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Disadvantages/Advantages To Waiting A Year to Apply to Grad School?

MordalwenMordalwen Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
edited June 2011 in Graduate School
I have been thinking a lot that it might be really stressful trying to take the General GRE, Subject GRE, study for both, do my research internship, and take a full load of upper-level science courses in addition to preparing all the applications in the fall.

I was wondering what my options are to waiting a year to apply and if that lowers my chances of acceptance at all? Maybe working as a lab technician and gaining extra experience in the meantime.

Or do people usually have success balancing school, work, GRE, and sending in applications?
Post edited by Mordalwen on

Replies to: Disadvantages/Advantages To Waiting A Year to Apply to Grad School?

  • soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,288 Senior Member
    I don't think taking a year off lessens your chances at all! If anything, and you do a job, research, or internship in your field, it even can be beneficial. A lot of my D's peers did take time off between college and grad school, with excellent grad school admissions results. My D didn't take the year off. She went directly from college to grad school. And yes, it was a LOT to balance out in fall of senior year of college. In her case, she was applying to Architecture school which is much more involving than just GREs, essays, recs, etc. and involves a portfolio that is time consuming to create and counts the most in admissions. It was surely a balancing act to do all that while at a challenging university, on a varsity sports team, a TA for a class, a dept. group leader, and so on. She was going to write a thesis as well (that is just an option at her school) but dropped that when it was too many things to juggle. So, it CAN be done (she did it and had very positive grad school results), but it definitely is a lot to handle. I think you could list pros/cons of either choice to go straight to grad school or take a year in between (I took a year in between myself, and worked in my field). Either way works fine. It is more a matter of preference.
  • variolavariola Registered User Posts: 152 Junior Member
    I don't think it's a disadvantage (I'll have ended up taking 2 years off between undergrad and grad) as long as you can fill the extra year with more research/lab tech job. It can be an advantage in that case if it gives you more experience. Plus, I found the process of applications very time consuming and stressful (filling out the apps was easy, but the school research took a lot of time) and I'm not sure I would have done well in my classes if I'd had to study and do apps/GRE. In my case, I could just go home from work at 6pm and have the whole evening free to work on my SoP/study for the GREs/etc.

    If you do take a year off, make sure you ask your professors for LoRs now. You can always get more from your PI/supervisor if you get a lab tech job somewhere else, but if you want letters from people that you may not stay in touch with over the extra year, you should get them now.

    And during my interviews, the majority of prospective students had taken a year or two off to work in the field. There were only a few people who were still in school.
  • NJSueNJSue Registered User Posts: 2,789 Senior Member
    I agree that taking a year (or two) off between college and graduate school does no harm at all. In fact, it can be beneficial because it allows you to refocus yourself. One argument I've heard is that you should rush right into grad school because if you don't, "you might never go back." My response is that if your commitment to graduate school is that shaky, you shouldn't go anyway! Many people plan on graduate school only because they don't know what else to do and they are used to being in school. That weak motivation won't carry anyone through to a successful finish. Graduate school adcoms can distinguish between the committed and the uncommitted. Time does not really matter.

    One suggestion, though: get your recommendations from your undergraduate professors now. They will be good for a couple of years before having to be updated.
  • soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,288 Senior Member
    I forgot to mention, when my D got to grad school, she was the only student in her grad school program who was right out of college. She was the youngest one (not that she minded). Just adding this to show you that she was the exception, not the rule.
  • belevittbelevitt Registered User Posts: 2,005 Senior Member
    I took time off between undergrad and grad school to work as a tech. It transformed my pretty unimpressive application from senior year of college (lowish gpa, good gre, three years of half assed research, no direction) into a really competitive application that was accepted almost everywhere I applied (several publications, won poster competitions, attended conferences, took graduate courses). Working as a tech was a very important part of my career and formed what I would go on to do as a grad student. It also made me a more competitive grad student when competing for fellowships and spots in competitive labs etc. Why don't you talk to some of the graduate students and lab techs at your lab and the ones next door. These people might be able to provide you with some feedback and will be a good chance to meet people.
  • spdfspdf Registered User Posts: 955 Member
    There's no downside. I went straight from college to grad school and hated it, so I dropped out, worked in a hospital research lab for a year, and applied to another university. I was older than most of the incoming grad students, but there were others older than me. This was in chemistry.
  • drdomdrdom Registered User Posts: 416 Member
    it depends on the program and what you do during the year.
  • hazelorbhazelorb Registered User Posts: 3,238 Senior Member
    Is it less stress to find a job?
  • IntelQIntelQ Registered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    What about for econ or business?
  • FarrukhFarrukh Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    Hi. I'm a college junior in Uzbekistan (Central Asia) with major in Language and Education minoring in IR. I've been dreaming about applying to US Grad school right after I get done with my BA here but what are my chances to get in and most importnatly to win a fellowship there? I'm a former FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange, sponsored by US Department of STate) and HSI Fellow (Hansen Summer Institute on Int'l Cooperation, DIplomacy and Leadership), have attended several conferences and seminars abroad with Diplomatic concentration abroad and at home, did an Internship with our MFA and volunteered for US Embassy here. I really want to pursue my IR or Diplomacy studies in the US but have NO IDEA which schools would offer me the best fellowship and which would suit me the best?
    Thanx, Fara
  • cheval54cheval54 Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    My S graduated from big name private school on east coast with +/- GPA (3.0). His decision, which we concurred with, was to find a job/internship in his field (PolSci/Public Policy), work, build a resume and then apply to Grad School. Two years later, he was accepted to all his "first choice" grad schools(3) and is completing his first year with honors!!! Waiting was the BEST decision he ever made. In those two years, he found a job with a state delegate, became more focused on the future, obtained a great letter of recommendation, and was ready to go back to school; said he missed the academic/intellectual challenge!

