I cannot speak for myself, but I can speak for a few people. For some people, just taking time off helps them. Some faculty members are suspicious of students who have gone from Undergrad to Grad and now want to do the Ph.D. Fearing burn out is very really because burn outs do happen. Given that this is about investing time, energy, and money, people worry about that. So just being in the "real world" for a little bit helps. But other things I have seen help is boosting the CV just a little. Adding a book review or two from respectable journals. Publishing one peer reviewed article in a solid journal. Volunteering some of your time to a digital humanities project, such as transcription work. Attending your local/regional conferences. Maybe presenting as well. Building up the networks that didn't before. And just simply improving your GRE score, SOP, and Sample Essay because you don't have to balance four other classes. All of these things I have seen help people.