Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

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victory

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Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby victory » Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:55 am

Hey everyone! Longtime lurker, infrequent poster. I need help choosing between two gap year options with legal academia or a unicorn PI job as my (likely) end goal. I want to know which would 1) make me a more attractive candidate for HYS and 2) make me a more attractive candidate for legal academia/unicorn PI jobs in the long-term.

Option 1:
Recently received an offer for a one-year masters program at one of the Oxbridge. The person willing to sponsor my masters dissertation is the Director of the PhD program for the department, and I could (possibly, if I'm lucky) spend three more years before law school getting my PhD in the field. Only problem is I'm not sure I'm in love with the field, but read and heard that PhDs are becoming more popular for law school professors.

Option 2:
While I'm an undergrad, I work full time for a nonprofit in DC doing (relatively niche) public interest work I love. This semester, I worked remotely Mon-Wed and commuted down for Thurs-Fri. (After two summers as an intern, I needed the salary to fend off student loans and I'm savingthe extra money to put toward next year's rent, so I jumped when they offered to promote me to junior staff.) Before the holiday, my our director offered me a huge promotion (a management/senior staff position to be awarded upon graduation) that I really want to take. Only thing standing in the way is option 1 (and salary negotiations for a nonprofit, but they're generous for the industry and I could still save a tiny bit for law school). For context, it's a little-known and not-very-prestigious nonprofit (not a unicorn); but I'm surrounded by smart, passionate people and can do legislative work with a (surprisingly) massive impact. More context, through the nonprofit I've already written legislation that's become law, gotten media appearances (quoted by name in outlets and congressional press releases/a byline on an op-ed), etc., so even though it's not a unicorn it's not nothing.

Understand I'm in a great position for a graduating senior, but am genuinely confused as to which option would best contribute toward my end goal--especially because I'm not really sure what the academic track looks like. When I get back, I'm getting coffee with one of the professors a coworker connected me with at my undergrad's law school (T13) and asking him for advice, but I wanted to see TLS' collective wisdom. Re the PI track, a person I trust in a unicorn PI job advised I go option 1. It's an incredible opportunity, but I don't want to leave my nonprofit out to dry, and they wouldn't have the bandwidth to pursue my projects without me.

Bottom line is that I'd personally prefer option 2 but am hearing option 1 might be better for my long-term career. I'm looking to see if that's an accurate summation, if my colleague is overestimating the value of option 1, or if I'm just overthinking all of this and should go with my gut. Also, I read on TLS that most work experience requires two years before it can make any impact on admissions. Is that the case and would my year as a mixed undergrad/employee count as one of those two?

Stats:
GPA: 4.17/4.33 (lsac)
LSAT: Started studying in Nov, taking this June. (Asking this now because I'll have to decide before I take the LSAT.)

I should probably note I wouldn't be posting this if I hadn't had multiple people I respect tell me to choose option 1 over option 2. I want to see if I'm crazy for wanting to stick with my nonprofit, if HYS or my future employers would really care one way or the other. I'd sincerely appreciate any advice.

[Please don't quote.]

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:42 am

If you want academia, yes, a PhD and developing a research agenda and publishing will be way more helpful than non-profit experience. However, I think doing a PhD you don’t want to do is a really bad idea, emotionally/psychologically (I guess the saving grace is that if you can do it as you plan it will be way shorter than the average US PhD).

That said, actual PI experience will also likely be much more helpful for getting PI unicorn jobs, but I don’t think the two paths actually intersect much - what will help for one won’t help for the other.

Frankly I think the ideal thing would be to get work experience at the non-profit, then if you’re still interested in the legal route, do the PhD and go to law school. But it’s not clear that that’s an option.

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby Nebby » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:39 am

What type of PI do you want to do? Is it the same type as Option 2? Of the two, option 2 is better.

I'll challenge your thinking about "unicorn" jobs. The organization you work for does good, impactful work, and that's far more important than whether some shithead law student or random person on the internet knows its name. "Unicorn" PI organizations aren't all they're cracked up to be, either, as they come with an incredible bureaucracy and are not ideal for entrepreneurial advocates (as you seem to be).

Option 1 will be no help getting a PI job and, coupled with the fact you have no idea what academia is like (how could you?), it also comes with an unreasonable opportunity cost.

sparkytrainer

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby sparkytrainer » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:47 am

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Last edited by sparkytrainer on Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:34 am

No, a master’s isn’t going to help with admissions, but if he OP actually wants academia (whether they know what it’s like or not), academic stuff is more helpful.

I personally don’t think academia is a great goal and the OP should keep working for their organization (for more than a year - until and only if getting the JD becomes necessary for them to accomplish what they want to accomplish). But if they actually want to go into academia the degree is a better path than the PI work.

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby Rigo » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:54 am

Door #2

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby bubblebat » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:11 am

As someone who enrolled in a one-year Oxbridge program during my gap year and is now considering risking my place at Harvard by dropping out, let me be clear: Do not get involved with an Oxbridge program, however short, if your life goals and interests are not directly tied to the subject of that program. You may not up end in the same position I'm in, but I want to be forthright in saying that trudging through the highly-independent and highly-isolating format offered by Oxbridge graduate study for something you don't absolutely love is soul-sucking. And pointless. Not one interviewer I've spoken with has even asked me about Oxbridge; my Harvard interviewer was far more interested in my one-off mention of attending a conference than the details of the dissertation I was slated to write for the next six months.

Save your time and money.

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SmokeytheBear

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby SmokeytheBear » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:19 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:However, I think doing a PhD you don’t want to do is a really bad idea, emotionally/psychologically (I guess the saving grace is that if you can do it as you plan it will be way shorter than the average US PhD).


This completely.

I will also say that an Oxbridge PhD isn't looked upon as highly as a PhD from elite R1s in the US, in part due to the less rigorous research and writing necessary to achieve the degree at Oxbridge.

sparkytrainer

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby sparkytrainer » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:22 pm

SmokeytheBear wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:However, I think doing a PhD you don’t want to do is a really bad idea, emotionally/psychologically (I guess the saving grace is that if you can do it as you plan it will be way shorter than the average US PhD).


This completely.

I will also say that an Oxbridge PhD isn't looked upon as highly as a PhD from elite R1s in the US, in part due to the less rigorous research and writing necessary to achieve the degree at Oxbridge.


This is generally true, but it depends on the subject too. For example, an Oxford D.Phil in philosophy for instance is looked just as highly as a Yale/NYU/Rutgers philosophy PhD. But as a general statement, you are right.

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victory

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Re: Gap year? Two great options, not sure which to pick. Academia/unicorn PI end goal.

Postby victory » Sun Apr 29, 2018 2:55 am

Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm not sure how many of y'all still use TLS, but, as an update, I think I'm choosing option 2.

Nebby wrote:What type of PI do you want to do? Is it the same type as Option 2? Of the two, option 2 is better.

I'll challenge your thinking about "unicorn" jobs. The organization you work for does good, impactful work, and that's far more important than whether some shithead law student or random person on the internet knows its name. "Unicorn" PI organizations aren't all they're cracked up to be, either, as they come with an incredible bureaucracy and are not ideal for entrepreneurial advocates (as you seem to be).

Option 1 will be no help getting a PI job and, coupled with the fact you have no idea what academia is like (how could you?), it also comes with an unreasonable opportunity cost.


National security PI. My nonprofit's mostly concerned with free speech--but we have a very unique national security program that I effectively run. (From your older posts, given your PI work and environmental experience, I'm pretty sure you'd recognize our environmental program.)



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