Many students are unsure about when they should apply to medical school. Historically, nearly everyone who wanted to pursue a career in medicine submitted their medical school application in the summer before their last year of college. However, it is now becoming more common for people to wait one or more years after earning a bachelor’s degree to attend medical school. Students use the gap year for many purposes. Some people use the time to pursue a graduate degree or engage in research. Others prefer to travel, obtain a job, or simply relax during their gap year.

Is it a Good Idea to Take a Gap Year?

Before you apply to medical school, you should think about if a gap year is a good option for you. Whether you should take a gap year must be decided individually. In general, it is helpful to take a gap year if you will use the time productively. When deciding about taking time off from your education, take the time to think about if you will be a stronger candidate at the end of the gap. If you will use the time away from school to your advantage, then you should consider taking a gap year. Also, if you feel that you are not a very strong candidate, you should consider taking a gap year to strengthen your application before your apply to medical school. If you have a strong undergraduate record and research experience, applying for medical school without a gap may be in your best interest.

Benefits of Taking Time Off

There are many benefits to taking a gap year before you apply to medical school.  One benefit is that it gives students the opportunity to decide if medicine is the correct career path for them. Medical school is often very stressful. The academics are challenging and the pace moves very quickly. In addition, medical students must endure long working hours and sometimes ill-tempered supervisors. People who do not strongly desire to become a physician, may find the environment of medical school intolerable. Therefore, it is important for a student to be sure that they want to be a physician before they apply to medical school.

A gap year also affords students time to think about their future career. Another benefit of the gap year is that you will be older when you apply to medical school. Increasingly, medical schools are preferring older, more mature students. Older students may be more suited for medical education because students will be exposed to many difficult situations which require maturity to handle effectively.

Furthermore, a gap year allows students time to strengthen their CV.  It is often a good idea to consider taking a gap year if you will be a better applicant because of it. There are many opportunities to pursue during the time off. For example, it may be beneficial to enroll in a special masters program. This is especially true if you were not a premedical or biology major. A special masters program allows students to take the necessary courses before they apply to medical school. In addition, many programs offer direct medical school experience. This can give you an advantage over your future medical school classmates.


Hazards of Waiting to Apply to Medical School

Although there are many benefits of a gap year, there are also some downsides. Unless you use your gap year to pursue your education, you will grow unaccustomed to being a student. Academic skills like studying, writing papers, and taking tests are easy to forget. If you take a gap year, you may find that it is more difficult to do well academically when you begin medical school. It can also be risky to take a gap year because it may cause medical schools to be skeptical of your motivation. If you elect to take time off, you should be prepared to defend your decision to a medical school admissions committee. If you do not have a strong reason for not immediately continuing on, you may appear unmotivated to medical schools.



Ultimately, the decision to take a gap year is a personal one. If you elect to take a gap year before you apply to medical school, it is important to use the time effectively. A gap year can strengthen your medical school application if you use the time wisely. Conversely, if the time is used poorly, it can be a hindrance when facing a medical school admissions committee.