Taking a Gap Year: Decisions, Timing, and General Advice

The decision to take a gap year is a personal one and the choice is up to you. There are many factors to consider when you are thinking about taking a gap year versus going straight through to law school. Here are some questions and answers commonly associated with taking a gap year.

First, what is a gap year?

A “gap year” is a year (or more) between finishing your undergraduate degree and beginning law school. Students take a gap year for many reasons, such as:

– financial considerations

– retaking the LSAT, and

– to determine whether law school is the correct choice.

Second, if you decide to take a gap year, where should you work?

University of Illinois students have chosen different jobs for their gap year(s). There is not a perfect job to take during your gap year, so do something you enjoy or a job that will provide you with transferable skills. These can include:

  • Project Assistant/Legal Assistant
  • Paralegal
  • Teach for America
  • Peace Corps
  • Accounting/Finance
  • Engineering
  • Campaign work/politics
  • Nonprofit work
  • Anything you want!

Third, if you decide to take a gap year, what should you do before your graduate?

– Find a professor that you are willing to keep in contact with for a letter of recommendation. Ideally, you want to have a recent letter, so keeping in contact with a professor during your time off is the best choice. When asking your professor for a letter of recommendation – provide information about how you did in their class, work from that class you completed, and give the recommender enough time to write a letter.

– Try to take the LSAT! It is much easier to take the LSAT while you are in school than when you are working. Your LSAT score is good for 5 years.

– Set up a CAS (Credential Assembly Service) account and make sure to submit your official transcripts from the University and have them on file with the LSAC.

– Start networking early! Don’t be afraid to reach out to lawyers/others in the legal sector early on, even as an undergrad. A diverse and broad network will help you later on in your legal career and can provide for opportunities for mentorship.

Fourth, what skills should you focus on during your time off that will be helpful in law school?

  • Attention to detail
    • proofreading, if possible
  • Setting professional and personal goals and deadlines
  • Maintaining a good work ethic
    • showing up on on time
    • being accountable for your work product
  • Working with different personalities and understanding your audience
  • Networking

Also, keep in contact with Pre-Law Advising Services. We happy to make appointments with alumni as well as current students. Call 217-333-9669 to schedule an appointment with us.

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