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I am an 'overseas' student in a university, currently pursuing a bachelor's degree. Although I am really interested in signing up for graduate school, I am bonded to work for at least three years as soon as I get my bachelors degree. I am afraid that this might weaken my application and my chances of getting into a good university after I fulfill my bond obligations. Are my fears unfounded? Do professors really care about how long it has been since someone finished school when they review applications?

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When I started my PhD the majority of my fellow students had spent time working before they started. Some of them had been in full time employment for years (I believe the most was 7 years). As someone who went straight from BSc to PhD I was definitely the exception and not the rule. It shouldn't be something to worry about.

My supervisor's take on the subject of how he chose candidates was: "Whoever seems right at the interview."

From my experience of interviews having relevant experience and showing a good work ethic is as important in academia as working for any other employer. Working outside of academia for a spell is no limitation and can in some case be a boon.

Passion for the subject area and proof of regular hard work will get you a very long way with most academics.

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It won't count against you except in rare cases (maybe music performance or something?). For the most part, having worked a little means you are more mature and possibly have some extra skills. Those are good things.

In some fields it's a huge bonus. If you want to go to business school, for example, having worked is a huge advantage regardless of whether you want an MBA or Ph.D.

The only hard thing about going back to school (this is my experience) is that it is hard to get used to being an impoverished and ill-respected student after having spent some time in the working world, where hopefully you were more respected and better paid.

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Your fears are unfounded.

Instead of worrying, you should instead focus on growing and learning as much as you can in these three years. Above all, learn about yourself -- what are you good at? What do you care most about?? In what circumstances are you most productive and most alive?? If you can answer any of these question in this three-year period, then you will have used your time very productively.

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