‘Gap Year’ Proves Beneficial for LSJ Alums

Submitted by Chase Beauclair on

Sometimes, it pays to take a break.

On January 28th, the LSJ program hosted three recent graduates, Mallory Sullivan ’09, Sarah Chaplin ’10, and Max Burnham ’12, to give them the opportunity to speak to a group of current students about their experience taking gap years between receiving their undergraduate degree and moving on to graduate school.

A former AmeriCorps volunteer, Mallory recently graduated from the UW School of Law and is currently an attorney at the law firm of Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch. Sarah is in her first year at the UW School of Law after two years in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps. And Max is currently working in Washington D.C. through AmeriCorps, and plans to attend graduate school in public policy.

All three alums had plans to go to grad school eventually, but for various reasons felt that they were not quite ready to do immediately after completing their BA. They each wanted more time and professional experience before committing to a new path.

When asked about her experience, Mallory said, “Coming in to undergrad I thought ‘I’m going to law school,’ but I already had it set in my mind that I was going to take some time off. I wish I had taken more now, but I ended up taking a year off.”

Mallory somewhat regretted not taking more time away from school and described her path to law school as relatively rapid, saying, “I took the LSAT June of my senior year of college and scored well enough so that I applied when I was gone that year. My application went out in October and I found out that I was admitted in December, so I knew pretty much the whole time I was gone that the process was going on.”

Sarah said that she was slightly disappointed with her initial score on the LSAT, and felt that it might be a sign she needed to explore other opportunities. She described her initial interest in the Peace Corps by saying, “I had met a lot of law students and lawyers who had done Peace Corps, and there was something about the people who had done Peace Corps, they seemed very calm, like they knew something about life.”

Sarah later went on to describe how her time in the Peace Corps eventually reinvigorated her interest in pursuing a legal career. [Read more about Sarah here]

Similarly, Max had been set on going straight to law school following undergrad, but after taking the LSAT he decided to explore different opportunities and take time to consider if law school was really the right path for him.

After doing some research on a variety of options, Max settled on program run through AmeriCorps. “City Year is part of AmeriCorps and it’s an education based non-profit,” he said. “What we do is work in schools to improve student’s attendance, behavior, and core performance to try and keep students on track to graduate.”

Describing his current role with the organization, Max said, “Right now, I work at Kelly Miller Middle School in a math class where I pull out students in small groups to tutor them in math, especially kids that might need a little extra help. I also run behavior interventions for children who have high-suspension rates.”

Based on his experiences in the classroom with City Year, Max is now planning on going to graduate school for public policy.

All three students expressed their appreciation for the time they took to get out of an educational environment, gain full-time professional experience, and really assess their priorities moving forward. Clearly, taking a gap year, or two, was an extremely positive experience for all three LSJ alumni and is an option to consider for anyone planning on continuing their education later in graduate school.


For those of you unable to attend, a video of the whole panel session is posted below.


This article was written by Chase Beauclair.