When Should I Attend?

There are reasons to attend graduate school immediately after finishing your undergraduate education. There are also reasons to take time off before continuing your education at the graduate level.

Reasons for continuing on immediately may include:
  • Building on the momentum - some people feel they are most likely to stay on track academically if they continue being a student and don't take time off
  • Entry level job requirements - a graduate degree may be required in your career field even for that first position
  • Shelf-life of your courses - certain mandatory pre-requisite courses (especially those in science and technology) may "expire" after a period of time
Reasons for taking time off first may include:
  • Admissions requirements - some programs will not accept you until after you have significant work experience in the field in which you choose to study
  • Competitiveness - although you may be accepted without relevant work experience, you may find your application is viewed more competitively by the admissions committee if you have experience. Additionally, you may be more competitive for jobs once you finish if you have both a graduate degree and related work experience
  • Clarification/confirmation of interest - time off gives you time to test out a variety of fields. This critical since graduate/professional programs, unlike your undergraduate education, don't provide you with a broad exposure to a variety of disciplines; rather they narrow your educational focus and professional options.
  • Burn out - you've been in school for a long time and simply need a break
  • Financial - you can pay off some of your student loans before incurring new ones or you can simply get a head start saving for graduate school
  • Employer support - you may choose to pursue your graduate education in partnership with an employer who offers educational benefits. Usually, this benefit doesn't kick in right away, you have to obtain permission when you want to take courses, and coursework must be related to the work you are doing for the employer.

Important: Some people apply to graduate school with the intent of deferring admission. Not every program, will allow you to defer. You may have to resubmit an entirely new application or you may be able to simply reactive your application. Either way, you will then be compared to the current applicant pool. There's no guarantee that if you were accepted once, you will be accepted again.

Also important: If you choose to take time off before entering graduate school, you will still want to request recommendations from your professors now - while your academic performance is fresh in their minds. When you are ready to apply, you can then either use the recommendation as is or ask that the professor revise it to more strategically support the type of programs to which you've chosen to apply. You can store these "in advance" recommendations by registering with Outside LinkInterfolio for a small fee.

Page last updated: September 27, 2011