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Gap Between Undergrad and Grad School

  1. Feb 25, 2017 #1
    Will having a 4-5 year gap between your undergrad and grad school hurt your chances of getting into a PhD program? I'm a physics major but I'm also doing ROTC and am planning on serving in the Air Force for 4 or 5 years after I graduate before applying to grad school. Are there any huge problems with doing this? Would doing a physics masters and then a PhD be a better route after getting out of the military? Thanks!
     
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  3. Feb 26, 2017 #2

    Student100

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    How much physics do you really think you'll remember in 4 or 5 years? How much harder will the actual act of applying to graduate school be then? How will your financial situation or relationship situation change by then?

    It's not impossible(it's just going to be really really hard), but you're going a round about way to doing this if that's what you really want to do.
     
  4. Feb 26, 2017 #3
    Student 100, couldn't I do a masters first and take a semester of undergrad courses as review? I would also qualify for the GI bill so I could get my masters paid for. Many people work between undergrad and graduate school. I don't see how this would be any different.
     
  5. Feb 26, 2017 #4

    Student100

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    If you can find a masters program that is worth attending. The GI bill is great, and would help on that reguard. I'm still not sold on how much that will help.

    Many people work between undergrad and graduate school, sure, but I'm not sure that many in physics or science in general do. Also, you aren't going to be doing anything related to physics, so it's not like you're an engineer working in your profession then returning to graduate school.

    Like I said, it's going to be much much harder, but not impossible.
     
  6. Feb 26, 2017 #5

    ZapperZ

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    The issue has less to do with the school than with you and your state of knowledge.

    When you are ready to apply for grad school, you should also prepare to take your GRE tests. This might one of the early indicators that you may use to check the status of your knowledge. You should also prepare yourself, even upon admittance, that you may have to spend 1 or 2 years retaking undergraduate classes that you think need shoring up.

    I don't think specifically applying to a Masters program would make a difference, because you'll go through the same thing if you apply directly for a PhD admission. However, if you really think that you have forgotten a lot more than you realize, and that you need more help than just retaking classes, then enrolling in a few classes for non-credit work might help.

    Zz.
     
  7. Feb 26, 2017 #6

    Dr Transport

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    If you are good enough, then the air force will send you to school for a masters and possibly a PhD at AFIT.....
     
  8. Feb 26, 2017 #7

    Choppy

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    They can also send you to the armpits of the Earth. Armed Forces tend not to deploy their service people in the nice quiet places where everyone gets along.

    There are several issues you can expect to face with a 4-5 year gap. None are completely insurmountable, and most are pretty obvious.

    1. As other have said, you'll tend to get rusty. A 1-2 year gap is one thing (and people struggle with even that). But 4-5 years is a long time to be away from something. You'll need a plan to keep your skills up, which can be very tough when you're full-time engaged in something else. And as eluded to, you may have to do some remedial work on the other end.
    2. You need references to get into graduate school. A five year old reference only carries so much weight, even if it is stellar.
    3. Don't underestimate how much of a challenge it can be to regress to a student lifestyle after you've been earning a real-world paycheque for a while. It's easy to discount this while you're still a student, but once you have car payments or start to enjoy going out for dinner occasionally or wearing clothes that are less than four years old, etc. you might have second thoughts.
    4. Over 4-5 years that span your mid-twenties there is a high probability of entering into the two-body (on N-body) problem. Right now you're (presumably) single. If you get involved in a serious relationship or start a family, the decision to go to graduate school for 4-6 years will have direct consequences for those around you. As a 4(b) you might want to think about whether you'll want to delay having children through the completion of a PhD.
    5. Opportunity cost. You might want to think about things like RRSP contributions and mortgage payments too. Your service benefits may well balance these out, but remember most people will have started a long-term savings and investment plan, and started paying down a mortgage by their early thirties. It's hard to do this on a PhD stipend.
     
  9. Feb 26, 2017 #8
    Okay, thanks for all the responses everyone. I'm just trying to make plans for the future. I suppose I could try to get a job in the Air Force like Space Ops or Physicist where opportunities exist to go to grad school on the Air Force's dime. I appreciate all the input.
     
  10. Feb 26, 2017 #9
    Remember, grad school is almost always paid for by the university you attend. They pay your tuition, and you get a stipend (somewhere 20k-40k, depending on school).
     
  11. Feb 26, 2017 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    And what do you do when they say "Hi Mark. We need Personnel Officers. Guess what you are now?" Everything but everything is decided based on the needs of the service.
     
  12. Feb 26, 2017 #11
    Vanadium, I'm completely aware of that possibility. That's why I'm trying to have a plan B for going to grad school after the Air Force (in case I do get a job that would prove hard for me to go to grad school in the Air Force).
     
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