Skip to main content

Major & Adjunct Major

The Legal Studies program currently offers both a major and an adjunct major.

The major and adjunct major are situated in Weinberg, but open to undergraduates in all schools.

All students may pursue the new Legal Studies major (approved as of Fall 2016). Only students who entered the University prior to Fall 2016 may pursue the Legal Studies adjunct major (which must be taken in conjunction with a departmental major). The adjunct major is being phased out over the course of the next few years.

Advanced Research Seminar

All Legal Studies majors and adjunct majors must complete the two-quarter Advanced Research Seminar (398-1,2), in which students design and execute an original socio-legal research project and produce a thesis. Learn more about the advanced research seminar sequence here.

By Application Only

Because demand for the required Advanced Research Seminar often exceeds the enrollment limits, admission to the major and adjunct major are by application only.

Before applying for the major or adjunct major, students must have taken LEGAL ST 206, "Law in Society", and at least one additional "law-related" course, as found on the Electives page. One of these classes may be "in progress" at the time of application. Learn more about the Major application process here.



Students can easily track their progress by completing the appropriate Major Worksheet or Adjunct Major Worksheet.


The Major

12 Courses Total

The standalone major does not allow for double-counting.*

The standalone major is the only option for students entering the University in or after Fall 2016.
Students who entered the University prior to Fall 2016 may be eligible for the standalone major if they can complete the requirements prior to graduation.

The Adjunct Major

11 Courses Total

The adjunct major allows for up to 2 courses to double-count.*

The adjunct major option is only available to students who entered the University prior to Fall 2016.

*Courses listed as “Related courses” may be double‐counted towards the adjunct major or major without limit. Double counting rules can be complicated; review these FAQs on the Weinberg website.

If you have questions about which major option will work for you, please see the FAQs below, or contact the Legal Studies Program Assistant, Ann Kelchner:


Expand all

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I have to apply to be a major in Legal Studies?

All Legal Studies majors complete a thesis during a two-quarter research seminar (Legal_St 398-1 and 398-2) during which they receive a lot of individualized attention from the instructor and teaching assistants. To make this possible, we need to limit each year’s seminar to approximately 25 students, and cap the number of majors accordingly.

Students apply to the major during Winter Quarter. Learn more about the application process here.

How is admission to the major determined?

We ask applicants to complete an application form (last year’s is available here*) and to submit a current (unofficial) transcript and an essay that serves as a writing sample.

Since each student in the research seminar must complete a thesis based on independent research, we are looking for students who display strong writing skills.

There is no minimum GPA requirement for entry into the major. We do pay particular attention to grades received in Legal Studies courses and electives, and those in related disciplines.

* Note that the application form is subject to change.

What are my chances of being accepted into the major?

Your chances depend on the number of students applying and the number of seats we have available in the research seminar sequence for upcoming academic terms. In the past few years, the major has become quite competitive, and we have had to turn away many strong applicants. 

What if I apply and don't get in?

If you apply as a first-year or sophomore and you don't get in, you are encouraged to apply again. You might consider taking a writing course, or taking additional Legal Studies courses or electives before applying again. You may apply to the major as a junior, but we recommend that you have an alternative major in mind should you not get accepted.

Is a thesis required for the adjunct major and the major?

Yes. All adjunct majors and standalone majors are required to take the two-quarter Advanced Research Seminar (Legal St 398-1,2), offered in Fall/Winter each year, in which students design and execute a thesis based on original research. Students may take this in their junior or senior year. Read more about the Legal Studies thesis here.

How do I Petition to Graduate with an Adjunct Major or Standalone Major in Legal Studies?

We suggest you first complete the appropriate Adjunct Major Worksheet or Standalone Major Worksheet then make an appointment with Ann Kelchner, the undergraduate program assistant, to review and get all your forms signed. For more information about Petitioning to Graduate please visit the Registrar’s website.

What is the difference between a major and an adjunct major?

Besides the different requirements (elaborated above), an adjunct major requires another standalone major.

How do I know which set of requirements apply to me?

WCAS guidelines stipulate that students can follow any set of requirements in effect during their undergraduate years. For example, if you entered Northwestern as a first-year in 2015, you can choose to follow the requirements from the 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018 Undergraduate Catalogs, but you can’t pick and choose the requirements you like best from each. Students entering the University in the Fall of 2016 or later must follow the standalone major requirements and are ineligible to complete the adjunct major.

I started in Fall 2015 – which major requirements apply?

You may choose either the adjunct major or the standalone major.

I started in Fall 2016, Fall 2017, or Fall 2018 – which major requirements apply?

You are eligible to pursue the standalone major.

What if I enrolled at Northwestern in 2015 but did not declare the Legal Studies major until 2017?

Your eligibility depends on the year you enrolled at Northwestern, not the year you declared the major.

How do I tell you which set of requirements I plan to complete?

You can indicate this on your initial application, but you make your final decision on your petition to graduate. We are happy to discuss the options with you and help you work out a plan.

How do I drop the major or switch from the major to a minor?

To drop the adjunct major or major, or to switch from the adjunct major/major to a minor, make an appointment with Ann Kelchner, the undergraduate program assistant, to fill out and get a Declaration form signed – you’ll then take the form to the WCAS Office of Undergraduate Advising at 1922 Sheridan Avenue so they can update your record.

There is no need to re-declare if you switch between the adjunct major and the standalone major - you just have to indicate on your Petition to Graduate which rules you're following.

Note that the double-counting rules for courses change a lot when you switch between the adjunct major, standalone major, and the minor. Review those rules on the Weinberg website.

Back to top