The Gap Year

For recent graduates, taking a year off between graduation and graduate/professional school is becoming much more common as there are so many opportunities available and options to take advantage of before making the commitment of graduate or professional school. If you find yourself in a quandary on what to do after graduation, you are not alone. Other common names for a gap year are: pathway, prep-year, leap year, defer year, bridge-year, drop year, year out, year off, glide-year, or foundation year. The name you use will depend on what you intend to do during your gap year, what country you’re in, and sometimes the institution you wish to enter after your gap year is over.

Reasons to pursue a gap year:

  • Career exploration
    • If you are interested in multiple career paths that require different graduate training, it may be better to hold off until you explore these fields more to help you make a wise decision
    • After working in a particular field, you get a much better sense of what you want to do with your future
  • Real world experience
    • Some programs, especially MBAs, require or prefer that you have 3-5 years' experience before applying to their program
  • Strengthen your application
    • A year off could help you to gain experience and exposure in your fields of interest. For example, you could spend the year completing an internship(s), working at a law firm or human services agency, or in a clinical setting
    • Professional schools want to be assured that their applicants already know what they are getting into and strongly prefer applicants with experience
    • You can also ask for a recommendation from a professional in your field who has supervised your work and therefore could increase your chances of getting in
  • Opportunities to serve others
    • This time can be spent pursuing personal goals and giving back to communities and people in need
    • Some opportunities to check out include:
      • AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. 
      • Fulbright U.S. Student Program: The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.
      • Teach For America: Teach For America works to eliminate this injustice by finding, training, and supporting individuals who are committed to equality and placing them in high-need classrooms across the country. Through this experience, they become lifelong leaders for a better world.
      • Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world.
  • Travel
    • Assist you in learning other languages to help you expand your skill set
    • Traveling can give you international experience or even experience living in another country or culture


Source: Adapted from Berkeley Career Center