In October 2021, I wrote in my journal that I felt the “world was moving at a mile a minute.” Re-adjusting to in-person classes, rehearsing for a musical, studying for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and writing my law school personal statement. It was too much for me. I had to let go of something.
As a result, I made a decision that would change my post-Penn trajectory: I postponed applying to law school until after I graduated. For those who are unsure about graduate school, I would like to make the case to spend time doing something else first.
As of Summer 2021, I thought I would be one of the straight-to-grad-school folks. In August 2021, I journaled about the fundamental question: Why was I applying to law school? This question seems simple, yet my first answer was surprisingly vague. I wrote that a law degree “will give me the tools to help people and lead a better life.” I felt bothered by my ambiguous answer.
I started seeking out guidance from others. After receiving candid advice from professors and with alumni through MyPenn, I became convinced that taking a post-grad gap year may be fitting for me. These mentors taught me that my diverse interests in American monuments, social psychology, and opinion writing can be explored further before committing to a three-year professional degree.
While I was motivated to find a post-grad job, I didn’t know what it would look like yet.
I decided to give myself more time to explore my interests. In Spring 2022, I took classes in political journalism and urban studies. I developed a new interest in how urban development can reshape neighborhoods. If I applied to law school in Fall 2021, I would not have been able to share my fascination with urban policy law.
By giving myself more time, I have a more tailored understanding about why I am applying to law school.
In contrast to the frenetic pace of undergrad, time became plentiful after I graduated. Without homework and club commitments, I had open evenings and weekends to write my personal statement and study for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
Now, I am learning what it means to be a member of a hybrid workforce. I am figuring out my work-related strengths, developing my financial literacy, and proactively looking for communities to make friends.
I was afraid that if I took time off before graduate school, then I would be socially isolated and lose my academic momentum. These fears proved unfounded. In the six months since I graduated, I’ve been able to develop friendships in a new city and I remain intellectually curious by checking out books at the local library.
By taking a gap year, I felt most worried that I would not have any job prospects. In the Winter and Spring of 2022, I applied to several internships and jobs. I was rejected by many organizations. By March 2022, I felt anxious about my uncertain future. I began to second-guess my decision about postponing my law school applications.
When I re-read my journal entries from last spring, I now realize that my anxiety was overblown. In April and May 2022, I started having thought-provoking conversations with future colleagues. My current job was formally offered to me in June 2022.
In this August 2021 entry, I also wrote words of encouragement that I would like to share with you: You will “continue to learn as you go. Trust [your] gut…and have the courage and patience that everything will hopefully work out in the end.”
Looking back, I am thankful that I decided to take a year to work before applying to law school. I gave myself time to grow. If you are considering law school and you are not sure about it, I would consider giving yourself time too.
JADEN CLOOBECK is a Class of 2022 College graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He is a former staff columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He now works in research and marketing-communications at the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream in Washington, DC. His email address is email@example.com