Traditionally, medical school students matriculate into medical school directly after their final year of undergraduate training. However, more and more, students are deciding to take their time when they apply to medical school. Instead of racing to apply during the summer after earning their Bachelor’s degree, they choose to take a year off – or a “gap year” between undergraduate and medical school.
Many students have reservations about taking a gap year. They think that somehow, they’ll be at a disadvantage and be “left behind.” After all, students applying to medical school likely have been taking classes with other pre-med students for the past four years. Seeing your classmates become first-year medical students as you sit out a year can make you feel as if you’re stagnant.
Interestingly, however, 44.8% of medical school matriculants in 2021 reported that they were applying to medical school one to two years after they graduated from undergrad – significantly higher than the 31.4% of students who reported less than one year. Ultimately, if you’re anxious about taking a gap year, you’re not alone. At Code Blue Essays, we work with students that take a gap year for a multitude of reasons… and they get into medical school. Here are our tips to make sure you make the most of your gap year, should you decide to take it.
- Boost your GPA with extra coursework
If you’re taking a gap year before you apply to medical school, your primary focus should be on making your application shine more than it already does. You might have already locked in a 4.0 GPA, but if you’re in the majority of medical school applicants whose GPAs are borderline, take the opportunity to boost your GPA by taking a few more science courses, but with a lighter load this time. You may also be taking a gap year to lock in your prerequisite courses, so if that’s the case, be strategic about using this year to maximize your science (and cumulative) GPA.
- Boost your MCAT score
As with borderline MCAT scores, a higher score can only help your chances of getting into medical school. If you took the MCAT when you were swamped with a full course load and clinical shadowing, now is your chance to focus on the test as a primary task. You’ll be at an advantage over students scrambling to take the test so they can apply right after finishing undergrad because you can take your time and perfect your testing approach.
- Get even more clinical experience
Continue the theme of padding your application by getting even more clinical experience. You can even multitask by seeking full-time work in a medical setting so you can earn money and earn credit for your med school application. Working as a paramedic is one position worth considering. When you’re working in a clinical setting full time, you have an opportunity to build even deeper relationships (which means you can likely get more meaningful letters of recommendation.)
- Put yourself in a better financial position
Medical school is long and expensive, and there are very few opportunities to earn a living while you are in the trenches. Use your gap year to aim for some financial goals. Start chipping away at any student debt you already have: if you take a gap year, you will need to be paying on your loans while you are not enrolled in school. Try to build a reserve in savings to help cover any extras you will need over the next several years while you’re in school and working as a resident. And finally, you can apply for private scholarships or take aim at scholarships offered through the medical schools you will apply to later. Ensure that you meet the qualifications and find as many extra sources of scholarship money as you can to reduce any loans you will have to take.
- Reduce stress
Take a break – you are looking at 7 to 12 years of medical training after this! This year can be a brief respite before things get hectic again. You already know the stress of undergraduate while preparing to come to medical school, so avoid that stress for a year while you prepare to apply.
If you’re taking a gap year because you did not get accepted to medical school the first time you applied, that’s okay, too! The one-year buffer period is an excellent chance to evaluate what you want for your future. If that is for you to buckle down and reapply again in a year, Code Blue Essays is here to support you in that endeavor! Many of the applicants we’ve helped get into medical school are applicants who are applying again after an initial rejection. We can help you make sure your application is as strong as possible.
Regardless of your situation and why you’ve decided to take a gap year, we are here to tell you that it will not stand in your way if you are strategic about it! We have worked closely with hundreds of students in your situation who have turned their gap year into an asset for their medical school application! Contact us today so we can show you how we can help you apply successfully.