Gap Year or no Gap Year?

Should I take a gap year before applying to grad school?

Many of you may be wondering whether you should take a gap year before applying to grad school or not. Here are some reasons why I think you should:

  • You are burned out from undergrad. I think one of the biggest reasons why students should take time off from school is because you are most likely exhausted from the past 4+ years and need a break! I was burned out my entire senior year of college and even though it wasn’t part of my original plan, I decided to take two years off. This time away from school was extremely helpful in that it helped me figure out what I was really interested in, what type of programs I wanted to apply to, and what I wanted my future career to look like. I was also able to work on building a strong grad school application by gaining more research experience, presenting at conferences, and helping write a manuscript for publication. Don’t be afraid to step back and take a breather, grad school will always be there!
  • You want to travel or be out in the “real world”. Taking some time off to travel is not always a bad thing. If you want to take a gap year to do some traveling because you didn’t really get to do so in undergrad, do it! It’s also okay if you want to go out into the workforce for a few years to get some real-world experience. 
  • You don’t feel like you are “ready” yet.

This was one of the reasons why I decided not to apply for PhD programs right out of undergrad. I didn’t believe that my application would be “competitive” enough and thought it would be a good idea to take some time to make it the strongest that it could be. I think having this awareness is great and you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you don’t feel completely ready. Sure, there is never a “perfect” time to apply for grad school, but you should do it when it feels right.

NOTE: Now if you have already decided that you want to go straight to grad school after undergrad, that’s also fine. You know yourself better than anyone, so if you feel ready to dive into this next phase of your life, go for it!

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