Student Professional Development Center

Planning a Gap Year (or Two)?

Gap years can be wonderfully enriching times.  They can provide you with new experiences, skills and perspectives that will make you a stronger—and more interesting—candidate for graduate or professional school later on.  They can help you figure out what it is you really want to do and then allow you to write a more powerful personal statement.  Sometimes, they can just give you a needed break from academics before you recommit to several more years of school. 

If you are planning on—or thinking about—going to graduate school within five years of leaving Elon, there are some things you can do before you leave that will make the process of applying later an easier one. Here is our advice to you:

On Campus GRE, LSAT, and MCAT test prep courses may be offered by Kaplan at Elon. Review the SPDC events calendar 

  1. Take the GRE (or other applicable admissions test) before, or soon after, you graduate. Your scores will be valid for up to five years for the GRE, LSAT, GMAT; three years for MCAT. Take the test while school is the primary focus of what you do. A fact of life: you WILL forget things! Having to study for your test will feel more burdensome when you’re out of the academic arena. If you take it before you leave undergraduate school, it will be like money in the bank. It might also spur your return to school if you know your scores will expire.
  2. Decide who you will ask to write letters of recommendation for you and let them know. Most schools will ask for three letters, and typically, at least two of them will have to be from faculty. Meet with these people before you leave campus and tell them what your plans are. Ask them if they are willing to write for you and then (assuming they’ve said “yes”) ask them how they would like to proceed. Some professors may choose to write the letter then and save it until needed. Others may agree to write but choose to do so later. 

You can do some things to make it easier for your professor to write this letter later:

  • Save some of your work from the classes you had with them, especially papers with comments/feedback from the professor. Making these available to them when letter writing time comes will provide helpful reminders of the quality of your work as a student in his or her class.
  • Keep in touch with these people! Let them know what you’re doing, how things are going and where you are in the grad school process. This is, first of all, just courteous. Second, when it comes time for the letter to be written, your writer will have some sense of what you’ve been doing and it may give her or him another angle from which to write. This is especially important if you have chosen to delay graduate school while you do work that is directly related to your professional goals.
  • Give your writer as much notice as possible when you are ready to ask for the letter. Writing letters of recommendation is time consuming and it’s very likely that the person(s) you have asked to write for you will be writing for others as well, most of whom will be current students.
  • See Letters of Recommendation for information on what you should send to your writer.