Taking a gap year between graduating college and starting graduate school can be a way to save money and gain career experience.  Credit: Jack Westerheide | Former Managing Editor for Multmedia

What once was stereotyped as a means to procrastinate further education can now be a creative way to boost a resume. 

Gap years, which can consist of anything from service work to research, can act as buffer periods in between graduating and starting school that can cement decisions and save money. According to the National Gap Year Association, 89% of students who took gap years reported having positive experiences in 2015.

Emily Hildreth, an Ohio State 2018 alumna, majored in history and economics and took a year off to be a substitute teacher before starting graduate school.

“It’s a perfect gap year opportunity,” Hildreth said. “It allowed me to make my own schedule, and I did a lot of high school social studies.”

Now at Syracuse University College of Law, Hildreth said her gap year helped her save money by living at home and gave her time to discover what she really wanted after college. 

“I was pretty sure I was going to law school, but I needed a year to make sure because it is just such a big investment when you go to grad school,” Hildreth said. 

Though Hildreth did not anticipate becoming a substitute teacher for a year, she said her gap year made her feel extremely confident in her decision to attend law school.

“I like law school better than undergrad, and I am much happier in my life,” Hildreth said. “I feel like it’s finally clicked for me.”

Alyssa Szu-Tu, a career coach in the College of Arts and Sciences, said gap years are a great way to save money before graduate school and allow students to decide with more certainty what they want in their career. 

“If students are really wavering between what program is right for them or what career next step is right for them, it’s an awesome way to get experience before commiting to a graduate program,” Szu-Tu said.

Szu-Tu said that although work experience in a student’s chosen field is popular, another way to spend a gap year is by doing service-oriented work. 

“There’s the one route, which is the Americorps, Peace Corps and Teach for America, where they can give back to their communities in various ways, whether it’s through education or programming or working with underserved populations,” Szu-Tu said.

Emily Dilloway, an Ohio State 2018 alumna, is currently using her gap year to work at a corporate law firm in Columbus and study for the LSAT.

“I graduated a semester earlier than I had intended,” Dilloway said. “I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of law school, so I wanted to take some time and gain real law experience before making the jump.”

Though she hasn’t settled on which law school she will attend, Dilloway used her gap year to apply to law schools and pay off her student loan debt, she said. 

Dilloway said one of the perks of working at a law firm before attending law school is having a better chance of returning as a summer associate later on.

However, gap years are not just for future law students. 

Pauline Keselman, a fourth-year in biology, is wrapping up her final semester at Ohio State and said she hopes to attend medical school in fall 2021. 

“I talked to a lot of people that were on the same path as me,” Keselman said. “The general feedback I got was that those who took a gap year were generally more happy with their decision and felt that it benefited them both in their application and in their success in medical school.” 

Keselman is currently training to be an emergency medical technician, interning at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State and planning to continue both during her gap year.

“I’m planning on working part time as an EMT and full time either as a medical scribe or as a clinical research assistant and then volunteering at the hospital once a week,” Keselman said.

Keselman said her motivations behind a gap year are to gain more experiences, make her a more competitive applicant and save money.

The College of Arts and Sciences is hosting a gap year career fair March 24 to help students figure out if a gap year is right for them and what they can do during a gap year. Szu-Tu said 30 different companies attend, looking to recruit students interested in a gap year.

Students can register for the gap year fair at https://app.joinhandshake.com/career_fairs/13449