Taking a Year off Between Undergrad and Grad School: 5 Things to Do

Although a few students will continue straight from undergrad to their graduate studies, most will need to take at least a year off. Applying for a postgraduate program while simultaneously studying for senior year finals is too much for most people. However, many students feel as though they are in limbo during their gap year. Realistically, certain things have to be accomplished before students can re-enroll full time and give 100% of their attention to their studies, but there are better and worse ways to spend a year off. Students who accomplish some important tasks will likely have an easier time once in grad school.


1. Take required exams

Each graduate program requires a unique set of entrance exams. Whether a student is taking the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc., these exams require a ton of time and attention. Attempting to study for these tests during senior year of college may produce disastrous results. Although some students may be able to consider and take them over the summer, a gap year is an ideal time to take care of this arduous task. In fact, most graduate programs in the US will not accept a student without good scores on these exams – our private Irvine test prep tutors are here to help.

2. Look at short term and long term finances

Although undergraduate programs are time-consuming, grad school can make them seem like they were a piece of cake in comparison. It’s difficult if not impossible for many students to work regularly while in a demanding graduate program. Thus, it’s important that students understand their financial situation. First, will they receive any financial support or a stipend from the university? Will they be able to work as a TA in conjunction with their program? Or, will they be left to their own devices. Taking out graduate student loans on top of already mounting undergrad loans can leave students in a tight spot upon graduation, so it’s good to have a plan in advance.

3. Form a specific career goal

It’s also a good idea for grad school applicants to have a solid career goal in mind. Some people love to study in their chosen field or just want to delay the ‘real’ world. Others want to increase their earning potential in the future. Regardless, it’s important to have a specific career goal or position in mind before starting a grad program. Many undergraduate degrees can be used in several fields because a lot of companies simply require a bachelor’s degree in any field to be hired. However, graduate degrees are not required for the majority of non-academic jobs, so it’s important students know what, specifically, they want to do with their degree (READ: “Irvine College Tutor Tips: Waitlisted? 5 Ways to Cope”).

4. Work as an intern in your field

A gap year between undergrad and grad school is an ideal time to work as an intern. During a gap year, students won’t receive college credit so they’ll have to search for a paid internship. Although these are challenging to find, many high demand fields offer interns a fair sum to work in the field temporarily. Interns won’t have to worry about resigning from a long term position or losing connections since they were only expected to be on the job for six months to a year. Additionally, this is a great resume builder for grad school applications and future employment.

5 . Get into a work day routine

One of the more practical things students can do get into an everyday routine. Undergrad students may be used to an irregular schedule where they stay up late or have a free day in the middle of the week. Once they start work after grad school they’ll have to get quickly into a daily routine so why not start now?  If a student is taking a couple of years off from their studies, they’ll need to adjust to an 8 to 5 routine ASAP.

Still applying to grad school? Our Irvine graduate school consultants are here to help.

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