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Issues with graduating in the fall

  1. Nov 12, 2008 #1
    I'm a second year physics major and I'm considering starting a co-op job doing research starting this summer. The outcome of this is that I would end up graduating in the fall, and my plan after school is to get a PhD. Since hardly any PhD programs start in the spring, I'd have a good 9 months with nothing to do, and I'd have to start paying off my mountain of student loans after 6 months. What do people normally do during this awkward gap? I'm worried about finding a job when they know I'm only going to be there for 9 months. Is a co-op job worth this hassle or should I just stick to only doing research full time during the summers?

    The main reasons I want a co-op job are because I'd be finishing with 4 semesters worth of full time research instead of 2, and to graduate with less debt (I'm looking at around $80,000-$90,000 in student loans upon graduation if I don't co-op, and maybe $60,000-$70,000 if I do).
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2008 #2


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    I have a couple of thoughts:
    (1) Some programs accept students in January for winter semester, so make sure you look into that when applying to grad school.

    (2) Depending on the deaprtment you're looking into, some professors can take you on as a lab tech or research assistant until you start your grad studies. I've known several students who graduated in April and worked this way over the summer before starting grad school.
  4. Nov 12, 2008 #3


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    In addition to Choppy's suggestions, you might be able to find a temp job. Some companies will hire temps for short-term projects because they're cheaper to hire and there might not be other projects for them to work on once a short-term one ends.

    And, then there's the practical solution that you just don't tell a potential employer that you're going to leave after 9 months. Although, you might also find one that will pay for your graduate school, just at a slower pace, and that would even be better if you have a mound of debts you need to pay off.
  5. Nov 12, 2008 #4


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    I started grad school in January instead of Sept. If you apply early enough, they'll let you in and hold an assistantship for you - if you apply in the fall, there's a good chance they'll have already run out of money for the year. So if you do want to start in the spring of '10, you might want to apply now - however, since you're just a sophomore, you might not have much to back up an application. I'm not sure how research is getting you out of a year and a half of school - I did 4 research projects while an undergrad, and I didn't get credit for any of them.
  6. Nov 13, 2008 #5
    It's not getting me out of any school. I won't be graduating until Fall 2011 if I co-op.
  7. Nov 13, 2008 #6
    Provided your student loans are federal, it's easy to get a deferment during that 9 month gap. You can get general financial hardship deferments if your income is low, even after you're out of school. And then they have the income-contingent repayment plan which is very flexible.

    I'd recommend taking that 9 months and doing something having nothing to do with school/physics. Use it as a chance to explore life. Go hike the Appalachian trail or something.

    BTW, as for working while in school to reduce loan debt - consider it a matter of inefficiency. Your equivalent hourly pay rate working in school is likely 50-80% less than what you'll make after you finish your Ph.D. So you'll be working 2-5x as many hours for the same dollars. For instance, if you get a check for $450 while working in school for $15 an hour, then you had to work 30 hours for that money. But if you took that same $450 from student loans instead, and you pay that debt off after you graduate, making $45 an hour, then you only had to work 10 hours for that same money. That's a far more efficient use of your time. Of course there's the student loan interest, but that's *very* low. And we're physicists so we can dismiss those little details =)
  8. Nov 13, 2008 #7
    I know it's pretty inefficient; I wouldn't be doing it if I wouldn't get getting lots of full time research experience along with it. I have private as well as federal student loan debt.
  9. Feb 25, 2011 #8
    In this economy, thats easier said than done

    I'm also curious as to what other options are out there. I graduated over a year ago but now am trying hard to find a job before grad school with no luck
  10. Apr 27, 2011 #9
    This could burn bridges if its a company or industry you would like to work for in the future. But is this not a bad choice if you get an offer from a job you don't really care for but you just want to save money before starting school?

    but its always a good idea to prepare for Jackson's E&M
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2011
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