As a medical school admissions consultant, I am often asked, “Should I take a gap year before I apply to medical school?” The answer depends, of course, on an individual’s circumstances, background, experiences, GPA, and MCAT score, among other things. I have found that most undergraduates are in a hurry to get to medical school; they have a set timeline in their head for medical school enrollment and they are eager to stick to it.
But it can be quite challenging to amass the clinical, research, leadership, and community service experiences that build a strong application by the end of the junior year of college, the “traditional” timeline for applying. Students inevitably feel a little rushed in their preparation if they apply then; by this time they must have explored medicine from a variety of angles, achieved very strong grades, taken the MCAT and proven they are ready for the rigor of medical school and that they know—fully—what the medical profession entails.
Some applicants may benefit from more time to do the following:
- Gain experiences
- Prepare for and take the MCAT or improve a score
- Fit in premedical requirements, depending on the major and curriculum of the school
- Build a strong GPA
Information from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that from 2016-2018 the highest proportion of medical school matriculants were aged 23-25. There is additional data from the AAMC here. This shows that taking time between college and enrolling in medical school has become the norm. Students may benefit greatly from a hiatus in academics, and they can build depth/maturity in their application during a gap year. These applicants are productively engaged in a full-time job related to medicine, which adds tremendously to an application; it shows that you can be responsible and that you are learning more about the medical profession. In addition, the gap year job is something that can be discussed during interviews. In almost every case—as long as you are engaged in a productive endeavor—a gap year improves an application.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant