Should I Defer my Degree for a Semester?

May 30, 2012

As we hurtle toward end of semester at a rate that would leave a NASCAR driver sobbing in a corner, it’s inevitable that we start to think about next semester, and even next year. This is the time of year when the question of deferring rears its dangerous head.


Deferring is often an ugly word for law students; it’s often seen as a lack of commitment or made out to be some kind of failure… The reality is that it isn’t, and this is something we law students have to get over.


I’ll confess that I’m a little biased on this point. I’m writing this from a giant bed in the English countryside, complete with cows and a little stream running past my window.


It may surprise you to learn that I’m currently taking time out from my oh-so-hectic life of exploring Prague and traumatising my wallet at the local Zara so that I can study for my upcoming exams. Yep, I’m technically still at university in Sydney.


Deferring can take many forms and doesn’t necessarily mean you’re delaying your career. I have several friends who took a semester off to commit to full time internships or jobs. Many of them stayed on in their roles after returning to university and frankly, they have the kind of career experience many of us need a degree for… they also have a reason to wear a suit to uni.


I’ve deferred my course at my university and taken up distance education at a different university while I live overseas. I can study when it suits me, but it has also helped me to develop greater self-discipline. Plus the experience has opened up a world of opportunities both socially and career-wise. As anyone who has travelled will tell you, the rules of reality don’t apply and you can find yourself spending one day with a judge, the next day with a CEO and the next with someone who has yet to learn that water is free and the cost of a bar of soap is next to nothing. At least two of these personalities may help you build a valuable network for your future. If you’re really lucky, you may even meet someone who will let you play in their law firm for a day or two or offer you some work next holidays!


Of course, deferring is also for those students who really need a break from it all.


If you’re thinking about taking a semester off from the law, I suggest you go for it. Taking some time away from law gives you the opportunity to sort yourself out, diversify your interests (try a hobby which doesn’t involve a law book, I hear law firms like that) and just breathe. If you’re terrified that you won’t come back, then I really encourage you to take some time out to figure out if you’re really chasing the right degree. Maybe you’ll rediscover your love for the law, or maybe you’ll find a different passion (and there’s nothing wrong with that).


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