Like a lot of pre-meds, you may have started your college career thinking that you’d glide straight into medical school after graduation. However, if you’re heading into junior or senior year and you’re rethinking your plans, you aren’t alone. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) 2022 Matriculating Student Questionnaire (MSQ), 71.1% of all new medical students (table 2.9) reported taking at least one year off between finishing their bachelor’s degree and starting medical school.
There are many reasons why a gap year may be the right choice for you, too. Here are a few of the most common reasons why you might want to take some time off before medical school.
Gain More Clinical or Volunteer Experience
If you’re in college now, your education was almost certainly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to causing classes to be moved online or MCAT dates to be cancelled, the pandemic also made it difficult for pre-meds like you to pursue clinical experience. Taking a gap year can help you make up for any lost time due to the pandemic, or help you further refine your professional goals if you are still unsure about which medical specialty you want to pursue.
You could volunteer in a hospital or clinic, take part in clinical research, shadow a doctor, or even work as an emergency medical technician or medical assistant. According to the 2022 AAMC MSQ report (table 2.10), 46.8% of new medical students who took a gap year spent time working or volunteering in medical research, while 51.1% worked in another career.
Whichever option you choose, gaining more experience can help you make a more informed decision about your future and show admissions committees that you’re dedicated to a career in medicine.
Let’s face it: medical school is expensive. Taking a gap year can provide you with an opportunity to save money and pay down some of your undergraduate student debt. You could work full-time, live with your family, or take on a part-time job while volunteering or studying.
Taking a gap year to save money can help you reduce some of the financial burden of medical school. 40.2% of new medical students (table 2.10) who answered the AAMC MSQ said they worked to improve their finances during the gap between college and medical school.
Travel and Explore
You worked hard during your pre-med years, and you’re only young once. Before you begin the intensive and demanding journey that is medical school, you may want to take some time to see the world. A gap year is a great opportunity to do that.
It’s completely valid to take a year just to explore and broaden your perspective, but you could also pursue travel with a purpose by completing an international volunteering experience. 7.4% of medical students who took a gap year (table 2.10) opted to do this, according to the 2022 AAMC MSQ.
Make Up Missing Prerequisites
If you’re reading this as a rising college junior or senior and you’ve only just decided to pursue a medical career, you may be missing some of science prerequisites for medical school. Consider a gap year instead of scrambling to register for those classes during your last two years.
You can register for a pre-med post-baccalaureate certificate program that will help you make up missing science courses and receive other support, such as MCAT coaching or advising for preparing your application. According to the AAMC MSQ, 4.7% of new medical students in 2022 (table 2.10) completed pre-med courses for the first time during their gap years.
Boost Your Academic Record with an MSMS
Finally, a gap year is a great opportunity to boost your academic profile before you apply to medical school. If you struggled to earn the GPA you wanted, earning your Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS) with a university partner lets you show medical schools you have what it takes to succeed. Over the course of one year of full-time study, you can take classes that mirror the first year of a medical school curriculum.
Plus, you’ll benefit from predictive analytics that give you insight into your strengths and weaknesses, along with a USMLE Step 1 pass/fail prediction. By earning a master’s degree, you’d also be joining the 22.1% of students who pursued graduate studies between college and medical school. You can find an MSMS university partner near youhere.From gaining more experience and exploring your interests to saving money and building a stronger application, there are many reasons why so many medical students take gap years. So, take some time to consider your options and make the decision that’s best for you. Good luck!