Considering Gap Years
10 Good Reasons to Consider Gap Years
- You will have more time to study for your admissions test.
To apply as early as possible in the application cycle, you should be focusing on taking your admissions test right after your final exams in early May of your junior year if you want your scores before you submit your application on June 1st. If you plan for a gap year, you could potentially spend a whole summer studying for your admissions test, and still have time to retake it if necessary before applying.
- You can use your senior year to solidify your GPA.
Without a gap year, your senior year courses are not graded when you apply, which means you are applying with 25% of your academic profile missing. Professional schools want to see grades for prerequisite and recommended courses, not just that you plan to take them.
- You might secure stronger letters of evaluation.
Classes are likely to be smaller during your senior year, and you will have more opportunity to forge relationships with your faculty.
- You can get your finances in order.
Health professional school is expensive, as is the process of applying. Taking time away from school means that you may have to start repaying any student loans, but working full-time should allow you to make payments on loans (to defray some debt load) while also saving some money to put toward interviews. If you have poor credit, rebuilding your credit record may also pay off when taking out professional school loans.
- You will have more time to focus on the preparations required to apply.
You have essays to write, letters of evaluation to gather, an admissions test to study for, schools to research, as well as figuring out the rest of real life. If you cannot spend the time you need on application prep during your junior year while you are taking a full load of courses and studying for your admissions test, it might be better to start getting organized junior year, but focus on applying senior year.
- “Everyone else is doing it.”
Nationally, the average age of students accepted into professional schools range from 23-26 and it is climbing higher every year. More applicants are exploring other careers, pursuing other graduate education (i.e. MPH, MBA, or JD degrees), and/or committing to service positions with agencies like Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America, City Year, etc. prior to applying to professional school.
- It can be hard for a junior to compete favorably with alumni and post bacs who have rich life experience, and with seniors who have their complete academic history, graduation honors, undergrad thesis presentations, etc.
Admissions committees have acknowledged that younger applicants often “suffer by comparison” to the older, more experienced applicant.
- You can gain more experience and learn to better articulate your career interests, on paper and aloud.
You can participate in activities that allow you to serve the community and to build the skills you need to be a health professional, so you can convince schools that you have a realistic understanding of what you are about to undertake. The more time you spend in these settings, the better you will be when interviews come, and the easier it will be to focus on applications since you will have a more solid goal to work toward. If you need more experiences to back up your “gut feeling” that you “must” be a doctor or dentist or pharmacist, take the time to find those experiences.
- Life is short!
Once you get to medical school, it becomes more difficult to take time off – you are more likely to have financial concerns, family concerns, and a professional schedule that will keep you from traveling, or learning to skydive, or pursuing independent research, or learning a new language.
- Your brain could use the break.
Pre-health academics are rigorous, perhaps even grueling at times. You may just want some time to take a break from academics after 18 years of school so that you can return renewed to the rigor of health professions school course work. Health professions school (and the support your alma mater provides in working with you to get there) will still be there for you if you go and do these things and return to the application process later.
Gap Year Opportunities
- AmeriCorps: Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency to address critical community needs in education, public safety, health, and environment.
- National Health Corps: The largest health-focused, national AmeriCorps program that promotes health care for America’s underserved, while developing tomorrow’s health care workforce.
- City Year: An education-focused, nonprofit organization that unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service to keep students in school and on track to graduation.
- MSU College Advising Corps: College Advising Corps is a year-long, national Americorps program that provides guidance to low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented high school students by helping them successfully navigate through the college enrollment process.
- Teach for America: Aims to end educational inequity. TFA corps members serve in high-need schools for two-year commitments.
- Child Family Health International: CHFI provides community-based Global Health Education Programs for health science students and institutions.
- International Service Learning: As a socially responsible international educational NGO, ISL enlists medical and educational volunteer teams for the provision of services to under-served populations in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Africa.
- Peace Corps: Volunteers serve abroad for two years, working directly with communities in one of more than 70 countries to build capacity in agriculture, economic development, education, environment, health, and youth development.
- University of Colorado Pre-Med/Pre-Health Wilderness Programs: Pre-health classes are 10-13 days in length, largely held during winter, spring, and summer breaks, offered in Colorado, Costa Rica, California, and Switzerland. All classes are taught by med school faculty with students earning Wilderness First Responder and CPR certifications and for the Costa Rica classes, Global Health certifications. The classes also involve fun and authentic adventure activities in which the students can practice hands-on skills in real-life situations.
- The Association of American Medical Colleges Post-Baccalaureate Database: Enables you to search according to program type and other program characteristics.
- Postbac Programs at the National Institute of Health: The NIH provides a plethora of training/research programs for recent graduates that are interested in health care.
- Albion College: Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Premedical Studies.
- Lawrence Technological University: Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Premedical Studies.
- Oakland University: Graduate Certificate in Biomedical Sciences.
- University of Michigan: Master of Science in Physiology Program.
- University of Michigan Medical School: Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program.
- Wayne State University: Master's of Science in Basic Medical Sciences Program.
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