By Meghen Jones
During the beginning of your undergraduate career, the thought of attending graduate school immediately after graduation seemed like a no-brainer. You were certain that this was the path you wanted to take, and nothing—especially a year-long break— was going to stand in your way. But, as time went on and graduation crept up, second thoughts swarmed your mind about beginning the next level of your educational career so soon.
As the issue of graduate school becomes more pressing, you may want to consider setting aside some time to deliberate upon your very important decision. Start by asking yourself the basic questions: Where do your priorities lie—in education or on-the-job experience? Does furthering your education benefit your career trajectory? Can the program you’re interested in provide a possible immersion program, which will allow you an “in” to your field of choice? Now that you’re considering these factors, you may feel more overwhelmed than you initially realized.
While we know that taking a break from school can seem like the ultimate relief, we also know that it can come with its many downsides. However, the same could be said for choosing to continue your next educational pursuits immediately after receiving your Bachelor’s. If you find yourself on the fence concerning your next step, take a deep breath. There’s nothing that a good ol’ pros and cons list cannot fix. Luckily, uCribs has compiled a blog you can utilize when considering a gap year between undergraduate and graduate programs.
PRO: Enjoying Freedom from Educational Obligations
Did you find yourself losing sight of the things that mattered most throughout college? Admittedly, you had little time focus on your personal life, whether it’d be maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy diet, devoting time to hobbies like blogging, or even something as simple as hanging out with friends on a regular basis. We’ve all certainly been there, and we’ve gotta say, it’s nothing short of soul-crushing at times. You’re no longer able to experience the carefree existence of high school, and from time to time, it becomes emotionally draining to keep up with so many obligations at once.
Once your degree is in-hand, you no longer need to stress about lectures, exams, and final projects. Ah, isn’t that a nice feeling? And if you decide to delay your grad school goals by a year, you’ll undoubtedly have more time to dedicate to yourself with newfound time to focus on all the things in life that make you happy—aside from a good grade, that is. Sometimes, a break is all you need to get back on track and crush your goals more successfully than ever. Hey, if that’s not the definition of self-care, we don’t know what is.
CON: Feeling More Financially Strapped Than Usual
There are jokes about broke college students in just about every comedy you see on TV. But, managing finances can be even more of a challenge for graduate students—some who may be dealing with financial debt from their previous program and others who can no longer depend upon their parents for financial assurance. With many of your peers entering the job market, it may also be difficult to keep pace with your friends and their starting salaries – which alone is enough to give anyone a healthy bout of FOMO.
If you’re determined to further your education, but you find yourself consumed with self-doubt— caused by none other than your financial situation— it is time to consider whether your degree will offer a return on investment. In other words, does your future career trajectory depend upon furthering your education and the expenses associated with it? We suggest that you map out the cost of tuition, materials, and living expenses and compare the grand total to your potential salary. And don’t forget that the acquisition of a graduate stipend or scholarship might help with the burden of balancing your finances. So we encourage you to apply for assistantships and other similar opportunities when and where you can!
PRO: Allowing More Time for an Improved Application
Missed out on that game-changing internship because your course-load was already too full? What about the incredible volunteer opportunity that was not only personally rewarding, but would also look fabulous on your seemingly lacking, but none-the-less promising, resume? Everyone wants to impress college admission boards—it’s the ticket into the graduate program of your dreams. Because you’re now intently on your career path, this admission decision seems even more vital than the first.
A gap year would allow you exactly what you need at this moment—more time. Time to fulfill all the impressive resume additions you missed out on when you were focused on the most important aspect of your education at the time: academics. With your free time, you can finally hone in on an internship at a law firm that will propel you into law school, or the tutoring volunteer opportunity, which will allow you to have a firmer grasp on what a one-on-one meeting feels like with a college student once you’re a bonafide university professor. Plus, adding either to your resume is sure to do wonders once it comes time to actually apply to your program of choice.
CON: Delaying Advancement in Your Chosen Career
Are you hoping to climb the corporate career ladder and secure a higher paid position that comes with more prestige and responsibility? While it’s true that many jobs—lawyers, psychologists, and college professors—require higher degrees, there are some that do not. When it comes to certain careers, it can be more beneficial to get your foot as soon as possible, whether it’s through an internship or paid position.
Keep in mind that every company is looking for something different. While some seek those with higher educational achievements, on-the-job experience is just as important—if not more so—to certain organizations. Therefore, many potential graduate students delay applying to post-grad programs immediately after receiving their Bachelor’s in lieu of obtaining their first job. Many grad students even commit to full-time work in their field of choice to acquire experience, while continuing their education simultaneously. It’s completely possible as long as you’re aware where your priorities lie and maintain a strict schedule of studying and completing assignments between your time spent at your respective workplace.
PRO: Allowing Yourself More Time to Travel
After dedicating so much of your time to the books, on-campus organizations, and school-related volunteer efforts, it’s safe to say that your world has revolved around your college education over the past few years. Even if you began college with the mindset of carving out much-needed personal time for yourself, we’re sure it got lost somewhere amid your continuously growing to-do list.
Now that you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s, it’s time to explore the beauty of the world. Have you been dying to visit the sandy beaches of Costa Rica? Or maybe, catching the glow of the Eiffel Tower at night has been on your bucket list for years? Since you’ve overcome the challenge of obtaining your Bachelor’s degree, there’s nothing wrong with branching out and traveling to a few of these mesmerizing destinations, as time and budget allow. Best of all, traveling will teach you a thing about self-reliance and flexibility—all while experiencing new cultures.
CON: Creating a Lack of Motivation
Remember the small break you had between your transition from high school to college? It was the most glorious summer ever because it offered up an in-between space, where you didn’t really belong to either institution. There’s something incredibly freeing about that experience— no matter how brief. But, with it, there comes a certain lack of motivation. One of the most common warnings you’ll hear about taking a gap year is that you’ll never want to return to school once you have a taste of life without it.
So, if you’re already pumped on tackling your graduate school diploma, then you might want to keep that momentum going by attending your program immediately after you receive your Bachelor’s degree. The lack of a break can keep you in your “student” mindset, making it easier to crush tasks and accomplish goals. Needless to say, this “old wives’ tale” is not the end-all-be-all when you’re trying to decide whether or not to take a gap year. You know your motivational drive and persistence better than anyone. So, despite the warnings, at the end of the day, you must determine if a gap year will be a detriment to your motivation.
It’s only a matter of time before you need to buckle down and come to a final decision on whether or not graduate school is a goal worth pursuing immediately. Our advice? Don’t let feelings of self-doubt prevent you from furthering your education, but at the same time, be wary of taking on this commitment without seriously considering the pros and cons that come along with it. Even though our list is subjective, we hope it gives you some insight into the positive and negative aspects associated with attending graduate school immediately after completing your first hurdle: your Bachelor’s degree.