Classics, Philosophy majors do best when it comes to getting into law school

The law school applicants with the highest grade point averages and LSAT scores studied the classics in college, according to a recent analysis of data from the Law School Admissions Council by Derek Muller, associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law.

Classics majors had an average LSAT score of 159.8 and GPA of 3.477. Other top performing majors include policy studies, international relations, art history, and mathematics.

“I decided to do [the study] because I’d seen data for LSAT scores for applicants sorted by major in the past, and I thought I’d get an up-to-date version,” Muller said. “I also thought it would be interesting to obtain GPA data for majors, too, and also to find matriculants as well as applicant data.”

Muller collected data for the 2013 applicants and matriculants to law school. He said applicants self-identified in one of 142 majors. Muller analyzed the median LSAT scores and median GPA scores.

“I observed things mostly of anecdotal interest,” Muller said. “Science majors tended to have lower GPAs than other majors. Economics and philosophy majors had higher LSAT scores and GPAs overall. Business and criminal justice majors had lower LSAT scores and GPAs overall.”

Philosophy majors scored sixth best in terms of LSAT and GPA scores. They were also admitted to law school at a higher percent than any other major — 75 percent, according to an analysis of data provided by Muller. Religion and religious studies majors, by contrast, had a similar LSAT score (158.8 compared to 158.2) and a higher GPA score (3.35 compared to 3.47). But only 65 percent of religion majors matriculated into law school.

“More rigorous majors like economics, philosophy and math do better,” he said. “At the same time, there is a self-selection issue — some people who do well in business or biology probably are doing other things, like working in business or going to medical school, and so we would expect the majors remaining who took the LSAT to score lower. These are all guesses based on observations.”

Other majors with high matriculation rates include history, government/service, international studies and environmental sciences. Most of the majors with lower matriculation rates had lower LSAT and GPA scores, such as criminal justice. It reported the lowest GPA and LSAT scores, and only 52.6 percent of applicants were admitted.

Muller said the data raises more questions than answers.

“For instance, it’s probably the case that individuals at more elite undergraduate institutions are selecting more elite majors, like classics, policy studies and art history,” Muller said. “And these students at elite undergraduate institutions are probably of higher intelligence, and so they’re doing well on the LSAT.”

Muller graduated from Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan.

The most popular major among applicants was political science. Poly sci majors made up 21.3 percent of all applicants and 23.6 percent of matriculants. English was the second highest, with 6.1 percent of applicants, followed by Psychology at 5.7 percent and history at 5.5 percent.