Should You Take a Gap Year Before Grad School?January 26, 2021
Should I take a gap year before attending graduate school? This is a question many people are faced with after completing an undergraduate degree.
Unfortunately, it’s not an easy one to answer. While there are some significant advantages to taking time off before continuing your education, there are also some downsides. Here are a few tips to help you decide if a gap year after undergrad may make sense for you:
What is a Gap Year After Undergrad?
A gap year is exactly what it sounds like — a one year break in between finishing your undergraduate degree and starting your graduate program.
People take gap years after college for many reasons. A few common examples include the opportunities to:
- Rest and rejuvenate after several years of school
- Save some money
- Pursue professional opportunities outside of an academic program
- Develop and refine your interests
- Build up your resume to get approved for a better professional program.
Why Take a Gap Year After College?
If you’re considering a gap year, it’s important to identify the reasons why you might want to take a year off so you can assess if they’re good ones or not.
While it may seem tempting to just take a break from school without a solid plan for spending your time, doing so can slow down your momentum and perhaps even affect your ability to finish your course of study. If you’re thinking about taking a break after undergrad, you should clearly define your goals for the gap year to make certain it’s a productive period of time.
Benefits of Taking a Gap Year After College
Done well, there are substantial benefits of taking a gap year after college. Some of the biggest advantages include:
If you’re simply tired of the pressures of school, you may prefer a year-long break before you dive right back into an even more rigorous graduate program.
Explore Personal and Professional Opportunities
You may be able to get hands-on experience in your field or other areas of interest by working or volunteering. This can leave you better prepared for graduate school.
Refine Your Interests
You can use the year to explore different career opportunities or to reflect on what you hope to accomplish during graduate school. This could help you make smarter choices about what type of professional degree to pursue.
Work and Save Money
Taking a year to work full time could mean you don’t have to borrow as much money to attend graduate school. It could even give you the chance to start paying down your student loans.
Improve Your Credentials
You could retake graduate school exams, such as the GRE, GMAT or MCAT if your scores weren’t up-to-par the first time. You could also flesh out your resume to become a more attractive candidate when applying to schools.
Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year After College
When considering a gap year after college, think about the pros and cons. Here are some of the biggest disadvantages of waiting a year to start your next academic program:
Your Grace Period May End
After graduation, you’ll have a grace period before you must pay your loans. While the moratorium on payments can vary depending on whether you have federal or private loans, you will generally need to begin making payments well before a full year’s time has passed.
You Could Lose Momentum
A break in your momentum could mean you get caught up doing other things and never earn the graduate degree you were hoping for.
Finding Productive Ways to Fill the Time May Be Challenging
Unless you have a job, internship or volunteer position lined up, it may be a challenge to find something worthwhile that you can do just for a limited period of time.
Your Career Goals Will Have to Wait for a Year
A gap year pushes back your timeline for graduating with your chosen degree and working in your field.
How to Take a Gap Year
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of taking a gap year and are leaning towards taking time off, there are a few key ways to ensure your year is as productive as possible. You should:
Make a Financial Plan
How will you afford to fund your gap year? What will you do about student loan payments? Know the answers to these questions.
Line up a Job, Internship or Volunteer Position
Make sure you have work, whether it’s a job or internship, that you’re interested in doing. Working during your gap year will help you to save money to pay for school and fulfill your career goals.
Develop a Timeline
Outline in advance what you hope to do each month, including when you’ll retake any testing needed to get into graduate school or when you’ll begin submitting applications to your graduate program.
By making sure you’re fully prepared for your gap year before your undergrad program ends, you can use your year off as effectively as possible and maximize the chances that you’ll ultimately be successful in attending your graduate program once the year has come to an end.