that I should look into special education.  Blech.  I'd say do a hard science, computer stuff, or economics (which is basically what history comes down to anyways).

I say this assuming you have no interest in the majors above

futurelawyergal

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2008, 09:06:12 PM »
I started out as poli sci but switched to history after a year. I decided on history over poli sci because of the testing styles. History has more out of class long essays generally graded by professors. Poli Sci had annoying short answer tests graded by T.A.'s. I'm not saying every college is like that but I would be flexible in terms of your chosen major. I also prefer history as it has a bit more flexibility and I can take a variety of courses. I would take a history and poli sci class your first semester and then go from there. You may find that you enjoy other courses as well. I personally loved my English and Sociology courses.

PSUDSL08

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2008, 12:12:01 PM »
Hi. I am a junior in high school and have been looking around the internet for some college advice for law-school bound students, and I came across these message boards. I'm hoping to get some questions answered so here goes nothing...

I currently plan on going into law and practicing for a certain amount of time before possibly going into politics. With this being the case, my question is which undergraduate major would be the best idea for me? I assume political science, but I guess you never know.

Furthermore, what is the advice on double-majoring while getting an undergraduate degree with the plan to go into law school? I ask this because I have a keen interest in history (primarily U.S.) as well as politics, and if the legal field did not work out I would highly consider going into teaching at the high school level and history would be the most likely course. I have a feeling you guys are going to suggest not double majoring so that I have time to study for the LSAT, and if that's the case, then it brings me to my next question...

In my situation, would you suggest majoring in history or political science? I am as sure as I can be (at this point, anyway) that I want to go into politics at some point. Also, if not a double major what would your opinion be on major/minor combo? Same feeling about the time-constraint on this one?...

I am very highly ranked in an extremely competitive and deep high school class but will probably not get as high of a score on the ACT to get into one of the upper-tier undergraduate schools. Right now my considerations are  DePaul (for a more moderate workload and better chance of finishing high on the GPA and class rank scale) and Loyola Chicago (which, if I'm not mistaken, has a highly acclaimed history program correct?).

I have hopes of getting into a top-tier law school which is why I want to ensure that I will do well in my four-year school. By top-tier I was thinking along the lines of Colombia, Georgetown, and possibly some lower-tier ivy league schools as my "dream." That is my goal, although I would settle for some more realistic possibilities as well for law school.

Anyways, now that you know my life plan, I'm interested to see some of the answers to my question, and thanks for reading this post (sorry for the length).

As for the person who suggested that it's sad that you have your "political career path" planned out this far ahead, I think the exact opposite. I think it's encouraging that you have a plan for yourself at this stage. However, I would caution you on having anything set in stone at this point. Life changes, and what may seem like the most prudent course of action now might not be the case moving forward. Just keep an open mind.

That being said, I think you should focus on your goal of becoming a high school history teacher before you consider law school at this stage. I think majoring in either political science or history would be sufficient if you're looking to become a history teacher. My only concern for you in obtaining a double major might be the expense if for some reason you have to take summer classes or go to school for an extra semester to complete both majors. I think a more viable option would be to major in one and pursue a minor in the other. If you choose to major in poli-sci and minor in history, due to the overlap in courses between both programs, you might only need to take a couple extra history courses to complete the minor vs. a slew of extra history courses to finish the double major.

Also, you may want to consider taking a year off after undergrad rather than trying to take the LSAT while in undergrad. I'd advise anyone who has a non-legal career of interest to explore their interest in that career before making the time/financial commitment that law school requires. You have nothing to lose by taking some time off, getting your teaching certification, and trying out that career path. If you end up loving your job, and dont want to leave it, then law school is unnecessary. If you're still itching to go to law school, you'll have plenty of time to prepare for the LSAT while working (most HS teachers are done by 2-2:30PM each day), and could even do a part-time JD program while continuing to teach. From personal experience, taking a year off between undergrad and law school was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I realized that corporate life was not for me, and this made my desire to attend law school even stronger.

Live Free or Die

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2008, 11:33:43 PM »
Hi. I am a junior in high school and have been looking around the internet for some college advice for law-school bound students, and I came across these message boards. I'm hoping to get some questions answered so here goes nothing...

I currently plan on going into law and practicing for a certain amount of time before possibly going into politics. With this being the case, my question is which undergraduate major would be the best idea for me? I assume political science, but I guess you never know.

Furthermore, what is the advice on double-majoring while getting an undergraduate degree with the plan to go into law school? I ask this because I have a keen interest in history (primarily U.S.) as well as politics, and if the legal field did not work out I would highly consider going into teaching at the high school level and history would be the most likely course. I have a feeling you guys are going to suggest not double majoring so that I have time to study for the LSAT, and if that's the case, then it brings me to my next question...

In my situation, would you suggest majoring in history or political science? I am as sure as I can be (at this point, anyway) that I want to go into politics at some point. Also, if not a double major what would your opinion be on major/minor combo? Same feeling about the time-constraint on this one?...

I am very highly ranked in an extremely competitive and deep high school class but will probably not get as high of a score on the ACT to get into one of the upper-tier undergraduate schools. Right now my considerations are  DePaul (for a more moderate workload and better chance of finishing high on the GPA and class rank scale) and Loyola Chicago (which, if I'm not mistaken, has a highly acclaimed history program correct?).

