A “gap year” is the period of time between the end of your undergraduate education and the start of medical school. In fact, a gap year might be a year or more depending on each person’s particular circumstances.
Frequently, the reasons for a gap year center on an applicant’s need for more time to participate in medically-related volunteer and lab experiences, strengthen GPA or MCAT scores, pay down debt, work on becoming a stronger candidate, or simply take a break. Some applicants must take a gap year if they are not accepted into medical school.
What should I focus on accomplishing during my gap year?
A gap year is a good time to get your academic and financial house in order. But don’t make the mistake of trying to “pad” your application. Admissions committees are easily able to spot this and it could end up hurting, rather than helping you.
- Strengthen your GPA by taking extra and/or high-level coursework. Academically, this time can be extremely beneficial whether you already have a strong GPA or not. There may be a course you didn’t have time to take that will prove your ability to master upper-level science coursework.
- Study for the MCAT exam. Without a full course load competing for your time (depending upon your work schedule of course), you’ll have more time to devote to MCAT preparation. Be sure to check out the resources on the MCAT website.
- Pay down your existing debt as much as possible. Even if you’re fortunate enough not to have any undergraduate debt, start saving money so that you’ll have a cushion when you begin medical school. If you’re able to take out fewer loans, you’ll not only have less to repay, but you’ll help reduce the additional stress associated with worrying about repaying your educational debt.
- Take time for reflection and rejuvenation. This time can be extremely beneficial for mental recovery or personal reflection. The road to medical school can be rigorous and demanding; you may want to use this time to work on a personal project, travel, rest, and get ready for the road ahead.
Association of American Medical Colleges