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I just completed a CS undergraduate at University A (top 50 rank for CS), and am taking a gap year after graduating. This past summer, I did an REU/summer research at University B (~top 15 rank for CS). I hope to get recommendations from professors within both universities, and I have been thinking of asking if there are any opportunities to gain extra research experience within the 1.5 years of gap year that I will have, hopefully to gain another recommendation that can speak with regards to my research ability.

Has anyone kept in touch with professors you've known since graduating, and how do people generally do so? I was thinking of asking one of the professors how I can best spend the gap year time that I have, but I was wondering if people maintain academic contacts like this after completing their undergraduate.

  • Why not just start applying to research jobs? – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 15 at 18:34
  • I'm currently trying to do that at the moment, but not sure where to look. I've looked at national labs and research institutes (some of the positions already require a MS/PhD) and it's hard to find research-related positions elsewhere. Any tips on where else to look? – Daveguy Feb 17 at 18:37
  • I don't know CS, but I would have thought to look at universities. Big corps like Microsoft and Amazon have research divisions but I have no idea if they hire fresh grads. – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 17 at 18:38
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Yes, many people do this, and many professors appreciate it. Professors will often be interested in your successes, whether in academia or otherwise. Most will want to help you in your future, but if they have been reminded along the way then it is easier for them to comment and write letters. If you keep in contact with them they can also have better advice for you in questions such as you have.

It is especially useful to keep contact with anyone you considered a mentor and anyone you think is worth emulating in your own career. And a wide circle of contacts is useful for anyone, but especially for academics. Past professors can also put you in touch with people within their circle.

If you have been away for a while, unlike this particular case, it is useful to make a campus visit and look up professors who you think served you well. Thank them for what they did for you. Afterwards it is then easier to keep a conversation going.

But some very busy people and some others with whom you had very little contact might not respond. Don't take it personally.

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  • Generally, how do people phrase things? Is it often on the lines of "Hi, hope all has been well ... I'm taking a gap year and was wondering how I can gain more research experience for grad school ..." (something like this) – Daveguy Feb 15 at 18:12
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    It would depend on your relationship overall. But maybe a bit about what you have been doing since graduation and a bit about long term goals. An in-person visit is a good way to do this. – Buffy Feb 15 at 18:51

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