Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

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MyPhysicsBeatsYourChem
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Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2007 10:37 am

Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

Postby MyPhysicsBeatsYourChem » Fri Sep 07, 2007 4:08 pm

Is this a good idea? I was hoping to hear from people's personal experiences about what one might gain/sacrifice by taking some time off in between schooling. I feel as though I could push through and jump straight into grad school but it would be nice to have some time to relax and enjoy things (like going out, which I didn't get to do while I was an undergrad). I would still plan on working in my current research group but would just take a break from the requirements of classes. Any input is greatly appreciated, thanks.

bongalongadingdong
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Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2007 1:20 am

Postby bongalongadingdong » Sat Sep 08, 2007 2:09 am

First, let me say that every single grad student I know that took time off before starting grad school does not regret doing so. Additionally, most grad students I know that didn't take time off wish they did. I'm applying to schools this fall, and by the time I go back next fall, I will have taken 2 years off after my undergrad...the verdict?

Best decision ever.

I've been able to travel, go out far more frequently, drink far more frequently, save up some money, and spend some quality time pursuing hobbies I simply never had very much time for before. I've also stayed active in the laboratory nearly the entire time, working in a government lab for a while and then returning to my research group from undergrad (where I currently work).

Though I've definitely killed some brain cells in my time off, I still feel far more prepared to begin grad school now then I did a year ago. I'm far more confident in my abilities (especially in the lab), I've clarified my career goals, focused my research interests, and I have a renewed passion for physics. Quite simply, I feel like im ready to go to grad school and hit the ground running.

Taking a year off shouldnt hurt your admission chances later on either, especially if you stay active in the field. The only real concern might be the gradual disappearance of some of the old knowledge from your undergrad classes. This might mean a little extra studying for placement exams, etc, but I feel like that's a small price to pay.

Anyways, If you do decide to take a year "off", please remember why you did it, and make sure you have some fun.

marten
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Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Postby marten » Tue Sep 11, 2007 9:50 am

I'm in the middle of my two years off between undergrad and grad school. I definitely feel strongly that it was the best decision, and I'm glad that I'm doing it.

I heard from other people who advise against taking time off, saying something to the effect of, "It will be harder to go back to school once you've taken any time off". I disagree. I believe that time off will help with career clarification. If you are just going through the motions, enrolling in classes every year because it is the "next step", then it WILL be harder to return to school after some time off.

However, if you find that after a year off, you're really ready to get back into it, hit the books, and get going again, then you'll really know that you're heading in the right direction and doing the right thing.

Plus, I've enjoyed the break, enjoyed a relaxed 9-5 schedule (with nothing on my mind after 5 unless I want it to be :) ), traveled to Turkey, the Netherlands, planning one to the Dominican Republic (and back to NL!) explored new hobbies, got into biking, and re-visited old ones.

I've also had uninterrupted time to study for the physics GRE, which I've actually enjoyed and felt motivated for.

Some thoughts,

Marten

mathlete
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Joined: Tue Dec 05, 2006 12:22 am

Postby mathlete » Fri Sep 14, 2007 4:07 pm

I'm in the middle of doing it. I was slated to go to grad school but decided to take a year (or more) off... so far I don't regret it, except that I haven't found a job yet (though I have some interesting things on the table).

bjr2101
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Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 9:40 pm

Postby bjr2101 » Thu Sep 20, 2007 9:48 pm

I am also thinking about taking a year off. The reasons I am considering this option are:

1) I want to make sure I am ready to commit 5-7 years on a phD program in physics. My other interests include programming, and I would like to possibly try my hand at that.
2)I want more time to prepare for the GREs & acquire good recommendations.

Does anyone have any information/ resources on what potential jobs someone with a B.S. in physics could do? Also, would graduate schools look down upon my application if I did something non physics related (programming) in the years on my 'break'?

hiccupz
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Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:31 pm

Postby hiccupz » Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:51 pm

I was wondering if anyone else's thoughts toward the prospect of taking a year off were influenced by the student loans looming over their shoulder? If I did take time off the grace period for my student loans would run out and I would have to begin repayment (not such a big deal if I have a job, it's true), but that also means that I wouldn't have a second grace period after grad school. Is this a concern for anyone else?

stardust
Posts: 109
Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:15 pm

Postby stardust » Thu Sep 27, 2007 3:04 am

@bjr2101
Sounds like you gave skills for Wall Street. They like physcists and the progamming to. But, if you go to Wall street, you would make so much money you are unlikely to come back. But, on the other hand earning a nice
stash before grad would really help once the poverty hits.

hpharty
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:36 am

Postby hpharty » Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:43 am

Hello everyone.

I am also in the midst of a year off. It started for me as uncertainty about my qualifications and desire to go to graduate school. I have learned a few things in my time off. First and foremost is that finding a job is much more difficult than you would ever expect. I have had 3 interviews, 2 job offers, and have turned them both down because of time commitments required that I was not willing to agree to (such as a high school teaching job with a 3 year contract). My advice to anyone considering it is to work out a plan as early as possible. Ask yourself: Do I want to live with my parents? Can I afford to move out on my own? What kind of job am I looking for (i.e. when I go to Monster.com and want to search what will I type)?

That said, I love having the time to sit and study for this November GRE.

