1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Will a gap year harm my ability/career?

  1. Feb 1, 2015 #1
    Hi guys,

    So in my current situation it is pretty rare to come across people who are mathsy/physicsy, which is why I'm venting here for the advice of some like-minded people. I took a gap year pre-university to work, travel and generally get my head straight but am starting to worry about the effect it will have on my maths/physics ability. I got A*A*A at A-level (Maths, FMaths, Physics) however I'm increasingly wondering whether I was actually good at physics or just good at passing exams; I know how different university is to sixth form. I have always found the easy problems a breeze once I understood everything but always struggled with the more abstract ones (like derivations, proofs etc) which I know will be the majority of the course at uni. I always enormously enjoy these but am basically helpless once I get stuck (my college friend now at uni told me he got asked to integrate e-x2 (gaussian?)... I would never in a million years be able to figure out a method as brilliant as that!) I should say I have been offered a place at Imperial College London but I don't think I'll be able to handle a course that intense anymore - I'm trying to do a couple of STEP (cambridge maths entrance exam) and simple undergrad level problems but never manage to lock down a logical route through the question like I used to be able to, and haven't gotten through even a single question to date.

    Will a year break irreversibly change my brain or something? I feel like all my curiosity and perseverance is still there but I get frustrated/stuck a lot sooner than I used to on these problems. Probably more importantly, will a year gap hinder my job prospects after graduation? Career-wise I am thinking of either joining an R&D/engineering department (somewhere like the innovation company would be heaven), doing complex systems analysis/city planning or perhaps becoming a patent attorney. Basically a job in which I'll be creating and manipulating equations rather than just subbing numbers into them.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Short answer - no. You're not going to lose that much in a year. Will you struggle? Most people do to one extent even if they don't take a year off (or more in my case). At this point, I wouldn't get too caught up in what will happen after after graduation.
  4. Feb 1, 2015 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Suppose we told you "yes, it will hurt". What will you do? You've already taken the gap year, so there's not much that can be done about it now. Why worry about it? I think you should stop fretting about things out of your control.
  5. Feb 1, 2015 #4
    A gap year can be very beneficial to figure out what direction you want to take. Provided you took the time to sort out your goals and get some good life experience, then I think it will be a better long term investment. I wish I was encouraged to take a gap year between undergrad and grad school.
  6. Feb 1, 2015 #5
    No one cares if you have a gap year or not.
  7. Feb 23, 2015 #6
    Thanks for the replies guys. I just can't shake the feeling that I've jeopardised my career if I want to go into research!
  8. Feb 23, 2015 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    I took on a PhD student last december. He tried lots of several paths in university before zooming in on physics. He also had a year or more between getting his masters and starting his PhD (mainly because I did not have money for a student at the time, but still). In the end it is not what you did before that matters, it is whether or not you show potential that does.
  9. Feb 24, 2015 #8
    What kind of work experience do you have?
  10. Mar 1, 2015 #9
    Working in big consulting firm, not exactly physics related but is still a heavyweight company. From this I have realised that I would like to have a job which is 'creative' to some degree - figuring out how to make a product work, making and discovering things, something like that. Perhaps I'll create or join a startup after I graduate - or maybe even start something on the side now? (Kickstarter here I come!)
  11. Mar 1, 2015 #10
    That kind of experience is very good, as it makes you versatile. You're right that it isn't physics, but I'd say a year of that kind of work experience is well worth the year gap all in all.
  12. Mar 1, 2015 #11
    Hi Fineman.
    A gap year won't really matter. I graduated as an automechanic at vancouver, and I worked for 2 years as a full time mechanic at dealership. Now I am studying Physics at University.

    A three- years gap man here. You got nothing to be worried.

    I do struggle a lot at the beginning, compare to other younger students. But you will eventually get over it.

    now I know what I really want and that three years gap worth it.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook