If you have your heart set on law school from an early age and want to save money and time, consider a 3+3 program. These accelerated programs, offered by select universities, allow high-performing students to earn both B.A. and J.D. degrees in six years total rather than seven.
Accelerated J.D. programs fall into three broad categories.
First, some law schools offer an accelerated path to students within the same university system. This is most common among state universities with an interest in training local lawyers, like the University of Georgia, the University of Iowa and the University of Kansas. However, several private universities offer this option as well, like DePaul University in Illinois and Willamette University in Oregon.
Second, a smaller number of law schools have accelerated J.D. partnerships with unaffiliated colleges. Typically, such partnerships tie together nearby schools, but not always. For example, the University of Central Florida has a 3+3 program with both the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law at Barry University in Orlando, Florida, and the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro College in Central Islip, New York — not exactly across town!
Third, a small minority of law schools offer accelerated two-year J.D. programs, including the Rick. J. Caruso School of Law at Pepperdine University in California and the University of Dayton School of Law in Ohio. So, even college students at schools that do not offer a 3+3 program can still take a shortcut to legal practice.
Accelerated law programs entail trade-offs, however. Interested students should note three considerations:
Accelerated programs are demanding and require candidates to possess exceptional discipline, focus and maturity. After all, many participants will enter law school at a younger age than nearly all their classmates. They might not even be old enough to drink alcohol at their welcome dinner.
Thus, these programs set strict admissions requirements, including minimum grade point averages and strong recommendation letters. Most programs also require applicants to earn admission through the standard J.D. process, including an LSAT score and personal statement.
Such selectivity makes accelerated programs prestigious. Graduates will not only enter the legal field at a younger age, they may have a leg up securing jobs and clerkships.
Accelerated law programs often require applicants to express their interest early on and meet with a program adviser by their second year of undergraduate study. This means that program participants need to commit to a legal path early in their undergraduate studies, at a time when they may still be exploring career options.
Choosing this rigorous path may close other doors. Participants rushing to meet undergraduate requirements within three years may have to sacrifice other valuable learning opportunities, from campus activities and leadership to elective courses or exchange programs.
Furthermore, since most 3+3 programs offer only one or two law school options, participants will be unable to consider a wide range of law schools. Without the leverage of choices, they may also miss out on negotiating merit scholarships. However, some programs offer candidates funding support.
Accelerated law programs are intensive, and they can be alienating as well. Participants may feel socially estranged from both undergraduates and older law school classmates. Thus, those considering such programs should seek out academic and wellness resources on campus and check in often with prelaw advisers.
Recognizing this challenge, many programs provide extra resources and try to foster a sense of camaraderie among participants. So students in accelerated programs may find that they feel more supported than their peers and more comfortable within a self-selected cohort of like-minded friends and study mates.
Ultimately, few law school applicants choose accelerated programs due to their limited availability and daunting requirements. However, those who are willing and able to meet such programs’ stringent requirements rarely regret getting a head start in legal practice. The U.S. is rare among countries in requiring aspiring lawyers to navigate seven years of postsecondary education, and shortcuts are all the more tempting when they provide prestige and support along the way.
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Accelerated B.A.-J.D. Programs: What Law School Applicants Should Know originally appeared on usnews.com