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Postby marten » Mon Oct 29, 2007 1:37 pm

hiccupz, regarding the student loans, it wasn't really a factor for me, but I think it played out better having a year off. I do have a LOT of loans, and less then half of them are subsidized. That means that the rest would continue to accrue interest while I defer them. This two years is letting me pay off the high interest loans (@#$%*! Sallie Mae!) which will result in huge savings in the future.

(P.S. don't ever consolidate your high and low interest loans together, consolidate them individually to lock in interest, if that is what you want to do, but keep them separate so you can pay back extra to the high interest loans... but I'm sure everyone knew that.)

Marten

tnoviell
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Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:31 am

Postby tnoviell » Mon Oct 29, 2007 5:49 pm

I wish I had taken at least 1 year off. I am regretting it.

Zburatorul
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Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 3:46 am

Re: Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

Postby Zburatorul » Sun Aug 09, 2009 3:55 am

This thread is exactly what I'm looking for.

I too am thinking about taking a year off. Right now my intention is to apply this fall and then defer. One issue with this is that not everyone lets you defer, unless you have a "good reason". The other issue is that if I decide I need just one more year off, I am probably going to lose my spot.

Those who went through the admission process and then deferred: when did you tell the admissions office or your prospective mentor that you want to take time off?

And perhaps more importantly: what did you guys do during this year?

My goal is to grow as a person, as opposed to an academician. I want to learn a new language, travel for a bit, do some minor things I haven't had a chance to do, read some books, prepare for grad school. I would like to do some research during this year, but nothing that requires a commitment. Hopefully I'll find a way, given that I'm a theorist to-be.

larry burns
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Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:12 pm

Re: Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

Postby larry burns » Sun Aug 09, 2009 6:48 pm

i was thinking of taking a year off as well, but since i graduate at the end of the fall semester, i'll just use the spring semester as my 'time off'. also, living with my parents for over a year doesnt appeal to me

tnoviell
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:31 am

Re: Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

Postby tnoviell » Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:30 pm

Howdy,

I'm not sure how (or if) my post will help you in any way, but I'll tell you my story and my experiences. I was originally going to take a year off between undergraduate and graduate, and work in industry for a short time. Unfortunately, the company I had been contacted by that had told me a job was secured didn't pull through, so I ended up going to graduate school instead - I ended up at Johns Hopkins for Biophysics.

I was pretty burnt out by the time I had graduated, and when I got to graduate school, in many ways I just didn't want to be there. I did well and all of that - classes went fine and research went fine, but something just didn't settle right, I suppose. Many graduate students there had taken some time off before starting graduate school; some one year and some several years. It seemed to have worked out for them, as they understood what exactly they wanted.

I made a tough decision and withdrew from the program for many reasons - and it's something that I do not regret whatsoever. I became a physics teacher at the high school I attended, and it's a job I truly love, as I love physics and I love social interaction. I always wanted to teach physics, and this provided me the most direct route to that goal, so it all worked out wonderfully in the end.

Before I took the job as a teacher, I spent about a year doing many things I wanted to do, and it definitely was an enriching experience. Like a previous poster desired, I indeed spent time traveling and learning a new language. Perhaps my goals changed, and the road was different.

On deferment - I knew one person who deferred, and was ultimately rejected in the end. That's the only person I knew that had done that, and it didn't quite turn out how she had planned. Not certain if that's common.

Moral of the story: Many people take a year off and go back and lead a happy graduate career. Many people don't take a year off and lead a happy graduate career. Many people don't lead happy graduate careers. Find the road that suits you, and I wish the best for you.

larry burns
Posts: 77
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:12 pm

Re: Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

Postby larry burns » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:36 pm

for those of you who took a year or more off, is having to live with your parents a sufficient reason to decide to go to grad school right after undergrad?

also, will doing something non-science related (such as teaching at a middle school, or teaching english at another country) hurt your chances at engineering grad schools if you did your undergrad in physics?

Goodspaceguy
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Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:06 am

Re: Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

Postby Goodspaceguy » Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:33 am

So I'm also considering taking a year or more off to pursue other possible career avenues and I'm wondering, if I were to spend a couple years pursuing something that has absolutely nothing to do with physics (like comedy writing - for something other than The Big Bang Theory), would this ultimately hurt my chances of going back to physics?

Right now I'm pretty confident in my ability to get into at least one grad school program I'm interested in, but will I lose some of my grad school viability of I don't spend my time away getting a job in industry, teaching or really anything that directly uses my training in physics?

Zburatorul
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 3:46 am

Re: Taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate

Postby Zburatorul » Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:12 am

larry burns wrote:So I'm also considering taking a year or more off to pursue other possible career avenues and I'm wondering, if I were to spend a couple years pursuing something that has absolutely nothing to do with physics (like comedy writing - for something other than The Big Bang Theory), would this ultimately hurt my chances of going back to physics?

Right now I'm pretty confident in my ability to get into at least one grad school program I'm interested in, but will I lose some of my grad school viability of I don't spend my time away getting a job in industry, teaching or really anything that directly uses my training in physics?


First, I am senior going through the application process for the first time, so my experience is limited.
That said, everywhere I've looked I've found that voluntarily taking time off, for non-academic purposes, is largely detrimental to your chances of being admitted in later years.
Unless you're exceptional, the top programs aren't gonna want a guy who's unsure whether he wants to do science or something completely unrelated.

Just my two cents.




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