What is a Gap Year?
It’s just a year, or more, between graduating from undergrad and enrolling in medical school.
How do medical schools view a “Gap Year” taken between college and medical school?
Taking a gap year does not hurt an applicant’s chances of acceptance into medical school. The average age of a first-year medical student is right around 25, meaning more and more students are taking that time off before they both apply and matriculate into medical school. Students decide to take a gap year for a variety of reasons. Some students simply do not have the time to fit in all of the requirements in time to apply by June after their junior year, some want time to take “a breather” from academic study, and some students have a weakness in their application on which they want to work during the gap year (GPA, MCAT score, insufficient clinical experience, etc.). What ever your reasons might be, it certainly will not hurt you if you decide to take a gap.
What should I do during my Gap Year?
There isn’t really a “should” answer to this question. It’s really a personal decision and totally up to you. As a student you really need to ask yourself, “Why do I want to take a Gap Year?” While it’s true that a Gap Year may provide experiences that you might otherwise not have had, you need to think hard about what you do with that time off. You should meet with a Pre-Health advisor to see how competitive you are for medical school. This will help you decide what activities would be the highest yield in helping you become an more competitive (and interesting) applicant. For example, a student with a marginal GPA would be best served by using that Gap Year to strengthen his or her academic record more than taking time off to travel abroad to engage in volunteer work. Likewise, someone with strong academic credentials but no experience in medically related activities would best be served using that time to engage in activities that demonstrate a capacity and passion for such work. Either way, it’s best to always “stay connected” to medicine during this year off. Use your time wisely. Here is a list of opportunities to get you thinking:
- Post-Baccalaureate Program (if you need to really boost your GPA or still have pre-med courses to taken upon graduation)
- Research Assistant Position (clinical or other)
- Other Industry jobs
- Community Service Internship (AmeriCorps, City Year, Teach for America, Peace Corps)
Is it wise to spend my entire Gap Year abroad?
The main issue here is traveling back to the U.S. for interviews. Remember that it is unlikely that you are going to schedule all of your interviews during the same small window of time that you will be back in the country. Being abroad during interview season could create headaches, increased expenses or both.