If you look at the trends of first year medical students, you’ll notice the average age has increased over time. This is because more and more students are choosing to take “gap years” between college and medical school. It is such a valuable time and really, the opportunities are endless. Here are some ideas for what you can do in your gap year!
1. Clinical Experience
College can get incredibly busy with classes and extracurricular activities so a gap year can be a great time to expand your clinical experience. You can be a medical scribe, medical assistant, patient care technician, EMT, or even shadow physicians. Some students even use the time to get a certificate in any one of those roles.
Full time research, whether it be in a wet lab or in a clinical setting, can be a fantastic way to make a more meaningful impact to the project. Depending on how much you contribute, it could even lead to publishing a research paper! You can continue any research you did in college, venture out to different university labs, pharma, biotech, the NIH, or even clinical research.
3. Post Baccalaureate Program
There are a number of post bacc programs across the country geared towards students who may want to strengthen their science background before entering medical school. Your application will populate a “science gpa” so if you didn’t have great grades in college, a post bacc can be your ticket to improving that specific gpa. Plus it shows a lot of commitment to medicine given that you are retaking some of the hardest classes you’ve ever had to take!
4. Get Another Degree
While there are some dual degree medical programs, gap years can provide a focused environment to get an additional degree. This includes Masters of Public Health, Masters in Biomedical Sciences, Masters in Global Health, or Masters in Business Administration. Don’t feel obligated to stay within the “science” world. If there is an area that you are intrigued by and want to dive deeper into, pursue it! This is a unique opportunity to stand out on your applications. Plus be sure to research any programs your undergraduate institution may have because this will often give you preference for admission.
Remember, this list is just a start! You can also take time off and travel the world. You can focus on your family and do what you need to do to support them.
Take the time to reflect on what areas of your application need strengthening and choose your gap year plans accordingly. Perhaps you didn’t have enough clinical experience in college but now you have time to be a full-time medical assistant? Or maybe you had a difficult time with your premed courses and want to pursue a post bacc program to improve your GPA? There really is no wrong answer! Take advantage of the time because once you’re in medical school, you’re in it for life!
Navya is a consultant on the Study Hall College Consulting team. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2021 with a double major in Molecular Cell Biology and Public Health. She is currently working as a medical assistant and applying to medical school. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.