Gap vs. No Gap: Pros and Cons of a Gap Year Before Medical School


Nurse Thinking

Deciding whether or not to take a gap year before medical school can be a tough decision for some pre-med students to face. While some may be eager to dive straight into their medical education, others may feel burnt out from their undergraduate studies and crave a break before embarking on the rigorous journey of medical school. Or, they just need more time to get a better MCAT score, more experience, or a higher GPA. The decision to take a gap year is a personal one, and it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making this choice. 

In this blog post, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of taking a gap year before medical school to help you make this decision…

What is a Gap Year Before Medical School?

A gap year before medical school refers to taking a break from academics and gaining different experiences before starting medical school. It is a time for personal growth, exploration, and preparation. During this year, many pre-med students choose to study, repeat the MCAT, travel, engage in research or volunteer work, or gain real-world experience through internships or jobs. The goal is to broaden their perspectives and enhance their skill sets before diving into the long journey of medical school. 

Taking a gap year isn’t all good or bad, and there are advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at some of each of these. 

Pros of Taking a Gap Year Before Medical School

More Time to Study for the MCAT

The biggest reason most students take a gap year is to study and take or retake the MCAT. If your score is lower than the average score for the schools you have in mind, a gap year can give you more time to prepare, study, and get a higher score. 

Extracurricular Enhancement

A gap year before medical school can also help you gain more extracurricular activities to strengthen your application. With time off you can really pursue clinical experience and research opportunities you maybe didn’t have time to do during school. It will never hurt to volunteer at a hospital or medical facility, join a research lab, or work in a healthcare clinic. A gap year can help you fill the 15 experiences in the AMCAS activities section and really give you a chance to create a stand-out resume for yourself. Take a look at 9 Jobs That Enhance Your Medical School Resume for more ideas of things you can do during your gap year.

Time to Take More Classes

If you’re a pre-med or science-based major student in college, then you’ve likely had an intense four or so years, with little time to take classes outside of what is required for your medical school application. So, if you want to raise your GPA or take more science or other advanced classes, a gap year will give you the chance to do this. You could also retake any classes that are bringing your GPA down. 

Earn Money

Not only can clinical experience and patient exposure boost your resume, but if you’re getting paid to work in a medical setting then you can save up money before medical school. The average in-state tuition for medical schools is $51,278 per year. And the average medical student debt when all is said and done is $202,453 (and this excludes pre-medical undergraduate costs). Think about your financial situation and if you could benefit from working a year or two to keep the cost of living expenses down or to help with tuition costs.

Overcome Burnout

You’ve been in school for at least the last sixteen years. And, you could be ready for a break. Taking a year off to step out of intense academic classes may help you feel refreshed and ready to take on medical school when it does begin! Some students enjoy a gap year to gain more experience and perspective of the “real world” by traveling abroad, volunteering in less fortunate countries, serving their community, or just working and spending time with friends and family. 

Cons to Taking a Gap Year

While there are many benefits to taking a gap year before medical school, it’s important to consider the potential downsides as well. 

Losing Academic Momentum

One major concern is the possibility of losing academic momentum. Taking a break from academics can make it challenging to get back into the rhythm of studying, and you may begin to forget the things you’ve learned and studied so hard the last four years. 

Longer to Become a Doctor

The road to becoming a doctor is not short. It is four years of medical school plus a residency and/or fellowship which will add on an additional 3-7+ years. The earlier you start medical school, the quicker you graduate and earn a paycheck. 

Getting Used to the Freedom

It’s easy to lose track of your goals or to get too comfortable having free time or not having to study or take classes seriously. Let’s face it–you deserve a break, however, you could end up loving the life of no responsibilities too much and just not feel like going back to school. Don’t let your gap year disrupt your career and drive!

Spending More Than You Save

If you’re not smart, you could end up spending more than you save if you’re not working or careful with your expenses. If you commit to an unpaid internship, or you choose to travel abroad, you will have to spend money on expenses, rent, groceries, and bills that could carry a financial burden before your medical school classes begin.

Rejection After Your Gap Year Could Set You Back

If you take a gap year but don’t use that time wisely to improve your resume, your chances for rejection increase. And if you have to re-apply, well then you’re pushed back even further. If you applied and were rejected, take the gap year seriously and do what you need to make yourself a stronger candidate the next year you apply. Our team at Code Blue Essays can help review your application, personal statement, and everything else before you apply so that you are positioned for success! Take a look at how we can help you here

Ultimately, deciding whether or not to take a gap year depends on your priorities, resume, scores, and personal goals. If you’re happy with your experiences, grades, resume, etc., and you don’t want to waste time, applying right away could be the right thing for you. Here are a few things to think about when making your decision:

  • Reflect on whether a gap year aligns with your long-term career plans
  • Weigh your academic preparedness and the strength of your resume
  • Consider your scores and grades and how competitive they are
  • Assess whether you’re mentally and academically ready to challenge four intense years of school
  • Consider your finances and living expenses

Our team at Code Blue Essays specializes in providing application services for medical school, dental school, residency, and healthcare programs.

Let us help you today! Send us an email at or complete the form for more information. 

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