Accelerated bachelor’s, juris doctor program offers new pathway to legal career

September 25, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State undergraduates interested in a legal career now have the opportunity to apply to Penn State Law in University Park up to a year early to complete their undergraduate degree and law degree together in less time through a new accelerated bachelor’s/juris doctor (J.D.) program.

“This innovative new program embodies our commitment to impact and to access to education, which is at the core of Penn State’s mission, by opening up doors to legal education,” said Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones. 

All full-time Penn State undergraduates — in any major, attending any campus — are eligible to apply to the new Penn State–Penn State Law Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program before their final undergraduate year.

“This program supports Penn State’s land grant mission through providing all Penn State undergraduates with a pathway to earn a bachelor’s degree and J.D. in less time, and often with less cost,” said Hari M. Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. 

How the Program Works

Interested students should work with the Penn State Law admissions team and their academic advisers early on to develop a preliminary understanding of how the program aligns with their academic and professional goals. Accepted students will develop an individualized academic plan with Penn State Law and their academic adviser. 

“We are delighted to provide this new opportunity to Penn State undergraduates and look forward to working together with Penn State Law,” said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. “The partnership between Penn State Law and Undergraduate Education allows us to explore an accelerated program tailored to the academic and professional aims of each student.”

Because eligibility for the Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program is based on credits earned rather than time spent in an undergraduate program, even students in programs requiring more than 120 credits — for example, in the engineering field — can participate and receive two degrees in a shortened time frame.

“The Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program provides an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students across our Commonwealth Campuses,” said Madlyn L. Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor at Penn State.  “The program creates a new option for students to add legal studies to their undergraduate studies, and to complete both their baccalaureate and J.D. degrees on an accelerated schedule.”

Students must have earned a minimum of 60 undergraduate credits to apply to the program. Penn State Law accepts both LSAT and GRE as meeting its standardized test requirement for juris doctor admissions for all students. Additionally, Penn State undergraduates who have completed six semester of coursework and meet SAT/ACT and GPA requirements may apply with only an SAT or ACT score.

Among other benefits to eligible students with this new program is immediate access to scholarships and financial aid. Penn State Law’s $20,000 Blue and White Alumni Grant will be offered to all applicants admitted to Penn State Law by April 1 through this new accelerated degree program. All applicants also are automatically considered for additional scholarships that can be stacked with the grant to reach full tuition.

For additional details about the Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program, see FAQs below or visit our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would I pursue an accelerated J.D. program?

In addition to getting the law school admissions process started early, students who complete this program can save time and money by making a careful academic plan that may shorten the time to complete both degrees by up to a year. 

Who is eligible for the accelerated J.D. program?

Penn State undergraduates enrolled full time in any major at any Penn State campus.

Will I complete both degrees in six years?

It depends. The length of time to complete the Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program will depend on the number of credits required by your undergraduate program and the number of law school credits your undergraduate program will accept. Penn State Law will accept up to 12 credits in graduate or upper level undergraduate courses in other disciplines. With careful academic planning, you may shorten the time to complete both degrees by as much as one year. 

Do I have to take an LSAT?

No. Penn State Law also accepts the GRE for J.D. admissions. 

In addition, Penn State undergraduates who have an SAT or ACT score in the 85th percentile (across all sections) and a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher across six semesters of undergraduate work may apply with only an SAT or ACT score. The six-semester requirement may make it difficult to apply for the program with an SAT or ACT score; however, students in programs that typically require more than four years to graduate who plan to apply through the Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program may be able to take advantage of this option. 

All applicants must apply through LSAC and submit a Credential Assembly Service report. 

When do I need to decide whether to apply for the accelerated program?

All interested students are encouraged to work with the Penn State Law admissions team and their academic program advisers as early as possible to discuss a possible plan for the accelerated program. Points of discussion should include:

  • How many law school credits will my undergraduate program accept?
  • From which law school courses will my undergraduate program accept credits?
  • If I will have unfinished undergraduate requirements that I cannot substitute with law school classes when I begin law school, how will I complete them?
  • Which required undergraduate courses in my major will Penn State Law accept in the 12 credits that count toward the J.D.?

Is there a special application?

No. You can apply through our regular or J.D. Early Decision applications, following the instructions above. All applicants must apply via our LSAC application, even if they are not submitting an LSAT score. 

When should I get my Individualized Academic Plan?

If you are admitted to Penn State Law, before law school begins, you will need to submit an Individualized Academic Plan (IAP) which you will develop with your advisor with assistance from Penn State Law. Your IAP should address the following:

  • the PSL courses and credits your undergraduate program will accept;
  • any non-PSL courses or credits you must successfully complete to meet your undergraduate program degree requirements; 
  • which non-PSL courses will be accepted by PSL toward the J.D. degree; and
  • a timeline of when you will take any required non-PSL courses to meet the graduation requirements of your undergraduate program.  

You will also need to provide your law school transcripts to your undergraduate program adviser until you have completed all undergraduate requirements and are conferred with your undergraduate degree. 

If I am not accepted, can I apply again later?

Yes. Applicants not admitted via the Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program may re-apply for admission in a subsequent admissions cycle. 

Can I get financial assistance for law school?

Yes. Penn State Law’s Blue and White Alumni Grant is offered to all applicants admitted through this program by April 1 of their application year. The grant provides $20,000 off tuition for each year of J.D. study. All applicants are also automatically considered for additional scholarships which can be stacked with the grant to reach full tuition. 

All scholarships and grants are automatically renewed in full for each year of J.D. study so long as the student is in good standing, which requires a 2.0 cumulative and semester GPA. Renewal is not based on law school class rank. Scholarships and grants are offered for three years. If additional semesters are required to complete undergraduate work or to take on a joint J.D./graduate degree, Penn State Law tuition and funding will apply during the academic years in which majority of your credits come from the law school.

Can I also do a joint J.D./master’s if I am in the Accelerated Bachelor’s/J.D. Program?

Yes. Once you have earned your bachelor’s degree, you can apply for graduate programs at Penn State. The extent to which you may count classes from your graduate program toward your J.D. (thereby shortening the time to complete a J.D. and graduate degree) will depend on how many, if any, of Penn State Law’s elective credits you use to complete your undergraduate degree requirements. 

You would have to apply separately for any additional master’s program through the Graduate School. 

Those with further questions may contact the Penn State Law admissions team at 814-867-1251 or 800-840-1122, or by email to Amanda DiPolvere, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid, ajd7@psu.edu; or Julian Morales, director of admissions, jcm40@psu.edu.

Last Updated September 25, 2019