A significant number of students are taking a year (or more) after college to improve their qualifications before applying to medical school. You might use this time to do research, retake the MCAT, or get clinical or other work experience. If your stats are on the low side, you might consider a postbac or MS program to improve your chances of acceptance.
Who should take a gap year?
A gap year (spent outside of school) may benefit you if:
- You are not ready to take the MCAT after your junior year.
- You need more time to put together a strong application.
- You have an opportunity to pursue worthwhile research, community service, or global medicine.
- You want to get more clinical experience to strengthen your application.
- You want to try another field to be sure medicine is the right path for you.
A gap year doing a postbac or MS program may benefit you if:
- Your stats are lower than the median for your target schools.
- You want to retake the MCAT.
- You applied to medical school once, but were not accepted.
- You are interested in a specific MS program and would like to set yourself up for research opportunities in medical school.
How should you approach your time off?
The key is to focus on improving any areas of potential weakness, while not losing focus on your strengths. In other words, if your primary strength is a volunteer leadership activity, don’t stop doing this activity while you apply. Stay committed and connected, and make sure your mentors are aware of your plans. Admissions committees are always on the lookout for applicants with maturity, so be sure your application conveys what you learned from the extra time, not just in terms of grades, but also your perspective. An extra year (or two or three) can add valuable life experiences that can help you as a future physician. Your essays should reflect the wisdom you gained in your gap year(s).
Should you take a gap year? How will it impact your life now and your future as a physician? How will it play a role in your personal journey to med school? Check out Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting Services and work one-on-one with an expert advisor who will help you with any and all aspects of your application, including helping you decide if you would benefit from taking that extra time before applying to med school.
Suzi Schweikert is a former UCSD School of Medicine adcom member who has mentored students in healthcare programs for over 20 years. She has a BA in English Lit from UCLA, an MD from UCSD, and an MPH from SDSU. Want Suzi to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!