Help me make a year off worthwhile
September 12, 2010 3:47 PM   Subscribe

What to do in a year-off between college and grad school?

My brother is a incredibly smart history major/ philosophy minor. He has near perfect grades at a great school, and is graduating this spring. He wants to go to grad school but is trying to decide between a few different options, and doesn't want to rush into a grad program until he is more certain of the path he wants to take. His potential interests are: Divinity school for potential ministry in the Unitarian church (the 3-year program at Harvard is his top choice) or a PHD in philosophy/ religion. He doesn't have much work/ hands on experience. What can he do with his year off that will:

-Be worthwhile
-Help him get insight/ experience/ perspective on what he wants to do with his future
-Help (or at least not hurt) his grad school application?

Programs, internships, jobs, opportunities, plans, other ideas, etc.? (He is not interested in Teach for America-but wants to know about other non-teaching 1 year programs)
Thank you so much!
posted by tessalations999 to Education (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Travel, however and wherever he can. He sounds like the type of person the Wanderjahr tradition would most benefit.
posted by Anitanola at 4:03 PM on September 12, 2010

If he asked his professors/advisors this question, or specifically, "Do you know of any one who could use someone like me," I bet he would have his choice of qualified opportunities. I know our soup kitchen gets people like this from time to time, in addition to the various Americorps folks we get. The non-organized program folks come from someone in the pastor's network saying, "Can you use someone like this?"
posted by micawber at 4:03 PM on September 12, 2010

Well, if he wants to stay in the states, Americorps is great. Especially the City Year programs. Also look in the Student Conservation Association for conservation/trails programs, if he wants a change of pace from school. There's a variety of 3 month to 1 year internships. I did various things with them for 2 years while I was trying to figure out grad school stuff. I have a pretty solid resume now, and I'm in the program of my choice.
posted by shinyshiny at 4:33 PM on September 12, 2010

I would just work a bunch of retail jobs close to the beach. Middle class/upper middle class kids who have done really well in school and who have supportive families (and sweet family members such as yourself) don't really get the idea of having to have a job to pay the rent and pay bills. Had I worked (at least a year with no clue where I was going) before grad school, I would like to think I wouldn't have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a degree I had a dilettante-ish interest in and been more practical. After four years of college and then a master's program, I'm only really coming to terms with the importance of money now. They always say, do what you love and the money will come, but it's very difficult to figure out what you will love later. It's not always the same as what you think it is during and after college, and people get all wide eyed and impressed when you mention your plans to go to Harvard, equating Harvard with being set for life. Not true.

Boring as hell retail work on the beach gets my vote. Make some money, see how a business works, and be open to personality changes.
posted by anniecat at 4:51 PM on September 12, 2010

Drive around the country! There's nothing that spells rapid growth quite like getting into a $400 car and cruising around America for a few months... The amount of people, places, and sub-cultures that he'll soak up will be astronomical..

Another idea is Star Island. It's a Unitarian Universalist retreat/conference center off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The island is open for visitors for a little less than four months out of the year. I'd recommend he tries to get a seasonal job out there. The application process usually starts in late December/early January. Check out the site for more info, but he could potentially be out there from April-October. It's a blast, and would be great experience for his grad school app!
posted by Glendale at 5:14 PM on September 12, 2010

I worked a decently-paid job totally unrelated to my field for a year between college and starting graduate school, and I would definitely recommend going that route. Aside from getting some real-world experience and making sure that graduate school is really what he wants to do, being able to go back to school with savings in the bank (or with student loans paid down somewhat) is worth much more than a year of poorly-paid, backbreaking experience in something like Americorps, in my opinion. Americorps volunteers certainly do worthwhile and noble things, but the pay is really terrible, and he'll have plenty of time to be overworked and underappreciated in grad school. I'd especially stress taking a year (or more!) to work a 9-5 job for the money if he's going into a PhD program-- as depressing as it is, a financial plan is really necessary for career academics who aren't independently wealthy.

He can always volunteer or take classes at night or on the weekend if he wants to boost his in-field experience, but nothing he does this year (short of a serious crime) could really hurt his application, as long as he knows how to spin it the right way.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:43 PM on September 12, 2010

The best thing I ever did was to work for a year between high school and college.

In a book warehouse.

Forget about things like "traveling to Timbuktu" and "Learning how to speak Inuit". The thing for him to do is to go out and live like a normal person for a year. That'll improve him more than anything else.

And don't be too surprised if, at the end, he decides he doesn't want to go to grad school after all.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:04 PM on September 12, 2010

10 mos, worthwhile, experience and perspective = Americorps NCCC. It helped me narrow down my career path and do tons of strange, fun, and new things for people in need.
posted by goodnight moon at 6:52 PM on September 12, 2010

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