Reasons to Wait Before Applying to Graduate School

By Laura Morrison, June 2014

should you wait before enrolling in a graduate program?
Applying to graduate school isn't a decision you want to make lightly. Significant thought should go into planning the next phase of your academic career, as continuing your education will require considerable amounts of time, effort and money.

Whether you're nearing the completion of your undergraduate studies or have been away from school for a few years, you need to make sure it's the right time to pursue a master's degree. What you should know is there's never anything wrong with putting off graduate school for a few years if it means a successful return to academia down the road.

Here are a few reasons why it may be a good idea to wait a few years before applying to graduate school:

You can work

Not enrolling in graduate school right away means more time to dedicate to your career. Although you may not spend your days in a classroom, what you do for work directly influences your eventual graduate school experience.

Let's say you want to pursue a master's degree in computer science. After college, you could work a few years in this field and get a sense as to whether you could see yourself spending the rest of your life in this field. If you can't, graduate school provides an opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in an entirely different area.

In addition, the time you spend in the workforce could make you a more desirable job candidate after you finish graduate school. Idealist states that an advanced degree can complement the experience individuals already possess due to a career that is "already in bloom."

You can build your bank account

While scholarships and student loans, which may be available to qualified students, could make graduate programs more affordable, it's never a good idea to start school with empty pockets. If you still have to pay off expenses from your undergraduate years, why not spend some time away from academia making some money?

According to Idealist, spending your time out of school chipping away at student loan debt and putting money aside for your future - including graduate school - could put you in better financial shape when you begin to pursue a master's degree.

You get to discover the world - and yourself

Of course, putting off graduate school doesn't have to mean working 24/7. The years you spend away from the classroom can be used for exploration.

Have you ever wanted to backpack around Europe or visit Asia? When your schedule is wide open, anything is possible.

"Since graduating college two years ago, I've lived in three cities," wrote freelance writer Jon Fortenbury in a USA Today College article. "Had I gone straight to grad school, I would have missed out on all these adventures."

Fortenbury suggested that joining the Peace Corps is another option for students who want to see someplace new, while also staying productive. Whether you spend a few months in South America on your own or help make a difference on the other side of the world through an organization, you have a chance to have new experiences and develop your views on the world and yourself. You may even return to academia with a fresh outlook on life.

You could become a stronger applicant

All that you experience away from the classroom has the potential to transform you into a better graduate school candidate. This will be essential if you have your sights set on attending institutions known for competitive admissions processes.

Ultimately, when you decide to apply to graduate school is up to you. Just make sure that when you do, you're ready.

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About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.

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