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209: Taking a Gap Year Before Medical School? Should You Do It?

By Ryan Gray, MD of Meded Media

Session 209 In this episode, Ryan talks about taking gap years, the pros and cons, what to look at, and what to think about. He specifically mentioned similar questions from two students regarding their concern about taking gap years. Should you take it or not? Here are the highlights of this episode: One student was getting great grades but was concerned about his extracurricular activities. He/she is currently working as part-time scribe and part-time barista. He/she asks about what he/she can do between now and the 2017 application cycle to make himself the strongest candidate possible? This other student is applying to postbac premed programs for the next term (May 2017). Being a non traditional student, he/she doesn't intend to have a gap year. Is it necessary? If not, what steps do you need to take and apply to med school without having taken the MCAT? What is a Gap Year? Generally, gap year refers to the time you're taking to delay or defer your application into medical school. In other words, you're just starting medical school later than you normally would have. The normal time frame for students: Apply at the end of Junior year > Senior year to do interviews > Get accepted > Start medical school a couple months after you traditionally finish your undergrad degree Reasons a student may want to take a gap year: Reason #1: When you need to reapply Just like Ryan's story, for instance, he applied to medical school when he was a Junior in college but didn't get in. So he was forced to take a gap year because he wasn't accepted the first time around. He did not have any choice but to reapply so he had that period of time in between right after graduating from college and starting medical school Reason #2: To take a breather If a student simply wants to take a break because he/she is burnt out, taking a gap year will help you recollect your thoughts and make sure you're on the right path. Reason #3: To get some experience or grab an opportunity If you have great grades but not having 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 this as what will make you look good on your application. Ask yourself what you're interested in that is somewhat medically related so schools understand you're bought into this career and not bumming around. Don't think about what the admissions committee would want to see on your application. Reason #4: To take another class and boost your GPA You can take a gap year to take a fun, extra class that you've always wanted to take. Work and pay your bills and take a fun class. Or take another upper level science course to boost your GPA, if needed or just to keep your mind sharp. Reason #5: To work and save some money or pay off debt Use your gap year to work and save some money and help pay for some 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. Working as a scribe can give you clinical experience, work, and build relationships with physicians and other members of the healthcare team. Being at EMT is a great thing to do as well. The Glide Year 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 to when you're applying to 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 so you go straight into medical school right after graduating from the program. The cons of taking a gap year: 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. Forgetting how to be a student Taking years off can be a struggle once you get back to school since you need to get back into the mindset of studying all the time. Solution: Take at least one science during gap year just to keep your mind sharp so it's better to transition into medical school. Some pieces of advice for premed students: Don't travel the world just to goof off. Whatever you do, stay in touch with the medical world during your gap years. Links and Other Resources: Harvard Crimson article The OldPreMeds Podcast Elite Medical Scribes

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