Applicants often ask me if they should take a year off after college and before they attend law school. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Increasingly, however, many top law schools seem to be in favor of taking some time away from academics before pursuing a law degree. Among Yale’s Class of 2020, 38% are 1-2 years out of college and 46% were 3+ years out of college. Here are a few reasons why taking a gap year might be the right choice for you.
Apply with the Highest GPA Possible:
If your GPA is not where you would like it to be, consider taking a year off. A gap year allows you to really concentrate on your studies during your senior year without the added responsibility of studying for the LSAT or filling out applications while also attending to your coursework. Ideally, having the ability to really focus on your studies will yield high marks in your senior year and allow you to apply to law school with the highest GPA possible.
Maximize Your LSAT Score and Strengthen Your Applications:
Along the same lines, taking a gap year allows you to focus on studying for the LSAT and your applications without having to also worry about schoolwork, final exams, and extracurricular activities. Most applicants will be taking the LSAT in June of their junior year or September of their senior year. Studying for the LSAT can be a full-time endeavor, making it difficult to juggle along with school obligations and interests.
Moreover, a gap year can be helpful if you have not had the opportunity to build strong relationships with your professors or TA’s. Strong letters of recommendation are written by faculty members who know you well. Often, students are unable to develop such relationships by their junior year.
Finally, having the extra time and bandwidth to focus on your applications might mean earlier submissions allowing you to really take advantage of most schools’ rolling admissions policies.
Add to Your Work Experience:
Law schools are increasingly looking for applicants with work experience. If your resume is light on exposure to the job world, it may be worth taking a year (or two or three) after college to gain some hands-on experience. This experience can certainly be in the legal field, but it does not have to be. Find a job that you are passionate about and really get involved. Ultimately, the depth of your experience will help you understand your interests and your motivations giving you not only something to think and write about in your personal statement, but also insight into what you really want to do.
Expand Your Life Experience:
It may sound cliché, but do not discount the idea of taking a year off to take a breather and explore your interests and passions. This exploration can take the form of a job or perhaps you want to travel. Another option is to volunteer for an organization whose cause is near and dear to your heart. Taking a year off to really think through your next steps, i.e. determine if law school is really the right choice for you, will never be time wasted.
Remember that law schools are looking for candidates who have truly thought through their decision to attend law school. A gap year where you have wisely used your time will likely be reflected in your numbers but, more importantly, in how you come across in your application.