Will taking a year to travel before grad school be a big mistake?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by zgotts, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. zgotts

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    So I have just graduated college and am taking a job in genetics research at Rockefeller University (woohoo!).

    Of course I am pretty nervous about it, and am still a little ambivalent. I had wanted to relax for a little while, maybe see some of the world, before I made any major moves in getting on a career track. I am worried that if I start this job now, I will HAVE to go to grad school immediately afterwards and will never have a chance to travel to the places I have always wanted to go. In addition to that, I just feel that at 22 years old, I still have that freedom to make those choices. I know that at 30 I am going to want to be career-focused, and won't have such freedom.

    Ultimately my goal is to go to grad school for something neuroscience related, and my job is essentially in neurogenetics, as I will be studying the genetics of autism. In addition to this, my GPA wasn't all that great (3.1), so this Rockefeller RA position, which will be at least 2 years, is pretty much what I need to pull myself out of that hole (of course along with solid GRE's). In other words, it is very very very hard to turn this job down, as I need to make money, and I may not have many other job offers like this, at least not from places like Rockefeller.

    So here is my plan-I would like to work my ass off for 2-3 years in this job at Rockefeller, then apply to grad programs, get accepted, then defer a year and travel. Then when I get back, I start grad school and never look back on my way to becoming a neuroscientist!

    I'm afraid that some programs might look down upon that though, even with good recommendations from my RA job.

    So, how do graduate programs admissions people view a person who took a year off to travel before going to grad school? Could I apply and then defer a year to travel?
     
  2. lilies05

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2007
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    0
    i feel like most programs won't let you defer a year after acceptance - not all professors take students each year. if they've got money - they're going to want a student that year. there are few assurances that they'll have that same cash to enroll a new student the next year, and they probably won't promise you a position over all the next years applicants.

    grad school isn't like undergrad
     
  3. zgotts

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    alright that makes sense.

    but then what if i just took a year off after my job at Rockefeller, and then applied?

    how bad would that hurt me?
     
  4. Ollie123

    10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Messages:
    4,671
    Likes Received:
    1,077
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    Nothing wrong with taking a year to travel.Don't plan on deferring though. Its not as simple as asking them to defer your acceptance a year. There's a (very strong) chance they will simply say no. Even if you wanted to defer out of necessity (e.g. medical problem), it might not be possible, so I wouldn't expect a whole lot of sympathy for "I applied this year even though I don't want to start til next year". In my opinion, you would be much better off taking that year to travel now, then returning and starting a job.
     
  5. JockNerd

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Messages:
    1,810
    Likes Received:
    9
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    If I understand you correctly, you aren't applying to or being offered a grad student spot, right? You're just working at the place you'd like to go to grad school at? If that's correct, I say go ahead and take that year off between the job and grad school.

    I'm a bit confused because the response from lilies would be spot on if you'd already been accepted somewhere for grad school and you were asking about having a spot held for a year, but that doesn't sound to me like what you're asking, unless I missed something.
     
  6. zgotts

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    yeah that would certainly be the most logical move, just so that I can have some continuity in my research and a smoother transition into grad school.

    however, i am worried that if i take a year off now I just won't get a job like this one.
     
  7. zgotts

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    Nope, sorry if i wasn't clear.

    I just graduated college and have NOT applied to any graduate programs, but I know that I will be doing that in a few years.

    I did accept a job offer at Rockefeller U. as an RA, and it is at least a 2-year commitment, maybe longer.

    My concern is that if I didn't take this Rockefeller job I wouldn't get similar offers in a year from now, and I am also concerned that if I took a year off in between this job and applying to grad schools, I would hurt my chances of going to a good program.
     
  8. JockNerd

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Messages:
    1,810
    Likes Received:
    9
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    Ok, that's what I thought. So, you're not asking for an admissions deferral or anything. If I were you and really wanted the year to travel between the job and applications, I'd take it. I don't see how that would hinder your chances of getting into any programs if you have an otherwise strong application.
     
  9. lilies05

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2007
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    0
    sorry if i'm not understanding what you're asking - i'm under the impression you are asking if you hypothetically would be able to apply, get accepted into grad school, and then ask that grad school to hold your acceptance for a year.

    if that's what you're hoping to do, i don't think it's very feasible.

    however, i definitely think you could travel a year after finishing up with the rockefellar job and then apply. i don't think travelling hurts your chances of getting into grad school. you'd have to be careful about travelling and applying in the same year though since apps are due in december and you have to interview in feb/march. but it could be worked out.
     
  10. mshbe

    7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2008
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    i agree with what everyone said about deferring. but if you plan is to work for a few years, take a year off to travel, then go right into grad school, just keep in mind that it's probably pretty difficult to do the application process from abroad. getting all the materials, getting together letters of recommendation, and interviews will probably be really hard to manage if you're traveling around abroad. i also took a year off, right after undergrad, to travel and live abroad, and then took another year off to apply. it's possible to do, but you might also enjoy your time traveling if you didn't have to worry about this stuff yet. so you might want to think about taking another year between traveling and grad school.

    i do think it's a good idea though. i never regretted taking the time for a second.
     
