This is a somewhat long question. I hope you can take the time to read it carefully.

I obtained my bachelor's degree in physics in June 2019. I decided I wanted to go to physics graduate school in the USA after finishing my undergraduate degree, however I noticed I was not going to be a strong candidate because I only had one letter of recommendation, had very little experience doing research, and had never published a paper. Hence, I decided to postpone my application and work with physicists to do research. Since I come from a place where research opportunities are scarce, I decided to contact researchers from the USA to work with them. It was really hard to get a response from them, but finally I got a response from two very good physicists from UC Santa Cruz and Georgetown. I am currently working with one of them and there's a possibility to publish an article by the end of this year's Fall. The other physicist advised me not to work with the two of them at the same time, as I might become overwhelmed by the amount of work from both projects. So he told me that it was my decision if I wanted to apply this year or wait until the next year. He said to me that if I waited one more year to apply, we would work together on a project and he claimed that we would publish a paper together by the end of Fall 2021. My dilemma is that if I wait one more year I would be older and when I start my phd, three years will have passed since I graduated from college. However, if I wait one more year I will have one more letter of recommendation and one more paper published (which would probably make me a stronger candidate).

My question is the following: is it a better idea to wait one more year considering that I can get all the things I mentioned before? Or, does waiting this amount of time affect my chances of being admitted?

I graduated from a 4-year physics program at the age of 22 (I'm 23 now).

  • What are the arguments against applying this year? Nothing stops you re-applying next year if you don't get an offer that you are happy to accept.
    – avid
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 2:50
  • @avid I was thinking what you suggest, but I have to pay application fees for every time I apply and will have to spend most of the money I saved during college in one application cycle. Since choosing the right place to pursue a PhD is really important, I would like to study in a good university, but based on my current research experience and lack of good letters of recommendation I find it hard to achieve.
    – eemg
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 3:55
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    The number of years since your bachelors just isn't that important compared to the quality of work you have done. In some cases industry experience is valued. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 4:22
  • @AnonymousPhysicist The question you pointed out does not really answer my question. My main question was if waiting a few years after completing my bachelors could be detrimental to my application. You and Allure below have already provided me a good answer.
    – eemg
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 23:26

1 Answer 1


Waiting can negatively affect your chances of admission if you aren't doing academia-related things: for example, if you quit to join industry for 3 years, then when you get around to applying your letter writers might not remember you that well anymore (they might even have died/retired/resigned), which will have a negative impact.

What you are doing, on the other hand, will not negatively affect your chances - in fact you are likely to improve your chances. You are after all getting more/better letters of recommendations & publications, two key aspects to an application.

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