A lot of premeds feel rushed when applying to medical school — either your grades are not up to par with your expectations, or your personal statement doesn’t look as good as it should, or maybe you need more time to get clinical and volunteering experience.
You don’t need to submit a bad application just because the deadline is near. The first time you apply should be your best attempt. Therefore, if you’re not ready, you can take a gap year to better focus on your strengths. Many medical schools see this as a sign of maturity and it will not hurt your chances if you seriously work on improving yourself during this time. In fact, taking a gap year has become a growing trend: for example, out of all the Harvard premeds applying to medical school, only 40% continue their schooling the following year. Consider yourself one of many taking this nontraditional path which is becoming more and more popular in recent years.
What Should You Do During Your Gap Year?
The answer to this question depends on you. Ask yourself: what are you missing from your application and what could be improved? I would recommend talking to your pre-health adviser before making any decisions, or if you’re a current client in my program, then you can reach out to me for advice.
Bottom line — strengthen your weaknesses.
With an entire year, you have plenty of time to work on several areas that may need improvement.
- Work on your application — many premeds take this time to better their personal statement and application. Even better, with another year of experiences under your belt, you now have more material to work with!
- Take extra courses to boost your GPA — either take courses at a local community college or enroll in a postbacc program that will give you a higher academic standing. By creating an increasing trend in your GPA over the years, you have a better chance of getting in. Medical admissions loves that.
- Clinical work and volunteering — either continue what you have been working on or start doing clinical work. Shadow a doctor. If your resume is lacking in experience, a gap year will give you the opportunity to fill out all that empty space.
- Pursue a graduate degree — I’ve had students that, as premeds, they were still unsure what kind of medicine they wanted to study. Some of my nontraditional students went on to pursue Master’s degrees before they applied to medical school and this helped them further hone in on what they wanted as a lifelong career.
- Settle your finances — if you’re stuck dealing with debt and loans, or if you don’t have enough money in your pocket, consider taking a year to sort out your expenses. Along with valuable experience, this will also give you time to settle and prepare yourself for medical school.
- Take a break — you’ve endured college for four years and there’s nothing wrong with telling yourself you need a break. This is an opportunity to knock out some other goals you have in mind and de-stress yourself before applying to medical school.
- Travel — Consider international medical travel in a program like The Global Medical Brigade.
- Leadership — Add-in some leadership to your experience set and you’ll definitely distinguish yourself from the majority of applicants.
There really is no expected path to take during your gap year. It’s for you to decide — but just don’t get sidetracked. That last thing you want is to take a year off because you felt stressed and then rush the entire medical admissions process all over again the following year. In fact you can gauge your medical school chances by taking my free assessment here.