Most law students come directly from undergrad into law school with only so much as the summer months off. However, there are a few who take a “gap year,” or time off in between.
I took 3 “gap years.” After graduating in 2015, I decided I needed to see what was outside of my backyard. With the exception of studying abroad for six months, I never had much chance to leave my home state of West Virginia. So, I took a job as a flight attendant with Delta Air Lines, moved to New York City, and truly made the world my oyster.
I visited Europe at least once a month, sometimes weekly in the summers, from Paris to Barcelona to Amsterdam to London. When I wasn’t crossing the Atlantic, I was crossing the country, bumping elbows with famous directors, actors, and even Victoria’s Secret models on flights between New York and Los Angeles. My office was an Airbus-330, or a Boeing triple-7. The only 9-5 I worked was a trip to a Caribbean island and back. The view was always sunny above the clouds.
It sounds like a dream, but the job certainly had its ups and downs (pun intended). After my first anniversary with Delta, I got the feeling that I needed more. I loved traveling but I didn’t feel fulfilled purpose-wise. That’s when I started studying for my LSAT and applying to schools. By my second anniversary, I was putting a deposit on my seat at Florida State University College of Law. In August of 2018, I unpacked my suitcase for the final time and traded it for a backpack full of textbooks.
So, what’s the difference between jumping straight into law school and taking a gap year after undergrad?
First, I feel more confident in my decision to be here. I know that, for me at least, had I come straight into law school, I would have questioned if law school was right for me. By being out in the “real world” and taking time off, I had plenty of time to consider my decision and to be serious enough to make the transition.
Second, and maybe the most obvious, is that I am older than most of my classmates. To be honest, I rarely feel this difference because the people I’m surrounded by all take their studies seriously and are passionate about being a law student. Plus, I’m most certainly not the only non-traditional student here so I feel at home in any group.
Third, I feel like I am sometimes more relaxed about the “big picture.” I know that if I came straight from undergrad, I would be doing way too much in terms of extra-curriculars and would burn myself out. Because I had a few years off, I feel like I can see the big picture as to what is worth my time and what isn’t going to actually help me in my career after law school. As much as I want to put my name down for every opportunity, I know it would be better to spend my time wisely.
I’m not the only one who took some time off in between. My classmate, Luc Mazzini, also took a gap year, for three reasons. “I think gap years are a great way to clear your mind after four years of undergrad, get some experience in the workforce, and help you realize what you want to do next.” Luc spent his year off at a private firm here in Tallahassee as its Director of Marketing, a position which allowed him to network with local attorneys and find out what it’s really like to work in a firm. He said he was motivated to take a gap year after hearing many of his friends, already in grad school, talk about how they regretted not taking one. “Law school is hard enough as it is,” Luc says, “I recommend at least one gap year to everyone I know in order for them to take some time off of school, if it’s a viable option, and go experience either what it’s like to work, travel, or whatever they want to do before jumping into the thick of it.”
Think a gap year is right for you? If so, what are your options?
First, as Luc and I both spent our gap years, you have the option to work and get real-world experience. You can get your feet wet in the legal field, or you can do something entirely unrelated.
You could spend the time traveling. If you have the resources, seeing the world before buckling down for three years is a great way to gain some worldly perspective (and to have stories for your new law school friends).
You could even volunteer! There are a lot of great programs that allow you to give back to your community, or communities throughout the United States and the world.
Here at FSU Law, students come from all different backgrounds and experiences. No matter how or when you decide to come to law school, we can’t wait to welcome you to the family!
Corie Posey, 1L