Taking time off from academics before entering medical school is becoming more common, and it occurs for a variety of reasons: research opportunities, clinical experiences, traveling abroad, and family or financial reasons, such as working to pay off undergraduate student loans. It also may be a good time for you to decide if the medical profession is the right career for you. Medical schools are seeing more and more non-traditional applicants, including students who have been out of school for a while or who may be changing careers. Many of these applicants wanted to be physicians earlier in their lives, but felt it was unattainable. Only now are they realizing that they should have followed their heart from the beginning.
It is very important to not rush this process. Too often, applicants are in a hurry to apply, because of the long application cycle, and do so without taking the time necessary to submit the best application possible. These applicants often end up being denied and ultimately have to start the process over again.
Medical schools want you to apply when you are ready. For some applicants that is right out of college, but for others it is after years of pursuing another career, taking time to reflect or starting a family. Be prepared to articulate clearly why you took time off or why you decided to change careers.
This is excerpted from 101 Tips on Getting Into Medical School by Jennifer C. Welch, who has served as the Director of Admissions at SUNY Upstate Medical School since 2001.