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Astronomy/Astrophysics Gap Year/5th year of Undergrad

  1. Aug 9, 2017 #1
    Hello there,

    I am currently a senior undergraduate Astronomy and Astrophysics major at Villanova University. With the GRE and graduate school applications coming up I have been wondering if it would be beneficial for me to either take a gap year or to possibly take a 5th year of undergraduate so I can get a double major in both astrophysics and regular physics (couldn't be done in four years because of Chemistry requirements).

    While I do see the pros and cons of the three possible options (go straight to grad school, take a gap year, or stay a 5th year for the double major) and I have read forums on subjects similar to this one I was just wondering if someone has any insight on my specific situation. If I were to take a gap year though, that time would be spent studying for the GREs and hopefully working in a research driven position applicable to what I want to do in grad school, i.e. such as working for one of my current professors (just to note I am already published).

    In addition to just buffing up my basic astronomy and physics knowledge (such as going through and typing up all of my old class notes). My current plan is to do what I can in terms of studying for the upcoming GRE and then making the decision based on my scores. But if I were to learn that people believe a gap year is highly detrimental then I wouldn't even consider it and I would just go really hard for the GRE.

    Also want to mention that while I am open to many fields in Astronomy and Physics I have been looking more toward the physics side of things, particularly Cosmology or Neutrino Astronomy, making the physics double major look more necessary. I also want to note that while I wasn't able to get the physics double major, I have taken or audited all possible physics classes up to this point (Adv E&M, Quantum, Subatomic, Adv Optics, etc...) so I at least have knowledge in these fields even if I can't put it on paper as a double major.

    Any advice on these matters would be highly appreciated as it is very beneficial to see how people in the field view situations such as these, and I thank anyone who reads this for their time :).
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2017 #2


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    I wouldn't want to go to graduate school without having senior undergraduate courses in E&M and quantum mechanics under my belt - not just audits, but having actually done the assignments and proven that I know the material. Without that preparation, I'd be worried about getting through graduate courses in that same material, as well as a comprehensive or qualifying examination.

    With respect to taking a "gap" year there are a lot of good reasons to take one. Sometimes it's nice to have a break. If you can afford it, this is a good time in your life to do something else other than study. Or you could work and save up a nest egg. I wouldn't take one just to study for the GRE though. That sounds like a plan that could easily backfire and land you in a spot where you're a year behind where you would have been with no better grade on the GRE than you had in the first place.

    For the record I don't think the simple fact of having a year long gap on your application will have any influence on your acceptance. Once you get to three years it might factor in.
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