A few questions about grad school
Hello, I'm a rising senior in college, and I'm just starting to look into grad school. I know almost nothing about it, and neither do my parents, so I'm coming here with some general questions I'm hoping you can help me out with to get me started.
I'm a student at Northwestern majoring in biology (concentration of genetics and molecular biology). My GPA is currently 3.477, which I know isn't stellar. I'm hoping to pull it back above 3.5 this year. My ultimate goal is to go into cancer research, which I will most likely need a Ph.D. to do.
I'm a little hesitant to apply to graduate school right out of college, though. I know that grad school (particularly Ph.D. programs) is a significant investment of time and money, and not the kind of thing you should jump into if you're not 100% sure that it's what you want. My mom is pushing me to go straight into grad school, but I'd like to take a few years off after undergrad to get a job, save up some money, gain some experience, and really make sure that I want to commit to a Ph.D. program.
However, my mom is worried that if I get a job and start earning money, I'll never go back to school. Is it advisable to take a few years off between undergrad and grad school? Do graduate schools prefer students who just graduated? Is it terribly difficult to quit a job and go back to school?
Also, on a side note, I may not have a choice on this if I want to get into a good program. Aside from some independent research my sophomore year, I have no research/internship experience, so I think that, whether I wanted to or not, I would probably have to find some kind of research job before I apply to grad school. Thoughts on this?
And one more random question: in undergrad, if I received grades that were low, but still high enough that they count towards my major in classes that are very relevant to my major, would it be advisable to re-take them and earn higher grades so that graduate schools could see that I am capable of doing better in those classes? I decided on the biology major kind of late, which meant that I had to take several difficult science classes at once, which did not leave me with good grades in those classes (mostly B-'s and a couple C's). I think that I would do much better in these classes the second time around. My sophomore year, I withdrew from an introductory physics course because I was getting a C/D, and last year, I re-took it and got a solid A. I think I could get similar results if I re-took some of the other science classes. Would it kind of make up for getting mediocre grades the first time around if I re-took the classes and got good grades, or would it just look pathetic?
Thank you so much for any advice. I know that was a long post. I just kind of don't have anyone else to ask about this stuff, and I'm feeling overwhelmed about the whole process.