“I don’t want to take a year off. I need to get into grad school right away.”
Many undergraduate students share this point of view as graduation slowly approaches and everyone is asking, “What are your plans after school?”
There is an extreme stigma to the idea of taking a couple of years off of school before entering a graduate program. This idea stems from the previous generation’s lifestyle and perspective. For them, individuals rarely took any time off. It was always school after school after school until you’re working professionally.
When I interviewed for physical therapy programs, I noticed that the age of graduate students widely varied. Surprisingly individuals start MD, JD, and DDS programs at the average age of 27. Which is even earlier than the overall graduate school student age of 32. You are not behind!
Parents fear that their child will take time off of school and lose the drive to become successful. They don’t want you to get comfortable and settle for less. But you are not that type of individual.
This extra pressure of immediately pursuing higher education may result in you, the student, rushing and stressing over everything during your undergraduate career. Is it worth it?
If you’re passionate about something, you’ll take the time to achieve that goal.
If you don’t know what you want to do, remember that many individuals coming straight out of college don’t know what they want to do. In other words, it’s okay.
We are adults. We can choose our own path. A rubric or yellow brick road that is guiding us to go straight into grad school does not exist.
Taking the year “off” does not necessarily mean you will regress into laziness. Ultimately, it is your drive that will push you to make the best of the time off. You will have time to obtain a better understanding of what you want to do in your life.
Here are three reasons why you should consider taking a couple years off from school.
Surprise! Graduate programs are demanding. Imagine getting into school RIGHT after undergraduate. You’d be sworn into more intense classes and truly learn what it means to be a full-time student.
How are you going to find time to do things important to you besides academics?
My undergraduate experience was phenomenal and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I never really had time to myself to just do things on my own.
This your grand opportunity to improve things about yourself that you never had time to do during the busyness of college life.
I spent my years off pinpointing my weaknesses and fortifying my strengths. Without school, you have time to break old habits, and create better ones. I had time to consistently exercise and eat healthily. I’ve also stepped out of my comfort zone and worked to improve my public speaking skills. As an undergraduate, these are small things that I didn’t have as much time to do because of class, midterms, labs, clubs, organizations, etc.
You can now work full-time and focus on your interpersonal skills while chipping away at student loans. Though you may work somewhere that doesn’t align with your interests, the experience diversifies your background and skill-sets that you can bring to the field you’re interested in.
Fine-Tune Your Interests And Build On Experience.
The year off gives you an opportunity to search for a profession, career, or field that interests you or to find out if you really enjoy what you’re currently pursuing.
It’s important that you are patient in finding a field you are interested in. You’d be better off taking the year off to cement your career path, instead of rushing into a graduate program and finding out a couple years later that it wasn’t for you.
What is spending an extra year or two in the long run, if you solidify what you want to do for the rest of your life?
You will have time to commit to internships or observational experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have time to do during school.
The amount of internship hours I logged during my college career could have easily been made up for during my years off. Those extra hours and moments of stress could have been spared to improve my performance in the classroom.
This concept can also apply towards studying and performing better on entrance exams like the GRE, MCAT, GMAT, etc. You can focus on these tests and not have other courses or extracurriculars distracting you.
Additionally when interviewing for a school or job, you can actually make it a point that you had time to take in life experiences you would otherwise not have the opportunity to do so. You can say that during the time you took off, you learned why you want the position you are interviewing for and why it’s important to you.
Find What Makes You Happy.
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” – Dalai Lama
There will never be a period in your adult life where you will have the time to live life without overwhelming academic or professional commitments.
Try something you never thought you’d like. Take that dance class you’ve been telling yourself you’ve been wanting to try. Take time to give back to your community and join a local non-profit. Work hard, save up money, and book a ticket to another city or country. Go to a concert your favorite band is putting on. Cross items off your bucket list.
Discover things that make you happy.
Trust in your drive to succeed. Trust in your will to become a professional. Take the right steps to stay on track, but also to enjoy this rare moment.
There is a time for everything. Don’t get me wrong, attending a graduate program right after undergrad is, without a doubt, impressive. However, I want to emphasize that not getting into school right away doesn’t mean you’re inadequate.
It does not mean that your entire future is ruined.
Consider taking a year off to learn more about yourself. Take the year ON and move towards a path that you find fulfilling.
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