Graduates throw their caps

Grad School vs. Gap Year: Which is Right for You?

There’s an increasing trend of college graduates seeking additional education or experience before entering the workforce. Whether it’s to travel the world or to refresh your energy, many people are taking a gap year after college. Many do so with the intention of entering a graduate degree program afterward. So, is it better to wait or go straight into grad school?

Gap Year

The effectiveness of a gap year really depends on how you choose to spend it. Binge-watching Friends might not be the most productive use of your time, but there are plenty of things you can do to ease the transition into the next chapter of your life. A popular option is to devote your time to international travel. There is much to be said for experiencing the culture of another and stepping outside your comfort zone. It will broaden your horizons and give you something to write about when you do apply for graduate programs.

Also, applying to grad school is a lot of work, and it can be difficult to do so while also taking care of all the responsibilities associated with your senior year of college. Taking a gap year can give you time to focus on beefing up your applications, all while giving your mind a brief opportunity to recharge itself before the intensive study that it will soon be subjected to. Plus, you can take (and often retake) admissions exams during your gap year to ensure that you get a satisfying score.

One of the biggest concerns of those considering a gap year is how they will be viewed by their peers who opt for other pathways. Once again, this depends on how you use it. Taking a part-time job in your field of interest might not be a waste of your time. Your friends and family will likely understand that you’re gaining experience that will help you work toward your goals. Ultimately, you must make this decision for yourself, not for those around you.

Grad School

The arguments against taking a gap year seem to be summed up by the following statements:

  • You will lose a year of experience in the job market.You might choose to stay in the job you once thought of as temporary and never go back to get your graduate degree.
  • If you do enter grad school, it will be difficult for you to get back in the swing of things after being out of the classroom.

These statements rest on the decisions and mindsets on the individual, but they are all realistic possibilities. It’s difficult to map out your future, especially when you’re taking an alternative route to get there.

When you go into a grad program or the working world directly out of college, all of the knowledge you picked up during your time at your university will be fresh on your mind. You will be able to directly use the skills and understanding that you spent so much time, money, and energy acquiring. You would be surprised how quickly you can use knowledge if you aren’t using it on a regular basis.  

However, it’s very easy to overload yourself with schooling. Without taking that break between degrees, you may be stretching yourself too thin, and as a result it may be difficult to maintain the passion you once had for your field. You may not be able to motivate yourself to finish the degree program that you worked so hard to be accepted into.

Last Updated: October 08, 2015