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Should You Take A Gap Year Before Medical School?

It is becoming increasingly common for med school aspirants to take a gap year before starting med school. Now that med school is just one year away. You must also consider if you want to go straight to med school or take a gap year to strengthen your application and relax.

Whether taking a gap year after college is a good idea depends on your situation. It's neither all good nor all bad. Hence in this article, we will cover the pros and cons of opting for a gap year and things you can do during your gap year to improve your chances of getting into medical school.

Why reasons to take a gap year:

  1. Your application needs improvement:

    When applying to med school, you have to be honest with yourself about the strength of your application compared to other students. You must be sure that your application is strong enough to get you into your top-choice medical school. A weak application will not do. You must ensure you have a strong letter of recommendation, a unique personal statement, a varied list of experiences, and a competitive MCAT score.

    If you are thinking of trying your luck with a weaker application, we suggest you re-think it. Suppose you don't get into a med school this year with a mediocre application. In that case, you will have to answer questions about your previous application while reapplying the following year. What have you learned since your last application? If you weren't ready for med school before, what makes you ready now? How has your application improved since the last time?

    Rather than addressing all these questions, it is better to take a gap year and improve yourself. We recommend that you enter the application cycle only when you have a robust application that guarantees entry into the med school of your choice.
  2. You want to take some personal time:

    Once you enter med school, you will spend at least the next eight years of your life studying to become a doctor. Even after which you will have a demanding career and irregular work hours. In short, you may not have time to take an extended break (especially a year off!)

    If you desire to travel, learn new skills, and have new experiences in your life before you start this rigorous journey, then taking a gap year may be a good idea. It will also allow you to take about more than just studying medicine during your interview. In your interview, you can mention the things you learned and experiences you had during your gap year and how they influenced you. Doing this is a great way to differentiate yourself from others.
  3. You won't get your application ready on time:

    You may be on the path of creating a stunning application. But it will be useless if you can't get it ready on time. The AAMC website allows you to submit your application all year long. So theoretically, you should be able to apply at any time and have an equal chance of getting selected. But it doesn't work that way. It is because of the rolling admission. The medical schools review the applications that have come through first and move them to the subsequent phases.

    If two people have nearly the same application, but one applied in June and the other in September. Then the one who applied in June will have a higher chance of getting accepted. This is because, by September, the student who submitted their application in June will have completed their secondaries and will be proceeding to the interview process. So when the second student submits their application, the first student is already being considered for med school.

    Hence, we advise that you submit your application as early as possible, i.e., beginning or middle of June. Or if you are going to be late, it is still possible to get success if you submit in July or early august. But if you apply in September or later, you will find it hard to get accepted into your top choice med school.

Pros of taking a gap year:

  • You will have more time to prepare yourself for MCAT and CASPer exams. Hence you will be able to acquire a better score.
  • You will have more opportunities to participate in non-academic activities. It will help you to improve your work and activities section.
  • You will get time to improve the weak areas of your application.
  • You can retake the MCAT if you don't have a competitive score for your top choice medical school.
  • You will have more time to complete the necessary coursework and retake classes if required.
  • You can get some experience working in healthcare by working in a clinical setting during your gap year. It will help you earn more experience and money to pay off your debt.
  • It will also help you prevent burnout and recharge your brain.
  • You can continue building your network to get strong letters of recommendation.
  • Your application will be ready as soon as the application services open. You will be one of the earliest applicants to fill out the applications and will be considered first.
  • You can use the year to travel, learn new skills and get the experiences you always wanted.
  • You will also get extra time to consider your future and career trajectory.

Cons of taking a gap year:

  • You may lose momentum by taking a year-long break.
  • There will be a delay in your entry into medical school compared to your classmates.
  • It will take you a year longer to become a doctor.
  • You can get used to freedom and may find returning to medical school difficult.
  • You may spend more on traveling and experiences rather than saving money.
  • At the end of your gap year, the admission committee will notice if you have not improved in your weak areas.
  • You may get too attached to your current life and job and may decide not to attend med school.

Wrap up:

Taking a gap year is highly specific. It ultimately depends on your current situation and your application situation. As you now know the pros and cons of a gap year and good reasons to take one, it is up to you to decide what to do.

There is no right or wrong answer. In the end, you have to decide what is right for you.