Why I’m All for Taking a Gap Year Before Graduate School
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Why I’m All for Taking a Gap Year Before Graduate School

The decision to take a gap year (or years) can be a very difficult decision to make. Upon receiving your bachelor’s degree, you have to make a very quick decision on whether to find a full-time job or continue onward to graduate school. Of course, there are other paths to take upon graduation, but with the mindset of continuing education like I was, here are my two cents on this situation.

After facing so many different viewpoints on why it is a good or bad idea to take a break, I’ve never once regretted my decision in taking a year off.

2 polaroid photos

A lot of people tried to talk me out of taking a gap year – they would say things like:

  • “If you take a break now, you won’t be able to get used to being back in school again.”
  • “If you stop school now, you won’t want to go back.”
  • “If you don’t apply now, you are missing your chance.”
  • “If you don’t try now, it is not certain it will work out later.”

While it is easy to fall into the trap of agreeing with everything everyone else has to say, it is important to recognize that only you have the ability to do what you want with your life. Your life is precious, and making the decision that shapes your future should not be taken lightly. So instead of looking at the what if’s – start asking why not? 

You have been in school for the past 12 years, complying with the rules and regulations of the educational system – you never truly experienced the world to help guide you on what makes your life purposeful. Sure, you may have had part-time jobs, volunteered with different organizations, or held leadership positions with school clubs, but you were never able to give it 100% of your focus since you had to balance it with school.

Group photo of Michelle's family

Instead of enjoying the last few moments of college and your early twenties, and before being propelled into ‘adulthood’, you had to devote your latter years in undergrad to trying to find ways to impress your future graduate school. The effort in trying to be the most well-rounded student you can be should not cause you more distress than joy. Mental and physical health should be at the forefront when it comes to determining what you want to do for your future.

My biggest reason to take a gap year was that I wanted to finally take control of my own life. I wanted to take time to recognize that my hopes and dreams were truly my own and not what society had tried to force onto me. I wanted to make sure that I would enjoy the field that I plan to be in until I decide to retire and that I looked into all the possible paths as opposed to having tunnel vision. I wanted to make sure that my end goals would allow me to have genuine happiness and that the biggest reason for even doing it, is for me

  • If you want to take a year off, why not? Just make it purposeful
  • Michelle's dogI loved every moment of my gap year. And here are some things that I was able to do in just a year: 
  • I took on my first full-time job.
  • I established connections within the field of my dreams.
  • I shadowed professionals with more intention.
  • I experienced what it’s like to pay off student loans.
  • I spent time with my brothers and grew closer to them after being away for the past 4 years.
  • I reunited with my blind dog, Chubby, who is actually a major reason why I want to become an optometrist one day.
  • I attended family events/parties.
  • I discovered new hobbies.
  • I traveled.
  • I learned more about myself.
  • I found my purpose in life.
  • I was able to breathe.

 All the sacrifices I made while being in school were no longer sacrifices I had to make. I became more comfortable with my independence and my future goals became very clear. I came out of my gap year with the mindset of going to graduate school and to thrive, not just survive – with the excitement of finally getting into my future career with no regrets that I made the wrong decision.

At least when it’s all said and done, I can look back and appreciate that taking one year off from school (especially in my early twenties) is the best decision I could make for myself. The amount of personal growth I achieved is something that I am very proud of.

michelle blowing bubbles in a flower garden



- Michelle is a first-year Optometry student at Salus University


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