By Shannon Graham
As a junior planning to attend physical therapy (PT) school in the future, the decision on whether or not to take a gap year is looming ahead of me. Is it worth it for me to apply now, knowing my application may not be as competitive as I want it to be? To be accepted into PT school, applicants are required to have a certain number of observation hours. Pacific University is my number one choice of schools and the requirement there is 100 hours. However, the average for incoming students is 4-6 times that. I meet the minimum requirement, but I do not know if I have enough hours to be one of the 50 out of over 900 applicants accepted. While others wanting to go to graduate school may not be in the exact same situation as me, most people are faced with the choice between a gap year and going straight into school.
There are many resources online outlining pros and cons to taking a gap year, such as these articles from US News and USA Today. These are some criteria that have been helpful for me in my decision making process:
• You can work and save money before having to pay for more school.
• You can take a mental break to prevent burnout on school.
• You have the opportunity to improve your test scores (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.) in order to strengthen your grad school application.
• The work experience you gain during the gap year may strengthen your application.
• The year off could help you find your other passions and realize you do not need grad school to pursue those passions, thus, saving yourself a lot of time and money.
• Taking time off from school can disrupt your momentum and you may find it harder to get back into the school mode after a year off.
• Your motivation to go back to school may decrease, because you get stuck in a job or want to continue making money.
• Your accomplishments from college may not seem as impressive or as important to grad schools as more time passes.
• You are delaying your future career another year.
If you are thinking about taking a gap year, I encourage you to look at more articles, talk to people who have taken a gap year, talk to professors and faculty members, and to make an appointment with Career Services in order to get some outside perspective. All of these resources can help you make the best decision for you and your life.
“Program Admission, Physical Therapy.” Pacific University.
O’Connor, Shawn P. “Consider Benefits, Consequences of Gap Years Between College and Law School.” U.S.News & World Report. 17 Dec. 2012.
Fortenbury, Jon. “Weighing the Options: Should You Take a Gap Year before Grad School?” USA TODAY. 13 Oct. 2013.