Taking a Bridge/Gap Year

Are you planning to attend graduate or professional school, but not immediately after completing your undergraduate degree? Before deciding whether to take 1-2 years off, there are many considerations.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Taking time off after graduation may provide you time for reflection and clearer decision-making for your future. You will have the chance to explore unique opportunities that are not possible if you are a full-time employee or graduate student. Experiences gained during your time off have the potential to supplement future employment and/or graduate education. However, taking time off may alter the typical processes for applying to graduate/professional school or a full-time job.

Steps for taking time between undergraduate and graduate/professional school

  1. Identify your goal(s) in summer/fall before graduation so that you don’t miss deadlines for more structured options, such as fellowships
  2. Explore options related to goals
  3. Know application timelines and methods for specific options and plan your academic year accordingly to have time to engage in the process

Examples of programs that strongly suggest related experience:

  • Public Policy
  • International Relations
  • Doctoral (PhD) programs

Examples of programs that are flexible about related experience

  • Law
  • MBA
  • Medicine

Evaluating Options and Setting Goals

Your options for taking a gap/bridge year should be driven by your goals for what you hope to gain in that time. Some sample goals for taking time off:

  • Improve your application for graduate/professional school through gaining relevant experience
  • Sample the professional field that corresponds to your intended graduate/professional program
  • Engage in an experience that was not part of your undergraduate education (e.g. travel abroad, service work, etc.)

Other criteria to consider:

  • Do I need to have the flexibility to travel to graduate/professional school interviews?
  • Will I have the time and resources to apply to programs?
  • Do I need to make a specific income to meet my living expenses, including student loan repayment?
  • Is student loan payment deferral an option?

Explore Options

Long Term Options: more than a year:

Explore roles/industries related to your graduate program of interest through the NCA Industry pages

Short-term options (1 year or less):

Most employers who recruit at Northwestern are reluctant to hire candidates for one year, due to investment in training and cost of recruitment. However, some short term options are:

Temporary Employment

Many industries have temporary positions or temp-to hire work. Examples are:

  • Administrative
  • Law
  • Research/lab work
  • Marketing

Sample Temporary Agencies:

Timeline for Taking a Bridge/Gap Year

Planning for options depends on deadlines for structured programs, as well as industry timelines:
  • Fellowships: Apply the summer before senior year
  • Full time work: dependent on Industry.  Visit the NCA Industry pages for more information on industry timelines.
  • Temporary Work: Apply during Spring Quarter