Taking A Year Off Before Grad School

The proverbial fork in the road

As Ben mentioned in a previous post, he took a year off after graduating from college before going to grad school. I did the same thing, and I’m sure that many of you recent grads out there are wondering whether or not you should too. Now that I’m nearing the end of my year off, I think it was the right move for me. Here are the four reasons I think that taking a year off before grad school was beneficial

1. Rest
Even during my sophomore year of college, I was beginning to feel burned out on school. After 16 straight years of nothing but eating, sleeping, and studying, I was pretty tired. It didn’t help that I went to a competitive college, where you had to be on your toes all the time or risk falling behind. Taking this year off to recuperate and rediscover that learning is about improving oneself (and not about getting the best grades or class rank) has really helped me psych myself up for the upcoming two years. It’s easy to lose sight of why we go to school when all anyone can talk about is the next test or how to increase their GPA or how to strategically plan out your schedule to get the easiest teachers.

2. Experience
Even though this was technically a “year off,” I still decided to get a job. As Ben mentioned, this can be a great time to get some experience working on research in whatever field you hope to enter. Working at Testmasters has been a good experience for me as well, because I can put on my resume that I have a year’s worth of teaching and tutoring experience, which looks great for students who are hoping to finance their graduate school educations through teaching assistantships.

3. Money
It makes the world go round. Having a little bit of money saved is always a good thing, especially if you’re about to plunge yourself into debt with grad school. You never know what sort of circumstances might pop up, so having a little safety net, no matter how small, is a good idea.

4.  Time
Things get hectic during school. Classes, tests, projects, grades, friends — there are lots of things screaming for your attention. And on top of all that is the ever-present pressure to figure out what the next steps in your life will be. Sometimes all you need is a little time to figure it all out. In the few months after I graduated, as I began writing essays and applying to grad schools, I really began to realize that it was in fact, the right decision for me. There was no way I could have taken the time to think about what I wanted and what I needed while I was still in school, trying to keep myself afloat among a sea of other students, all of whom seemed to know exactly what they were doing. For me, this past year has made me confident that I’ve thought out my plan carefully and that I’ve made the right decision — and that peace of mind is what lets me approach the upcoming two years with confidence and determination.

If you want to take a year off before going to grad school, more power to you! Just remember — it’s supposed to be a year off, not a year wasted.

3 Responses to “Taking A Year Off Before Grad School”


  • Hi! This is Arnab from India. I graduated from college in 2010 with physics. After graduating, I took the year off to spend some time with my father who stays abroad. In the mean time, I did the first 2 levels of French conducted by Alliance Francaise, Paris and I even worked voluntarily at my father’s office for a few months. The main objective was though to get some rest after 15 years of constant studying. In 2011, I resumed my studies and and currently doing my masters in physics in India itself. I have plans of taking the GRE sometime soon. But will my “drop year” matter? I heard (from a few frnds) that dropping a year affects chances of getting thru US unis. Is this true?

  • Hey Arnab! Despite your “drop year”, it sounds as if you have stayed pretty active in your studies, and so I would not worry about that year off. Many students take time off from school between their undergraduate and graduate years of study, often for some of the same reasons you did (taking a break from studying). The only thing to look out for would be having a hard time remembering some of the skills that the GRE tests, but as long as you prepare well, you should be fine.

    So, in short, I don’t think that your admissions opportunities will be significantly affected by your year of rest. Hope this helps!

    -Will

  • Thanks a lot! That was very helpful.

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