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5 Reasons to Take a Gap Year Before Med School (And 2 Reasons Not To)

Should You Take a Gap Year Before Medical School?

Session 209

In this episode, I talk about taking gap years—the pros and cons, what to look at, and what to think about. I specifically address two similar questions from students regarding their concern about taking gap years. Should you take a gap year before medical school or not?

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Student Questions About Gap Years

One student was getting great grades but was concerned about his extracurricular activities. He/she is currently working as a part-time scribe and a part-time barista. This student asks about what he/she can do between now and the next application cycle to be the strongest candidate possible.

The other student is applying to postbac premed programs for the next term. Being a nontraditional student, he/she doesn’t intend to have a gap year before medical school. Is it necessary?

What is a Gap Year Before Medical School?

Generally, “gap year” refers to time you’re taking to delay your application to medical school. In other words, you’re starting medical school later than you normally would have.

Generally, 'gap year' refers to time you're taking to delay your application to medical school.Click To Tweet

The normal time frame for traditional students: Apply at the end of junior year > Go to interviews during senior year > Get accepted > Start medical school a couple months after you finish your undergrad degree.

Reasons to Take a Gap Year Before Medical School

Reason #1: If you need to reapply

This is what happened with me. I applied to medical school when I was a Junior in college but didn’t get in. So I was forced to take a gap year because I wasn’t accepted the first time around. I did not have any choice but to reapply, so I had that extra year between college and when I could finally start med school.

Reason #2: To take a breather

If you simply want to take a break because you’re burnt out, taking a gap year will help you recollect your thoughts and make sure you’re on the right path.

If you simply want to take a break because you're burnt out, taking a gap year will help you recollect your thoughts and make sure you're on the right path.Click To Tweet

Reason #3: To get some experience or grab an opportunity

If you have great grades but not a lot of extracurriculars, a gap year gives you some time to get that experience because you either “need” it for the application or you’re taking an opportunity that you can’t pass up.

Things to consider when thinking about gap years:

  • Don’t think about what the admissions committee would want to see on your application.
  • It’s good to do something medically related, so admissions committees know you’re bought into this career—but follow your passion within that.
  • Ask yourself what you’re interested in that is somewhat medically related.
  • You can’t fake authenticity!
  • Your passion (or lack of passion) for your extracurriculars will show in your interviews.

Reason #4: To take another class (for fun or to boost your GPA)

You can take a gap year to take a fun, extra class that you’ve always wanted to take. Work, pay your bills, and take a fun class. Or take another upper-level science course to boost your GPA.

Reason #5: To work and save some money or pay off debt

Use your gap year to work and save up some money for expenses during medical school, so you don’t have to take out as many loans as you would normally. Or start paying down the debt that you have. Start medical school with as little debt as possible.

Start medical school with as little debt as possible.Click To Tweet

Working as a scribe can give you clinical experience while helping you build relationships with physicians and other members of the health care team. Being at EMT is a great thing to do as well.

[Related episode: What Jobs Should I Do During My Gap Year?]

The Glide Year for Postbac Programs

For postbac programs, you’re not really taking a gap year, but you’re forced to take a year between when the program ends and when you can start medical school.

When you can skip a glide year: There are postbac programs that have linkages to medical schools that allow you to apply to medical school earlier on in the program, and then you go straight into medical school right after graduating from the program.

[Related episode: How Can I Get into a Postbac with a Linkage to Med School?]

The Cons of Taking a Gap Year Before Medical School:

  1. It’s a year of your life.

Yes, you may be delaying your career by a year, but in the grand scheme of things, a year is nothing. So don’t worry about that.

  1. Forgetting how to be a student

Taking years off can create more of a struggle once you get back to school since you’ll need to get back into the habit of studying all the time.

Solution: Take at least one science class during your gap year, just to keep your mind sharp so it’s easier to transition into medical school.

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Don’t take a gap year just to goof off or do something totally unrelated to medicine. Whatever you do, stay in touch with the medical world during your gap years.

Whatever you do, stay in touch with the medical world during your gap years.Click To Tweet

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