It is hard to imagine remaining a student after graduating from college, yet it is increasingly popular these days as the working field becomes more selective and applicants more experienced. Although most students are confident in their decision to pursue graduate school, there is uncertainty when deciding whether to pursue a gap year. As a current third year dental student, I was faced with the same options and felt conflicted because both sides have their fair share of pros and cons. Although I decided to start school immediately after graduating, taking a gap year would have been an equally fine choice and there ultimately is no wrong direction!
Reasons to consider taking a gap year
A way to boost your GPA
A gap year used to be seen as a way for applicants to boost their resumes; if their grades were not up to par, for example, they could take post-Baccalaureate courses to increase their GPA. If their work experience was lacking in the field they wanted to pursue, they could work in their desired field for a few years to build up skills and impress their target employers. Although gap years are undoubtedly advantageous to future employers and admission committees, taking a year off does not mean the applicant is not strong enough to apply for the current cycle. Many qualified and successful students voluntarily take gap years for other reasons, and boosting their resumes is just a beneficial by-product. Employers will not see a gap year as a sign of weakness or remediation, so do not let this deter you from pursuing a gap year.
A breath of fresh air
One of the best benefits of a gap year is the breath of fresh air that interrupts the long journey of school. Graduate school programs can range anywhere from one to eight years and after sixteen years of school prior to college graduation, a break is well deserved and encouraged. Furthermore, a gap year is the best time to try something you have always wanted to do but had no time for in college. Many of my friends took this time as an opportunity to travel for an extended period because this becomes increasingly difficult while working or studying full-time. Some who were applying to medical school spent a year doing research or working as an EMT to ensure the healthcare field was something they were truly passionate about. Others, however, got a job in a completely unrelated field to explore their options and ensure they had ruled out other professions.
I ultimately did not choose to pursue a gap year because I preferred to capitalize on traveling and relaxation during the summer before dental school. Although it would have been advantageous to work and accumulate some spending money, there was nothing in particular I wanted to do for an entire year. Instead, I decided to take two months of summer to simply travel and visit friends and family without any obligations. It was a short enough time not to feel obligated to be productive yet long enough for me to feel sufficiently recharged for a new school year. Some of my peers who decided to take gap years mentioned the difficulty of transitioning from a working adult to a student since re-starting school. Because the lifestyles of a working professional and student are so different, they felt frustrated having to adjust to a more rigorous schedule with outside work hours dedicated to studying. Having this in mind, I wanted to maintain the stamina I had from college and go straight into graduate school already accustomed to being a student.
It is ultimately what makes sense for you. Although it can be a difficult decision to make, choosing whether to take a gap year is one that requires serious consideration. While some people take the year to travel or work, others go straight through because they feel ready for a new chapter of life. Regardless of whatever path you take, make sure it is one you are truly comfortable in and do not base your decision on what you think graduate schools would prefer.
Want to connect with a graduate admissions coach to discuss your decision-making process?
Interested in reading more on the process?
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The 3 Essential Steps to Finding the Right Graduate School