Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: How Are Gap Years Viewed by Med Schools?

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Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: How Are Gap Years Viewed by Med Schools?

Session 87

Are you making the most of your gap year? We’ll talk about how med schools view gap years (Spoiler: They don’t care!), interview day experiences, and more!

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[00:56] Question from Dylan

“There’s a lot of discussions that I hear both as a postbac myself, but also, on the forums and on the Facebook page about whether they should or shouldn’t take a gap year. 

I think a lot of times it’s met with kind of hesitation. And I’ve seen you say that you’re a fan of gap years. So I love to get your feedback on why are you such a fan of gap years? And how would you advise students to think about these if they are considering doing so.”

[01:34] When to Take a Gap Year

I’m not a fan of gap years per se but I am a fan of taking gap years when needed. Nothing in life that should be brushed with broad strokes. So I’m not out there to say every student should take a gap year. That’s not appropriate. But I think gap years are appropriate for some students out there.

Back in Episode 85, the student hasn’t finished her primary application yet. It was the beginning of August at that time. And she’s still gathering letters of recommendation and taking the MCAT in mid-August. She’s graduating early from school so I advised her to take a gap year to figure out everything.

That way, she’s not applying late in the cycle and she’s not rushing her MCAT so she won’t get a bad grade. Then she won’t have to just put together a rushed application just because she feels she has to apply this year. For students like that, take a gap year.

“Don’t put together a rushed application just because you have to apply this year.”Click To Tweet

[02:47] How Medical Schools View Gap Years

Where you hear hesitation from students is potentially around how are gap years viewed by medical schools. But the answer is they really don’t care.

As long as you’re not just wasting your time for a year like barricading yourself in the basement playing Fortnite for a year. But you’re actually contributing to the world in some meaningful way.

You don’t have to get a medical job and be around medicine 24/7, but some part of your life around medicine and health care to prove to yourself and to prove to medical schools that this is still what you want.

Then go and take a gap year. It’s great for you to live life outside of school and to see what the real world is like and so much more. And that’s where my enthusiasm for gap years comes from.

Dylan is actually curious about gap year because he’s 29 and in the second year of his postbac. As a career-changer, he’s thinking about taking a gap year to focus on boosting clinical work and other experiences along those lines. And so he’s wondering about how med schools would look at him for taking a gap year as a nontrad student.

Now, this tells me that Dylan knows how to organize and strategically lay out his path to medicine. That’s what you have to do, especially as a nontraditional student who didn’t know until later in life that this is what you want. So you obviously don’t have clinical experience, shadowing, and all those things.

'Prove to yourself that this is what you want but also to prove to medical schools and show them that you have these experiences.'Click To Tweet

Being a nontraditional student coming back and doing a postbac and taking all these classes is hard, especially if you’re also working because you need to put a roof over your head and food on the table. Medical schools understand that.

[06:33] Interview Day Horror Stories

Dylan is also curious about how the interview process is like because of some horror stories he heard. There are students who potentially had to wait for an hour for their interviewer because the interviewer was a physician and had a case running late or whatever. There are those kinds of horror stories that just completely throw off the student. But it’s nothing too horrendous. 

“For the most part, interview days are very well organized, very structured by the medical schools.”Click To Tweet

I had a conversation with a Dean of Admissions at a school in Boston. We were talking about the potential for students to report any sort of inappropriate behavior from anybody on the interview day. The end of the day is so stressful for many students. So when the student may perceive it as threatening or biased, it may be otherwise from the medical school admissions’ standpoint.

The way the Dean of Admissions was putting this was that students would complain and say their interviewer hated them and was completely biased and took this interview in the wrong direction. Then the Dean of Admissions goes and looks at the file and thinks this student was amazing. She was a great applicant. So the two sides are just not matching up at all. 

We have the stories of either ourselves or our classmates walking out of a test and say that was the hardest test ever. You just know you failed it. And then you get the test back and you got a 99%. It’s the same thing on interview day. You think you failed it. It was terrible and that person hated you. Then they offered you an interview an hour later because they loved you that much.

When talking with other students about interview days, always take it with a grain of salt. Their perspectives may be skewed a little bit because of the stress they’re going through.

The interview is set up to really encourage students to ask questions and get a good idea about the school and what’s going on at the school. They’re really recruiting the students as well as really evaluating the student to see if they’re a good fit for the school as well.

“Interview days are usually pretty fun if you allow them to be.”Click To Tweet

[10:41] What to Wear During Interview

Overdressed to me is when you show up in a tux. If you want to wear a nice fancy bow tie, go ahead. You can have a little bit of that kind of flair in that personality. But definitely wear a suit in conservative colors. You don’t want to walk in with a light blue suit from back in the day.

'You want to be remembered on your interview day but not for what you wore.'Click To Tweet


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