Graduate School Gap Year

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What is a Gap Year?

In higher education, a gap year is a period of time between educational experiences from undergraduate to professional graduate school. It is common for students to plan a gap year or more to refine academic and career goals, personally develop, gain experience, and strengthen their graduate application. Reasons for considering a gap year are unique to an individual's personal goals and interests.

Why do a Gap Year?

Even if it wasn't what you had in mind, be open to it! Many alumni have found taking a gap year or more to be a transformative experience of personal and professional growth. Here are reasons to consider.

  • 86% of gap year participants reported being satisfied or partially satisfied with their eventual career choice.
  • Explore a career field and/or gain industry-specific skills (for example: gaining teaching skills and experience before applying for a masters degree in education).
  • Networking opportunities! If you do your gap year through a formalized program, such as Peace Corps or City Year, you gain instant access to thousands of industry professionals.

How do I Choose a Gap Year Experience?

There are a variety of short-term experiences you can do during a gap year(s) that will set you up for success. The experience(s) you choose solely depends on your personal goals and interests that may or may not align with your academic and career plans.

And while you're gaining experience, utilize your gap year(s) time to prepare and strengthen your graduate school application materials.

Considerations when thinking ahead about a gap year:

  • Check in with potential letter writers before you graduate.
  • Verify access to pre-professional advising such as your college career center, Pre-Law Advising, and the Pre-Health Student Resource Center.
  • Keep in mind that the Writing Center provides services for currently enrolled students. Once you've graduated, you will not be able to visit the writing center for a personal statement review.

Answering these reflection questions will give you a better sense of how to choose experiences and how you might prepare for your gap year(s).

  • What are your goals, and what skills would you like to develop?
  • What are you interested in?
  • What length of time is ideal for you?
  • Do you want to stay in the United States or go abroad?
  • What is your financial situation, and how will you fund your experience?

Be aware that scam programs exist. Some warning signs to pay attention to include:

  • Lack of contact person available for more information
  • The website doesn’t end with .org or .gov
  • Organization asks for a large sum of money upfront
There are many different gap year programs. Connect with a career counselor to learn more about options that may be a fit for your interests!

Gap Year Resources

UMN Resources:
UMN Learning Abroad Center-Work, Volunteer, Intern Abroad
UMN Office of National & International Scholarships
Pre-Health Student Resource Center
Peace Corps, UMN

External Resources:
Gap Year
American Gap Association
Idealist
Go Overseas
AmeriCorp
ServiceYear
Staffing Agencies: These agencies hire for temporary and permanent positions on behalf of other organizations.

Gap Year Videos

Do you think you might need a break between undergraduate and graduate school but are worried about what that might mean for the application process, your own motivations, or other concerns? Watch these recorded panels of individuals who decided to take a gap year and hear them touch on a variety of topics, including:

  • Whether or not it's OK to take more than one year off from school
  • What can you do during your time off (does it have to be related to your future graduate school studies)?
  • How can you maintain contact with professors?
  • And more!