I did not decide I wanted to do a PhD in engineering right away from undergrad. I had originally planned on getting a job first, and then get a PhD down the road. I changed my mind, but the due dates to PhD programs had already passed. Although, I did apply to get a Master's at my undergrad school as a back up.
So my question is, what would look better - a gap year where I do volunteer research or doing a Master's for year while researching? The main drawback about a Master's is that I do not have funding. Also, I feel I might have to retake a lot of the classes anyway if I go to a different PhD program.
I was also wondering if a gap year looked bad at all if the time was spent doing research or other academic pursuits.