How to Write About Your Gap Years in Secondary Essays

If you’re applying to medical school in a gap year or you’re planning on taking a gap year, you’ll likely have a secondary essay question you’ll have to answer about it.

This question may be worded something like this: If you’re not planning on being a full-time student in the year before matriculating to medical school, what are your plans?

So how do you answer this type this question about your gap year before medical school?

Be Honest About Your Gap Year Plans

What are you planning on doing? If you don’t know yet, talk about what you’re thinking about doing for your gap year.

If you’re trying to line up a scribe job, shadowing, or research, but you’re not 100% sure about it yet, talk about that. It’s okay to not have everything set in stone for this answer.

Be open and honest about what you’re hoping to be doing—and more importantly, why do you want to do that? 

Explain the “Why” Behind Your Gap Year Plans

Why are these gap year plans and activities important to you? Why are you taking a year out of the normal path to do them?

Potentially talk about what you’re hoping to get out of the experience.

Allow your passion to come through and really light up your answer. Medical schools like to see students who have passion and take initiative in pursuing those passions.

You don’t want your answer to come across like you’re just going to scribe in your gap year because it’s what’s expected of a premed or something.

So reflect on why you are pursuing these activities. Then make sure those real reasons come out in the actual answer you write in your secondary essay.

Keep a Foot in the Door to Medicine.

If you’re planning on just backpacking throughout Europe during your gap year, that’s great! But try to keep a foot in the door to medicine throughout that time. This shows that you’re still interested in medicine.

Taking a long break from medicine can potentially be a red flag. Some schools may see it as evidence that you don’t actually want to do this. Or it could tell them that you’re completely burned out and you’re second-guessing your decision.

So include some involvement with the medical world during your gap year. It doesn’t have to be constant or a ton of hours. Just try not to disengage for the whole year.

And again, with any shadowing or clinical work you’re going to do, talk about what you’re hoping to gain from it. Make sure the reader understands why you’re doing it—not just what you’re doing.