Taking a Gap Year Before Medical School

It’s becoming more and more common for students to take a gap year before starting medical school. However, taking time off is not for everyone. There are a lot of different things to consider and you definitely need to do some soul searching in order to decide if it’s right for you. So if this is something you’re trying to figure out, hopefully this post will provide some insight 🙂

If you’re totally against the idea of a gap year, that’s cool too. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. If you asked me two years ago or even one year ago if I wanted to take time off, my answer would have been a big fat NO. But…now that my year off is almost finished, I can happily say that I am grateful I took the time! Anyway… here it goes.

Should you take a gap year?

People decide to delay medical school for many different reasons. If any of the following reasons apply to you, taking a year or two off may be beneficial. I took a year off because of numbers 2 & 4 🙂

  1. Low GPA, low MCAT
  2. Lack of experience (clinical, research, community outreach, or other medical school related extra-curricular activities)
  3. Uncertainty regarding your future career (maybe you’re considering nursing, PA school, research, physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmaceutical industry, etc. OR maybe a completely different non-healthcare related career entirely)
  4. Lack of funds

There are many other reasons as to why some students take time off and there are still many other things to consider. I found this pros and cons list extremely helpful when I was deciding.

Things to do in a gap year.

  1. Enroll in a post-baccalaureate program (masters in public health, masters in nutrition, take basic science classes, etc.)
  2. Re-take the MCAT (make sure to do something else in addition to this—maybe research, volunteering, or healthcare related work)
  3. Explore other careers (enroll in a masters program, work for a pharmaceutical company, shadow nurses, PAs, physicians, etc.)
  4. Get more clinical experience (work in a hospital, become an EMT, become a medical assistant, work in a doctor’s office, etc.)
  5. Do research (in the medical field or in something different if it’s something that interests you)
  6. Find a gap year internship at a hospital that involves both clinical experience and research.
  7. Volunteer
  8. Go on a medical mission trip
  9. Get an unrelated part-time job to make some money
  10. Travel, read, sleep, eat healthy, learn to cook, develop an exercise routine, do things that make you happy, have fun!

What I did and what I gained.

I spent my year off gaining more clinical experience, volunteering, and working in a non-healthcare related job to save money for applications, interviews, and eventually medical school. In my senior year of college, I did a year-long internship at the local medical examiner’s office and I became a medical assistant after graduating. I also volunteered my time as a math and science tutor for high school students and taught a weekly ballet/yoga class for women recovering from addiction. Throughout my year off, I continued to worked as a ballet teacher 6 days a week to save money.

I also started this blog, created a YouTube Channel with my boyfriend Rich, got a ton of much needed sleep, developed a regular exercise routine, traveled, and had so much fun!

This past year has been rewarding for me in so many ways. I learned so much more about medicine and the healthcare field in general. My confidence in myself and my passion for medicine have increased and I underwent a lot of personal growth. I am so much more mature than I was at this time last year and I am also so much more relaxed. I’m so eager to finally start school, but I’m also so thankful for this year. I honestly believe I will be a better medical student and physician because of it.

Whatever you do, don’t feel pressure to rush into medical school because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. Do what’s right for you. You will thank yourself later 🙂 Hope this was helpful! Also, don’t forget to check out our video on taking a gap year on the channel!

For another post on med school, check out Preparing for Med School Interviews.