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  • Writer's pictureJustin Grimes

Should I Take a Break After Graduation Before I Go to Grad School?

Updated: Apr 2

As graduation approaches, many college students face a crucial decision: Should they jump straight into graduate school or take a break before continuing their academic journey? 

I understand that feeling of being a graduating senior and trying to figure out how to keep pushing to the end. Not to mention, graduating seniors are navigating questions about post-graduation plans.

The question often asked is, "What are you doing after graduation?" 

This question requires careful consideration, as the response says a lot. Please pay attention to body language, whether you are saying or hearing it. I graduated with my bachelor's degree with no secure plan about what I would do next. 

  • Should I take a gap year?

  • I got accepted into a master's program but have no plan for how to pay for it. Should I still pursue this master's degree?

  • Should I work for a corporation and start my career in a cubicle? 

I had the privilege this week of talking with some former and current student athletes about their plans after they have hung up their cleats. What I learned is that there are five factors all students are weighing in their decision-making process for their futures.

5 Factors to Consider: What to Do After Graduation

Burnout and Mental Health: The rigorous demands of undergraduate studies can leave students feeling mentally and emotionally drained when they graduate. Taking a break before diving into graduate school or work can provide an opportunity to recharge and prioritize mental well-being. It allows students to step back from the academic pressure cooker, indulge in self-care activities, and rediscover their passions and interests outside of academia. Starting grad school with a refreshed mind can lead to greater resilience and productivity in the long run.

Work Experience and Skill Development: A hiatus between undergraduate and graduate studies can offer invaluable opportunities to gain practical work experience and hone essential skills. Not to mention, some folks want and need money now. Whether through internships, part-time jobs, volunteer work, or traveling, students can broaden their horizons, build their resumes, and develop transferable skills that will serve them well in academia and their future careers. Real-world experiences can also help students clarify their academic and professional goals, ensuring they enter graduate school with a clear purpose.

Financial Considerations: Pursuing advanced degrees can come with a hefty price tag, and many students grapple with student loan debt accumulated during their undergraduate years. Taking a break before starting grad school can provide an opportunity to work and save money, reducing the financial strain of tuition and living expenses. Additionally, some students may be eligible for employer tuition reimbursement programs or scholarships they wouldn't have qualified for right out of college. By taking time to bolster their financial resources, students can approach graduate school with greater economic stability and peace of mind.

Research and Preparation: Graduate school is a significant commitment, and students need to enter their programs well-prepared and informed. Taking a break after graduation can allow students to research potential graduate programs thoroughly, connect with faculty members and current students, and visit campuses to get a feel for the academic environment. Furthermore, students can use this time to prepare for standardized tests such as the GRE or GMAT, polish their application materials, and strengthen any academic weaknesses identified during their undergraduate studies. Adequate preparation can enhance the likelihood of admission to top-choice programs and set students up for success in their graduate studies.

Personal Growth and Exploration: Finally, a break between undergraduate and graduate school provides an opportunity for personal growth and exploration. Whether it's pursuing hobbies, traveling, volunteering, or simply spending quality time with loved ones, this period of self-discovery can be enriching and transformative. Students may discover new passions, interests, and perspectives that unexpectedly shape their academic and career trajectories. By embracing this exploration period, students can enter graduate school with greater self-awareness, purpose, and fulfillment.

If you are a student reading this, taking a break after graduation is okay. As my good friend The Adulting Queen shares,

If you are a parent reading this, your student needs your support, which looks like asking thoughtful questions and letting them decide. If you are an advisor, mentor, educator, or someone who works with college students, encourage your students to explore their options and provide space for listening. Many voices are speaking at them, and they need to know someone is focused on listening.   The decision to take a break after graduation before starting graduate school is deeply personal and requires careful consideration of various factors. While some students may benefit from diving straight into advanced studies, others may find that taking time to recharge, gain experience, and explore their options leads to greater success and satisfaction in the long term. Whatever path students choose, it's essential to prioritize self-reflection, informed decision-making, and holistic personal and academic growth.

To my graduates.

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