Grad School: Should I work for a few years before applying?


Recent graduates are often told to work for two to three years before beginning a graduate degree. This isn’t bad advice, but work experience isn’t a prerequisite for most grad programs. There are benefits to entering the workforce and benefits to continuing immediately to grad school – the path you choose should depend on the situation in which you find yourself upon graduation.

What’s the benefit of putting off graduate school for the daily grind?

Entering the workforce may not sound appealing, but many recent graduates leave college burnt out and disillusioned with academic coursework. After four years of tests and essays, few people are excited about devoting even more time to academics. Graduate school can be a lot of work – if you’re not mentally committed to it, you should give yourself a break before starting.

College can be expensive and student loans have a way of piling up. If you’re swimming in debt you may want to take some time to pay off your loans before you continue your education. On the other hand, students can defer many loans while in graduate school, so if money’s the only issue holding you back there may be a way around it.

Some graduate programs may specifically ask you to have work experience before applying. If this is the case, there’s little option, so pick up your briefcase and get to work!

What’s the benefit of starting grad school immediately?

What kind of job do you expect to get after graduating? If the job you line up after graduation helps you build your resume and makes you a more competitive applicant to graduate school, you should probably take the job. On the other hand, if your job has nothing to do with your eventual career, is it really worth putting off grad school?

After leaving college, every day you spend working may put you a little farther from the writing/language/math/research skills you developed in undergrad. Is working helping you hone these skills or will you forget half the information you learned in undergrad by the time you return to grad school?

Gathering letters of recommendation, transcripts and writing samples is easier while you’re in school. If you do wait a few years before applying to a grad program, make sure you save your papers and contacts!

Why put off a career you really want? If you know you need a JD, MBA, MA or PhD to get your dream job, why wait to get it? Start now!

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One Response

  1. I think it’s much better to go strait into school. I believe it can be easy to get stuck in a working routine and have the “I’ll go back next year” mentality, year after year. Also, studying is a skill that must be practiced. Would you recommend a star basketball player who just graduated to wait a couple years before playing college ball? No, he may not be as good a couple years. I just graduated with my BA and will be starting a Ph.D program this fall. I would much rather go to grad school now, while I’m still good at studying, and so that I finish quicker!! The longer you put off grad school, the older you’ll be when you finally graduate. That leads having earner a less amount of money over the course of your life.

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