Should I Take a Gap Year?

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With only 3 weeks between notification of October LSAT scores and the December 1 LSAT date, I’ve been having conversations with a lot of law school applicants about whether they should retake the LSAT in December, wait until February, and/or take an additional year and apply to start law school in Fall 2014 instead of Fall 2013.

Here are 4 factors to consider:

  1. If you are still in school and would benefit from another year of improved (great!) grades on your transcript, and you would be well served by getting some better letters of recommendation, AND you aren’t likely to raise your score considerably before December 1, then taking a year off and applying to law school next year might make a lot of sense for you.
  2. February is too late to take the LSAT for admission in the fall. Yes, law schools might tell you they accept February LSAT scores, but it’s so late in the cycle that they are really only taking people at the top of their LSAT range – February (March by the time you get your score) is no time to get into a reach school.
  3. It really doesn’t matter what you do during your gap year – yes, it’s good to do something intellectually interesting, to broaden your horizons, gain exposure to something law-related, etc. But even if you are tending bar on the weekends and volunteering part time, it’s perfectly acceptable as far as law schools are concerned.
  4. If you would get your best LSAT score by preparing at a time when you are not also enrolled in school, then waiting and taking the LSAT next fall might be a great plan for you.

26 thoughts on “Should I Take a Gap Year?

  1. Hi!

    I have 1 canceled LSAT score/153/and I just received a 165 on my October. Granted, I did improve significantly, but I’m still unhappy with the score considering I only have a 3.0 from my engineering major in one of the top undergraduate school. I know I just need a higher LSAT scores for the higher tiered law schools. Some people have been telling me to wait 2 years until I could take the test a fouth time and try to apply with a higher score. Is that really an option for me?

    • Ann Levine on said:

      JJ, It seems really silly to wait two years. You have a great score and your major was difficult and from a good school. Try now and see where you can be admitted, and if you do really well you may be able to transfer somewhere. With a strong application, you should be able to get into a great law school now.

  2. I know you posted that Feb is too late. However, the schools I am applying to are accepting applications until April/May/June. Should I not even bother? This will be my third time taking the lsat and I really want to get in this coming Fall.

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Lisa, you can certainly try, and it will help that application levels are down overall, but unless your credentials are strong, it’s unlikely to get in with a February LSAT score.

  3. Hey Ann,

    This might not pertain to a gap year, but in regards to applying after taking time off, I’m a little bit worried. I am set to graduate in 3 1/2 years and plan on using my second semester junior year as my semester-off to spend time in a different part of the world rather than one of my semesters senior year. I’m taking my LSAT in June and am not worried about that, but rather if my application will be weakened if I don’t have second semester junior grades factored into my transcript for LSAC.

    Any input would be helpful!

    Thanks,

    Alex

  4. Hi Ann,

    I am a grad student working on my Master’s Thesis, which I plan to defend prior to May Commencement. I took the LSAT in December and received a 156. My UGPA was a 3.19, and my current GPA is a 3.3 — although I believe it will increase after this semester, and I will include an addendum about my low UGPA. I know that you say don’t try to get into “reach” schools – mine is Emory – with a Feb. LSAT; however, in a panic, I already registered for the Feb. exam. I also received an app. fee waiver from Emory today. What should I do? My 2nd and 3rd choices are UNC-Chapel Hill and Tulane U.

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Kiara,
      You should try! If the school is accepting the February LSAT and you have a fee waiver – applications are down overall so you may get very lucky!

  5. Jacquelyn on said:

    Hello Ann.

    I got a 152 on my LSAT in October. I took it almost cold because I had family emergencies and a lot going on. I have a 3.5 gpa from a good school and I have a very good resume. I have been accepted into West Virginia and SUNY Buffalo and I’m waiting to hear back from New Mexico and Lewis and Clark (they said they have reviewed my file and may accept me if space is available and if not they will either wait list or deny me). The schools I have been accepted at have not given me need based financial aid yet but if it is not great I will probably take off a year and study for the LSAT and increase my score. I really want to come out of law school with as little debt as possible at a decent school as possible. Is taking off and retaking the LSAT a wise decision?

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Jacquelyn,
      I think you need to retake the LSAT and see if you can get scholarships to law school…. Especially since you took it cold and it sounds like you are open to different locations.