I have hopes of getting into a top-tier law school which is why I want to ensure that I will do well in my four-year school. By top-tier I was thinking along the lines of Colombia, Georgetown, and possibly some lower-tier ivy league schools as my "dream." That is my goal, although I would settle for some more realistic possibilities as well for law school.

Anyways, now that you know my life plan, I'm interested to see some of the answers to my question, and thanks for reading this post (sorry for the length).

I'm a senior in college now. I'd say major in whatever you want to, and if that's two majors, then do two majors. I majored in math and economics and I'm doing great at admissions so far. Double majoring doesn't necessarily mean you need to take more classes than you otherwise would, it just means that on average those classes will be a bit harder. If you like what you are studying, though, then it's not a big deal. I emphasize again that you should major in what you like because your plans may change. I went from wanting to be a chemist to musician to math prof to economist to lawyer, and now I'm pretty set on law.

Your question stuck out to me because my dad majored in history at Notre Dame and then got his JD and ended up teaching high school history for thirty years.

LALawyer

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Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2009, 04:16:33 PM »
Hello:

I recently spoke on a panel to high school students .... there were a number of very highly successful individuals from different disciplines, not just law.
A lot of themes, ideas shared at that program are very similar to the suggestions of UPGRADE and CABRA . . .There is wonderful advice here.

It's great that while you are in high school you are looking ahead to your future.  Still, one thing I want to impress on you is that there is so much opportunity and time for you still to work your way to where you want to be.  Goodness, for many of us, being in the work force can span more than 40 years!  And switching careers is common;  I recall reading somewhere that most switch careers more than three times in their lives.  Most of my classmates have moved from firm to firm, some have left the law.  I've stayed in the same area for approximately 18 years, which is rare I know.  The thing is, what you decide to do now is not set in stone.  You can adjust, or totally change the direction you are going.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Most of us didn't start at the top;  we had to claw and fight our way there! Many of us weren't even sure of where we wanted to go, and who we were -- we had to experiment and try to figure that out.

The undergraduate majors of those I went to law school with were from every discipline. There may have been a handful more English majors. I agree with what the others have said about finding an area you are truly interested in;  simply because you are more likely to do better and get good grades. You'll need good grades to get into the better schools. The harsh reality is that going to a good university for your undergraduate work, as well as an upper-tier law school opens many more doors for you than going to lesser known schools.  I originally went to a law school back east which was a fine school, but the law firm that I clerked for my second summer of law school suggested that I transfer to a more prestigious law school in the area. I did transfer to the upper-tier law school.  I believe the name of the school was a big factor in my hiring at the next firm where I applied (it wasn't my grades!).  I teach at a small progressive law school now part-time; the same school that Mayor of LA Antonio Villaragiosa went to.  My students have soul - they want to get into the law for the right reasons, they love the law, and are a joy to teach.  Still, I see them struggling to get that first job, and work in a big law firm is not a realistic possibility for them.  Law school is extremely difficult no matter where you go, as well as landing that first law job - you might as well try to go to one that will give you more options in the future.

If your grades aren't very good now, go to a city college where tuition is very low and you can save money.  You'll need to KICK BUTT there, and then transfer to a good school.  Two of my good friends went to Santa Monica City College, and then transferred to UC Berkely and UC Davis. One left law, was a journalist for the LA Times for a bit and is now working for National Public Radio.

Ah, which leads me to another important point touched on by the others: An ability to write is important. Do well in your English and composition classes.  You'll need to write many essays - to get into law school, for law school exams, and the bar examination.

Grades and LSAT are the primary factors the law schools consider, true.  BUT they aren't the only considerations. THANK GOODNESS! My grades and LSAT score were far from impressive, but I was able to distinguish myself by the extracurricular activities I was involved in. You may want to consider school government, school newspaper, Forensics / debate team, volunteer work. 

My acceptance letter into law school mentioned something about the diversity of my experience.  I had interned at several businesses while I was in college, and had a glowing letter of recommendation from a prior boss.  Later in law school I was an intern for several non-profits as well as for a Federal judge. I had a substantial amount of experience that other recent law school graduates didn't have.  I still involve myself in extra curricular activities, causes that I am passionate about.  I've not only found my involvement satisfying in these organizations, but I've met a number of wonderful people who have gone out of their way to assist me in my own career. Through these contacts I have been asked to speak to many groups, and write for different publications. More importantly, I've made many life long friends.


Mentorship is important
.  I agree with what has been said about getting to know your professors so that you will feel comfortable asking for a reference letter from them. Finding a mentor, especially one who is doing what you want to do would be great. My own mentors have had a tremendous impact on my career.  I've worked closely with lawyers / judges for several years, some jerks, and some that love the law and are a credit to the administration of justice.  Because I knew lawyers, it was easier to envision where the law could land me (as well as what type of lawyer I didn't want to be).

A law degree is a wonderful background for a career in politics, as it is for other careers.  I've had the honor of meeting many politicians over the last few years...and some fit the stereotype of being in politics for the power, money and their own ego...Still,  I've also met many who truly cared about their community and were doing some very good things. I can think of three off hand who are very influential, courageous and respected CA politicians, who went out of their way to help me, when I couldn't do anything to help them.  (Two of the three who immediately sprang to mind went to law school - one I believe went to Berkeley and one to UCLA).  There are good politicians and bad ones, just as their are good and bad lawyers.  It is wrong to over generalize and say that politics is not a noble profession, because it definitely can be, as can the law. 

Good luck to you.