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Gap year?

  1. Sep 17, 2010 #1
    I am a senior Physics/Math major. I want to go to grad school (99% sure) but I am not ready to start immediately after undergrad, I hope to bike to and live in South America next year. My question is, how harmful will this be to my chances at getting into a top tier physics Pd.D. program the following year? And would it be a better idea to apply now to grad schools and ask for a deferral if I am accepted, or just wait until next year to apply?

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2010 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    A deferral is a very rare thing. Usually graduate admissions are for a specific entering class. As far as your prospects, it's hard to see how this would be interpreted any way other than "I'd rather be biking than working for you."
  4. Sep 17, 2010 #3


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    Just do all that fun stuff then apply the next year. They really won't care that there is a year missing out of your life. For all they know, you could have been hiding in a cave reading dozens of physics texts :biggrin: .
  5. Sep 17, 2010 #4
    I disagree with Vanadium beucase what he said is an oversimplification, it's all about the reasons for deferral and the spin you put on it.

    "You went travelling around South America to broaden your experiences of the world."
    This is a legit reason, it makes you look like a more rounded individual, gives you an interesting talking point. I'd also suggest you maybe do some volunteer work out there, and that's always good point to help plug yourself.

    "I rode a bike and took it easy"
    Would not give a good impresson.

    Universities dont wan't someone that is only good at what they do. Ie read textbooks all day and sit at home learning. They want people that are good at what they do AND are well rounded individuals. I'd make the arguemnt that they would rather take a second best (if you are crap there is no amount of 'well roundedness' that would save you) physics student, but is a very well rounded individual. Than the best, that has absolutely no other skills whatsoever.
  6. Sep 17, 2010 #5


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    This is grad school so, yes, they do only care about how good you are at physics.

    Gap years also don't hold the weight they used to anymore: nowadays, when you see "gap year" you read "dossed around on a holiday in a different country for a year". (http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/sep/06/gap-year-thailand-full-moon-party)
  7. Sep 17, 2010 #6
    The experience I have of people that went for a masters begs to differ. You just can't be a one trick pony any more, you have to good at physics and have a wide variety of other skills to be accepted.

    This clearly falls into the category of riding the bike and arsing around doesnt it?

    Scenario: You have two very similar students, both on par academically. Student A has a slight edge on the other, so one is say a 90% student the other is 80%.

    Student A has done nothing but phyiscs in his life, has no extra curricular activities and spends his spare time reading textbooks.
    Student B is not quite as good. Has been around the world, spends his spare time helping build schools in Ghana, is a member of many clubs.

    Which would you chose and why?
  8. Sep 17, 2010 #7


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    "grad school" in the US typically means studying for a PhD, not a taught masters.

    I wouldn't choose based on extra curricular activities: they are important for undergraduate admissions, but not for PhD admissions. There is no "admissions tutor" for a PhD: applications get sent round to academics who are working in the area the candidate is looking to study. They are then filtered out based on ability and experience in courses that are important for the particular area. They would then be called for interview. It might be that student B interviews better and will better fit into the group, but going on a "gap year" is not a prerequisite for this.
  9. Sep 17, 2010 #8
    Ahhhh, what you said before makes sense now.

    That's fair enough, the way I read OP's post was, gap year then masters -> PhD the year after.
  10. Sep 29, 2010 #9
    I'm not sure how deferrals work for grad school, but I go to a top-ten university for math and physics and went to a math graduate school panel last week and asked about gap years. Everyone (including members of the admissions committee) seemed very supportive of gap years / taking a year off and mentioned that it would not affect chances of admissions.
  11. Sep 29, 2010 #10
    I have no faith in the myth of the "well-rounded" applicant.
  12. Sep 29, 2010 #11
    as other people have pointed out, the adcoms for graduate schools are basically professors saying "would i take this kid as phd student?"

    something ive heard from them is: we're going to spend 5 years with this kid. if its a tie, we'll take the more interesting person. (s)he'll be more fun to interact

    of course the most important thing is your ability to do research.
  13. Sep 29, 2010 #12
    it is not harmful for u. you must take admission in next year.
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