  11. BorntoRun

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    0
    Just to throw a monkey wrench in there -- traveling sounds like a really nice idea, but you should consider how interviews fit in to your travel plans -- you will need to be stateside and available February & March. If that's not a problem for you, though, here's a thought:

    Keep your job during the application process so there's no "explaining" to do while you're applying. Then travel March through August. It's only 6 months, but it's certainly a way to spend a while traveling without hurting your chances at grad school.
     
  12. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
    7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Messages:
    2,262
    Likes Received:
    20
    Status:
    Psychologist
    Take this from someone who has reinvented their life more times than you might care to count. A few tidbits of wisdom from someone in their 40's.

    1. There will always be great jobs available... maybe not today or tomorrow, but within a reasonable time frame.

    2. It's always easier to find a job when you have a job.

    3. You can go to grad school anytime you like. Don't count on getting in the first time, some of us needed 2 or 3 shots to get in the door. I needed two myself.

    4. Start now to retire early, while your 20's are a great time (as they should be), your 30's and 40's can be even better. Some people get old, other people just get more interesting. Don't be the one to just get old.

    I don't know if I would travel first or not, in retrospect. I spent two years playing sports and traveling everywhere to tournaments. I had a blast, enjoyed traveling. Had I taken a different path, I would be close to retirement now. It can be a tough choice. Just remember, have fun and make sure that you enjoy what you are doing. Excluding premature death, you should have plenty of time to travel.

    Do however make time for yourself and to enjoy the world... I don't think the timing of when you do it is all that critical, just that you do it sometime during your lifetime when you can enjoy it. Being career focused doesn't mean that you should be sacrificing the things you love.

    Mark

    PS - No program would look down on the traveling experience for a year when you sell it right. When asked why, the answer is simple: "I wanted a broader world view and a deeper understanding of other cultures." Psychologists need a broad perspective and this kind of experience fits nicely.
     
  13. vcpsych

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    After working a research job for the summer after I graduated from college, I backpacked around South America for several months. I knew I wanted to take time off from the "real world" before starting grad school since realistically, we will probably never have the luxury of doing such a thing ever again (gulp). I didn't view it as an extended vacation, though. For me, it was an opportunity to improve my Spanish (a very valuable skill to have as a psychologist in the U.S.), better understand the differences in Latin American cultures, and do volunteer work in unique settings. I agree with Markp in the sense that when packaged in the right way, taking extended time to travel will not hurt you. I truthfully viewed my time abroad as a way to learn more about myself and how childhood intervention/prevention programs work (I did some work with organizations that aid street kids). I don't know if your travel plans include a humanitarian angle, but if it does, I think it could make you an interesting applicant.

    That being said, applying to grad programs from abroad was VERY STRESSFUL! I wish I had better prepared my applications before I left. Trying to edit my personal statement in a crowded Peruvian internet cafe, surrounded by bad pop music and a haze of cigarette smoke, was really not the highlight of the process. My suggestion is that if you do decide to travel, organize as much as possible before you leave. Get the personal statement out of the way, clean up your CV, contact the people who will write your LOR, etc. Trying to obtain an electronic copy of my undergraduate transcript without any access to a scanner or fax machine caused me more stress than necessary. If you plan ahead, you can avoid such unpleasantries.

    Also, take the Psych GRE (and regular GRE for that matter) in your home country!! I made the mistake of procrastinating too much and ended up taking the Psych GRE in Argentina. Let's just say that South Americans have a much more relaxed attitude when it comes to time. The testing center opened nearly an hour after the exam was supposed to begin, and I was panicking outside the building trying to decide whether my programs would believe that I really had *tried* to take the test, but the test simply wasn't present... :oops:

    Anyway, hope that didn't completely scare you off. ;) Truthfully, as long as you take into account that applying to grad school from outside your home country will have its bumps, you will be fine. Do as much as you can before you leave, and you'll be fine! :) I do recommend being back in your home country for interviews, however. It probably wouldn't be too great if you were invited to interview at your first choice, yet you were halfway around the world. Just something to keep in mind.
     
  14. RayneeDeigh

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2007
    Messages:
    1,346
    Likes Received:
    1
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    You could always go to grad school and travel during one of your summers (provided your program is set up like that).

    At my school our first summer (this one) is spent working full time in a practicum. No time for travel, that's for sure. But we get our second, third, and so on summers to do what we please. Most people use about half for research, half for travel. Someone in my cohort will be heading to Madagascar next summer.

    Grad school doesn't have to be a death sentence! :D
     
  15. zgotts

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hey, hadn't checked this thread in a few days, but I just wanted to thanks the last few posters for their great responses.

    I am growing to realize a few of your main points, particularly that being career focused doesn't necessarily mean you have to sacrifice the things you love.

    I think I'm going to stick with my research job for the next 2 years and probably not apply to grad programs until a year after i finish. Considering my interest in travel, I am considering trying to do research in other countries, perhaps Sweden, and the best way to do that would be to go there first and investigate it in person!

    Either way, I have come to realize at the age of 22, the decisions I make now are most likely not going to be completely irrevocable.
     

Share This Page