    If you have any doubts at all, stay out for a period of time, work, focus, mature, and then go back...you'll be refreshed and ready to go!

    Good luck with your decision....
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Registered User Posts: 5,821 Senior Member
    Much depends as well on what field you are pursuing. It will be tough to strengthen, say, an application to a PhD in English program with a year or two of work, but with the sciences, IR, economics, and a few others, work experience can greatly enhance your application. My D will be attending a PhD in neuroscience program in the fall, and she felt that she was at a great disadvantage not having worked for at least a year out of undergrad. Plus, it was tough juggling applications in the fall and interviews in the spring while still dealing with a demanding academic schedule. She decided to do it this way, however, because 1. she didn't expect to be at a disadvantage and 2. she wanted to continue her education without having to struggle to regain the student mentality.
  • jyber209jyber209 Registered User Posts: 653 Member
    My D waited for three years after undergrad before attending grad school. During those three years she built a strong work resume in her field, got a couple of promotions, benefitted from the support of mentors, and confirmed her career direction. (Plus she had a nice social life. ;))

    When she did apply to grad school, she did so with strong recommendations from her firm, and got into both schools to which she applied (one an Ivy, the other a state school).

    She is very glad she did it that way, since she had also built a nest egg while she was working, which now supplements her very modest grad assistant stipend. It means that she can live a little better as a grad student while still being independent. She plans on retaining a significant portion of her nest egg to use for starting out in a new city when she gets her grad degree.

    She is strikingly appreciative of the flexibility of being a student after having been in the corporate world. She considers it a real treat to be able to exercise or do laundry in the middle of a day. She loves being back to a student schedule, and considers being able to focus on her academic interests full-time a true luxury. IMO this is the greatest plus of her having worked in between -- that she so appreciates the opportunity she has now.

    One negative is that there are numerous "straight out of undergrad" students in her (applied economics) program, which she attributes to the poor economy in her app year, so while there are also older students, she wishes more in her program were older. She was used to being THE young one in her work environment.

    Overall, I think she is very glad she did it this way, but would not have wanted to put it off any longer.
  • super novasuper nova Registered User Posts: 137 Junior Member
    One thing to note is that there's a lot of variation in the age of first-year graduate students.

    It also helps to put yourself in the shoes of an adcom. Even a couple years off before applying to grad school is fine as long as the end result is something of substance you can write about in your personal statement. It helps to have specific things you can elaborate on, like the research experience you gained and the poster presentation that came out of it, or the technical skills you acquired, or statistical skills, etc.
  • jack63jack63 Registered User Posts: 613 Member
    I will agree with most other posts that there are few disadvantages of taking some time off before grad school to do something productive that will help your grad school applications. Also, students with solid experience before grad school tend to get into better grad schools. For example, I'm in a Phd program at a grad school with a fellowship. Years ago when I applied to the same school & dept for an unfunded maters program, I wasn't accepted. I'm doing better academically than during anytime in my life, and some of the flexibility is really an appreciated luxury. Studying all the time was a change in a lifestyle though.

    My only real complaint......My first semester of the PhD program I needed to find a professor to work with since I did not have one coming into the program. I couple of professors I wanted to work with expressed concern about my age(honestly, I'm not that old) and years away from school. I was baffled by this and I thought it to be rather unfair. The professor I did end up with tends to take a number of students with work experience though.....probably because they can work more independently.

    Reading through this thread, I'm surprised that almost every post says there are significant positives to taking some time off between grad school and undergrad. This has been my experience(I worked between PhD and masters). The thing is that throughout my life I've heard countless people talk about how hard it is to go back to school after being in the real world. Professors will sometimes say the same thing. This hasn't been my experience, but it would be interesting to hear from somebody who had issues coming back.
This discussion has been closed.