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Are gap years ok to take before med school?

My goal is to go to medical school and become a physician. However, I feel that if I have a little more time, I can get more clinical experience and be a more competitive applicant. Are gap years looked down upon by medical schools?
#medicine #gap-year


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Suzanne’s Answer

Good question, Rachel. As a retired medical school faculty member, I would say it is fine to take a gap year or two before medical school. I think the main question the admission committee will be asking is what did you do during your gap time? Many people use this time to further expose themselves to working in healthcare and to confirm that this is indeed an informed decision on their part. This will also, hopefully, allow you to save some money from working to help with medical school expenses. It also may be good for your mental health to take a break from school to catch your breath before continuing on with the hard academic work load of medical school.
I took a couple years between college and medical school to work as a medical assistant and then as a technician in a medical school research lab. In the lab job I was able to take free courses at the university where I was employed, including repeating organic chemistry and getting a better grade.
Both jobs were very helpful to me...the medical assistant job confirmed my love for direct patient care, and the lab job confirmed that basic science research was really not the career path I would be happy in. I'd encourage you to think about why you want and/or need that gap period and be able to explain your motivation in your application.
Good luck to you. This is an exciting adventure you are embarking on on!

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Erin’s Answer

When you take time to invest into yourself, you will always win. With a gap year, you enter your application period with more clarity to fine tune your area interests by applying to the schools that are a better fit to match your goals. Additionally, it gives you time to work on areas that aren't your "strong suit" that present you as a more ideal student. It's all about what you do with the period of time that matters. It's a perfect question. Thank you for asking it.

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Eniola’s Answer

As a premed myself, I have heard this question a lot. Statistically, most the matriculants into medical school are nontraditional students according to AAMC, that means that taking a gap year doing research, shadowing, volunteering, or traveling is not a bad idea and it’s not frowned upon. It shows that you are more dedicated than it seems. You could spend your gap year doing a post-bac program to boost your acceptance into medical school or you can spend your gap year working. It all just depends on how well you put it in your application when you’re ready to apply.

Eniola recommends the following next steps:

Start looking for post bac programs, jobs, research, shadowing or study abroad opportunities.

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Richard’s Answer

When I started medical school, gap years were not the norm. Nowadays they are quite common and some advisors are even recommending them. As long as you use your time wisely is will not be considered a negative mark on your application. As the previous commentors have recommended, consider working, volunteering, and research during your gap year.

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Frances’s Answer

Hi Rachel,


If the gap year involves additional training and studying that will help as a physician (research and public health as examples), it is fine. If you are unsure about medical school or you need to " grow" a little a gap year is a good option. Think about what you want to accomplish and plan ahead, though. Best wishes in your endeavors.


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