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Admissions Teaching Before Starting A PHD

  1. Jul 31, 2016 #1
    I am a junior in college studying physics, math, and computer science who has been heavily involved in research, year round, for the past 2 years and have already started taking graduate classes. I feel like before I start a phd program I would really like a year or two off. How do professors and admission committees in math and natural science programs look at people who have a small break in between? I would really like to participate in one of the teaching programs that recruit STEM students to teach in high need schools for a few years. I think it would be very beneficial to have time off to digest all that I have learned over the years, recuperate, and have a little time to focus on other things. I understand that taking this break would mean stopping research for a few years and falling "behind" , and that there is a huge amount of amazing math and science undergrads that go straight to phd programs after undergrad. I still plan to watch online lectures and read advanced material so that I can continue to challenge myself, and since I would be teaching math or science, I wouldn't be taking too far a leap away. Hoping to get some opinions on my circumstance and any information from people with prior experience with any of this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2016 #2


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    I don't have experience with this myself, but plenty of people do not go straight into graduate school after undergrad and are still able to be successful in their studies. One could argue that participating in a teaching program could give you an advantage and set you apart from other applicants. In my opinion, the ability to clearly and effectively communicate science is a very important skill that many students lack. Teaching science will help you practice and hone those skills. Furthermore, participating in a teaching program would demonstrate a your commitment toward advancing the "broader impacts" of your scientific work, an important criteria for obtaining funding from the National Science Foundation.

    Of course, there are a few concerns to be aware of. For example, after two years away from college when you apply, will the people you want letters of recommendation from still remember you? Obviously, you'll be able to get letters from your research mentor(s), but if you wanted a letter from a professor whose class you took, that might be a different story. With some foresight and planning, however, this shouldn't be an issue. It can also be difficult to get back into the mode of taking classes after a year or two away from the classroom. That said, a lot of material in graduate courses will review some of what you learned in your advanced undergrad courses, so you can definitely get back up to speed.

    I don't know if participating in a teaching program will affect how admissions committees will look at your application, but if participating in a teaching program is important to you, I would encourage you to do so. You also don't have to wait until after your teaching program to apply as many graduate schools will allow applicants who they've accepted into their program to defer admission for a year or two to participate in things like teaching programs.
  4. Aug 1, 2016 #3

    Dr Transport

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    I finished my first masters. taught at a community college for two years part time while building houses and then went back for my PhD after two years without any trouble
  5. Aug 1, 2016 #4


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    I don't think taking a year or two off is likely to hurt you at all. In my experience this is reasonably common for all sorts of reasons.

    You face the practical issues that you seem to already be aware of: keeping current in the field, keeping your edge sharp, and perhaps keeping references that are up to date.
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