Taking a Year Off

Many Northwestern students are planning or considering graduate and professional school, but may not want to attend immediately after completing their undergraduate degree. Before deciding whether taking 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. For example, you are no longer eligible to participate in on-campus recruiting once you graduate from Northwestern.

Evaluating the Decision

As you evaluate your decision to take time off, think about the following questions:

If applying to graduate/professional school immediately, will the school(s) grant a deferment?
Will you lose momentum for attending graduate/professional school if you do not attend now?
Have you determined if taking time off is viable financially? Have you considered such expenses as repayment of loans, current bills, and medical insurance?

Do you have clear goals for your time off? Some possible goals might be:

  • To increase your chances of getting into graduate/professional school through gaining relevant experience
  • To "sample" the field that you may be going to graduate school for
  • To have an experience that was not part of your undergraduate education (e.g. travel abroad, service work)
  • To experience "the real world" before committing to further education

If you decide to take time off, remember to develop a plan that complements your long-term goals. Come in and talk to a NCA career counselor let us help you develop your plan.

What have other NU students done while taking a year off?

NU students have done many different things-- the list is endless. Many students have sought employment in a field related to their possible graduate program of study. Some have done volunteer or service work, some have done temporary work, while others have traveled abroad or done research or obtained fellowships. Below are resources for some of these options.

Recommended Resources for Taking a Year Off

Going Abroad Resources
Internship Resources
Fellowship Resources

Volunteer/Service Work Resources

Temporary Work Resources