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
- Identify your goal(s) in summer/fall before graduation so that you don’t miss deadlines for more structured options, such as fellowships
- Explore options related to goals
- 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
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?
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:
- Fellowships related to your area of interest
- Volunteer Opportunities/work abroad
- Research: Office of Undergraduate Research or academic department of interest
Many industries have temporary positions or temp-to hire work. Examples are:
- Research/lab work
Sample Temporary Agencies:
- Kelly Services
- Robert Half (Law)
- Aerotek (science and lab work)
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