If you’re considering a gap year before law school, you’re not alone. The majority of students at top law schools in the US have taken at least a year in the real world before enrolling. In fact, admissions officers encourage this, as they see the immense benefits their students receive from the experience. 80% of the Class of 2023 at Harvard Law School spent at least one year out of college before enrolling, and 62% of students spent two or more years out of college. Yale Law School’s Class of 2023 has only 14% of students enrolling directly from college, and 83% of 1L students at Michigan Law took one or more years off after undergrad. These students work, volunteer, travel, conduct research… the opportunities are endless!
At Collegiate Gateway’s presentation “An Overview of Law School Admissions” during the recent IECA Fall Virtual Conference, law school admissions officers spoke about the many benefits of these gap years.
Expose Yourself to New Experiences
As Mary Ann Clifford, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Lecturer in Law at Washington University School of Law, said, “Law school will be here when you’re ready to come. Take those years, if you’d like, to experience something else.”
Students can explore a variety of interests by working or volunteering in areas unrelated to law, such as the nonprofit organizations of Teach for America, Americorps, or the Peace Corps. Some might work in finance, sales, or even take a year or two in a medically-related field. Many students use these years before law school to travel abroad and immerse themselves in a new culture or language. No matter the route, using a gap year to gain a new experience can be enriching!
Confirm Your Interest in a Career in Law
Ms. Clifford also went on to discuss another significant benefit of taking a gap year: the opportunity to confirm a student’s interest in a career in law. She recommended talking to lawyers, shadowing lawyers, and doing everything possible to learn about the career. Current law students bring experience from working in law firms as paralegals or legal assistants, or even as interns doing research for a firm. The more you can learn before embarking on this career path, the more likely you are to find a specialty that you love.
Gain Professional Experience
Stephen Brown, Assistant Dean of Enrollment at Fordham School of Law, is “a fan of taking years of personal and professional development.” Mr. Brown explained that students shouldn’t even call them gap years, “because gap implies something is missing.” Instead, refer to these years as personal and professional development. He discussed the benefits of work experience, whether law-related or not. Work experience makes applicants more attractive to admissions offices, and eventually to employers. They know the student has successfully applied for a job before, knows how to behave as an employee, and hopefully gathered some valuable mentors and references.
Develop Financial Literacy
Law school is a stressful time in and of itself, and according to Mathiew Le, Assistant Dean of Admission at The University of Texas School of Law, the biggest stressor outside of law school is usually the financial piece. “Anything a student can understand in terms of financial literacy and developing sound financial habits early on will prepare them for success when they apply to law school,” said Mr. Le. Learning about personal finances by collecting a paycheck, abiding by a budget, paying rent, and accumulating a savings account, are all skills that will set a student up for success in law school and after.
If you’re interested in taking a gap year before law school, think about the options that will offer you the most personal and professional growth. It will not only help strengthen your applications, but it will teach you valuable life lessons to carry into your career.
Whatever your question about law school admissions, Collegiate Gateway is happy to help you decipher your options and understand the changing landscape. Sign up for a free consultation and see our events schedule for virtual presentations about the law school process.