For students who are looking to attend medical school, a gap year is a viable option to strengthen one’s application and reflect on personal goals and ambitions. I took a gap year before starting medical school and it proved to be highly beneficial. I was able to improve my grades on the application, do clinical research and work part time, and even take time to relax and travel. That being said, everyone’s situation is different and careful introspection and analysis is necessary prior to making a decision regarding a gap year. Here are some tips to help you decide on whether or not to take a gap year:
Improve your MCAT ScoreFor some students, a gap year is a great opportunity to take the MCAT. Not having the distractions of daily college classes offers one ample time to adequately prepare for the MCAT. Consider taking a prep course, such as Kaplan or The Princeton Review. Many of these companies offer online programs that are flexible, allowing students to simultaneously study for the exam and perform research or other work on the side. || 99.9th Percentile MCAT Score ||
Improve you GPA with a Master’s or Post-Baccalaureate ProgramLet’s face facts: if you don’t have a strong GPA, particularly a strong science GPA, you will not be a competitive medical school applicant. The gap year is a great way to improve your GPA. Many colleges and medical schools offer science-based Master’s programs and Post-Bacc programs that are specifically designed to boost the science GPA. Some even have linkage agreements with medical schools where if a certain GPA and MCAT score criteria are met, the student will be invited to an interview.
Gain Research ExperienceA full year of working in a research setting, whether it be lab (basic) or clinical, is a fantastic way to improve your overall application. It tells admissions officers that you are someone who is intellectually curious, committed to science, and willing to advance medical knowledge. Securing publications, abstracts, and presentations are another excellent way to bolster your application. || How to Obtain Solid Research Experiences ||
Work or Volunteer in HealthcareVolunteer at the local clinic. Work as a receptionist in a hospital. Become a medical scribe. Do anything that will give you exposure to the medical field. You will gain valuable experience and will be able to foster your passion for helping others. It also shows medical school admissions committee officers that you are passionate about medicine. For example, during my gap year, I worked as a pharmacy technician. I was able to gain very meaningful exposure to a totally different side of healthcare and was able to learn about some common medications in the process as well. Although not directly related to training as an MD, this glimpse into the world of pharmacy provided me with a different and useful perspective on a different part of healthcare.
Shadow DoctorsConsider shadowing physicians during your gap year. Go ahead and reach out to local doctors. Many of them would be more than happy to take you under their wing and show you a day in the life. Shadowing will give you meaningful exposure to clinical settings. You will also be determine which specialties interest you. Remember, while shadowing, ask the doctor questions such as:
- Why did you choose this specialty?
- How was your overall medical school experience?
- How did you overcome the hardships of medical school?
- What are your most favorite and least favorite parts of your job?
- Asking these sort of questions will offer you a first hand glimpse of what it truly is like to practice medicine on a daily basis.