  6. I am going to finish my a-levels in college this year. At first i did not want to go univeristy so i did not apply. but now i am thinking i will take a gap year and then go uni to do a law degree. but i want to do something useful in the gap year relating to law, what can i do?
    any suggestions or ideas?
    thank you

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Muneera,
      It sounds like you are an international student applying to law schools overseas, so I’m not sure I can be of help.

  7. Rachel on said:

    Hi Ann,

    I’m currently an undergraduate at a top 50 school, set to graduate in June of 2014, with a university GPA of 3.85. I took a practice LSAT cold and received a 155, but plan to study for a few months and take the June LSAT. I’m expected to graduate in 3 years instead of 4. Do you think I have a fair shot at getting into law school immediately after my undergrad? If so, should I wait to take the October LSAT?

    Thank you!

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Rachel,
      That’s a great cold score!
      I had a client who graduated in 3 years with a GPA similar to yours and she scored in the high 160s on the LSAT and she is now attending Columbia Law! How is that for encouragement?
      Try for June. If it doesn’t feel like you are where you need to be/want to be, then you can decide to wait until October.

  8. Jennie Goh on said:

    Hi Ann,

    I graduated this May from Georgia Tech with a 3.63 in biomedical engineering. It is not that great of a GPA, but Georgia Tech is a difficult top engineering school and I graduated with highest honors. I took a practice LSAT without any preparation and got a 158. Do you think if I improve my score when I take the test in Oct I would have a shot at a top tier school? Also, I am a non-US citizen and will be taking a gap year to work in my home country, which is where I will be taking the LSAT. Will any of those factors count against me in getting accepted to a top law school?

    Thank you in advance for your advice

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Jennie,
      Great GPA, great school, great major. Keep improving on the LSAT and nothing will stop you. Really! You’ll be a great applicant.

  9. Sophia on said:

    Hi Ann,

    I’m still in my undergrad but I’m trying to figure out my post-grad plans. I have a high GPA so far and I hope to take the LSAT in the spring. I just don’t know if I should take a gap year and take the lsat after that or take the lsat and apply next fall. How much does the gap year matter as far as admissions go?
    I’m graduating college in 3 years (rather than in 4) and I don’t know if that reflects negatively on my application as well.

    Thank you!

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Sophia,
      There is no “gap year” strategy. In my book, I talk about the reasons to take a gap year (needing a final year of grades to bring up your GPA, for example, which it doesn’t sound like you need). I think you should take the LSAT in June so long as you are ready for it and have time to prepare.
      I’ve worked with a lot of people who graduated in 3 years. One of them is now at Columbia Law School, so obviously it didn’t hurt her to be younger!
      If I can help you in any way, please let me know.

  10. I want to apply for law school but I currently have a 3.1 gpa, it might increase slightly but probably not that much since I will be graduating this spring. i took the Oct lsat and recieved at 155. I’m planning to take a gap year too. What should j do during this gap year to make my law school app more competitive? I want to get into UC hasting school or law, UC Davis, or UC Irvine.

  11. Scott Panek on said:

    Hi Ann,
    I appreciate your website! Very helpful. I’m wondering, how much do the top law schools (let’s say T14) care about the content of what you do during your gap year? Would taking a few months off to study for the LSAT look like a huge resume gap? Would teaching abroad count as “work experience”?
    Thank you!

    • Scott, taking time off to focus on the LSAT is a fine thing to do. Teaching abroad is something law schools are familiar with as a gap year activity and it’s fine choice.

  12. Hello Ann,

    I have approximately a 3 year resume gap due to preparing for the LSATs; Would this be problematic for law school applications? I also spent some time taking online courses on Udemy. If it is problematic, how could I explain it away effectively? I’m concerned because I’ve been reading on forums that employment gaps in resumes may be problematic for applications.

  13. Hi,

    I’ve just started my third year of undergrad and am considering applying to law school. Due to an assault right before my first year, my first semester GPA was terrible at a 2.700. I’ve since brought it up to a ~3.4, and will hopefully continue to bring it up over the next two years. Is there any way that this can be explained (like in my personal statement?) without making it seem like I can’t handle the difficulty of law school? Will a gap year or two help to distance myself from this?

    Thanks

    • Hi Gigi, unfortunately, this is really common and I’m glad you were able to bring up your GPA. You should explain it in an addendum, rather than in a personal statement. I explain why in my book, The Law School Admission Game, 3rd Ed., which may be helpful to you in crafting it.

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