Over the past several years, we’ve become quite familiar with students taking a gap year before going to university. In this time, students travel, work, or simply relax and give themselves a break before continuing their education. This can be extremely beneficial, as it gives students time to recharge, explore the world, and come back to education ready to learn with a new perspective.
After their gap year, students return to their academic careers. Some students go on to begin working straight after university, but others decide to further their education through advanced degrees. For those who decide to pursue these advanced degrees, is it beneficial to take a gap year, or two or three, before continuing on to graduate school? We believe that there are many benefits to taking a gap year before continuing on with your education.
Many graduate programmes value real world experience. For example, the vast majority of students applying to MBA, or Masters in Business Administration, programmes have some element of corporate experience to their resumes. Additionally, many law schools in the United States value time off between undergraduate education and law school. In Harvard Law School’s class of 2020, 81% of entering students were at least one year out of university. Similarly, in New York University law school’s class of 2020, 73% of entering students were at least one year out of university upon entering. Many graduate programmes value students that have taken time off between their undergraduate and graduate degrees. But why? What’s the benefit of a gap year?
The reason a gap year, or several gap years, between undergraduate and graduate education is so valuable is that it allows students to explore their interests and gain real world experience. Students can choose several ways to spend this time. Many decide to spend this time gaining experience in their chosen field of study. Those hoping to attain a Master’s degree in Psychology may spend time working as a counselor, while others who aspire to go to medical school may work in the healthcare industry, doing research or administrative work. Others decide to spend a year completely dedicated to taking graduate school entrance exams and preparing applications.
Another great option is to spend several months volunteering abroad. Volunteering abroad is a great way to expand your skill set while also expanding your cultural viewpoint. Working in a programme that pertains to your chosen area of study, such as educational work in India or medical work in Ghana, gives you hands-on work experience in a unique setting. Additionally, living and working abroad gives you a global perspective that many other applicants will not have. The experience of immersing yourself in a new culture provides you with an outlook onto situations in your graduate programmes that your peers may not have. All graduate programmes are looking to fill their class with diverse students with unique experiences. Volunteering abroad is the perfect way to gain experience in your field while also gaining a diverse, unique perspective. Upon arriving back home, you’ll have plenty of time to take your entrance exams and put together your applications, where you can emphasize how great your time abroad was!