How do medical schools view a “Gap Year” taken between college and medical school? Taking a gap year does not hurt an applicant’s chances of acceptance into medical school. Students decide to take a gap year for a variety of reasons. Some students simply do not have the time to fit in all of the requirements in time to apply by June after their junior year, some want time to take “a breather” from academic study, and some students have a weakness in their application on which they want to work during the gap year (GPA, MCAT score, insufficient clinical experience, etc.).
What should I do during my GAP year? This can be a difficult question for any Pre-Health advisor to answer because it’s really a personal decision. As a student you really need to ask yourself, “Why do I want to take a GAP year?” While it’s true that a GAP year may provide experiences that you might otherwise not have had, you need to think hard about what you do with that time off. You should meet with a Pre-Health advisor to see how competitive you are for medical school. This will help you decide what activities would be the highest yield in helping you become a more competitive (and interesting) applicant. For example, a student with a marginal GPA would be best served by using that GAP year to strengthen his or her academic record more than taking time off to travel abroad to engage in volunteer work. Likewise, someone with strong academic credentials but no experience in medically-related activities would best be served using that time to engage in activities that demonstrate a capacity and passion for such work. Either way, it’s best to always “stay connected” to medicine during this year off. For a great list of ideas, check out GAP Year Resources.
Is it wise to spend my entire GAP year abroad? The main issue here is traveling back to the U.S. for interviews. Remember that it is unlikely that you are going to schedule all of your interviews during the same small window of time that you will be back in the country. Be abroad during interview season could create headaches, increased expenses or both.
Is it difficult for me to interview while I’m working for Teach for America (TFA)? This is a legitimate concern as it can be more difficult for a student to get time off to interview while working for TFA because he/she would likely be the primary teacher for the assigned school. There is a list of several other “transitional” teaching programs in which the student would not be the primary teacher but would instead be part of a team and therefore have an easier time getting away for interviews. To learn more, contact Amy Heath-Carpentier in the Career Center.
Can a student study abroad and still apply for entry into medical school right after graduation? While not impossible, it is difficult to fit in all the pre-medical courses, take an MCAT prep class, take the MCAT, meet with advisors, etc., and get one’s applications in on time. Students who take a semester abroad often end up taking a gap year before entering medical school. There are some international summer opportunities for the pre-medical students @ WU that some students take advantage of, and still remain “on track.” The Global MedPrep Scholars Program is one of them. Required classes in the pre-medical curriculum should not be taken abroad.