The Gap Year(s) Before Medical School

Given the competitiveness of applying to medicine, a gap year or two (or few) between completing undergraduate studies and matriculation is not uncommon. A number of options are available to you. Here are my three tips on making the most of it:

1. Reflect: whether you didn’t get an acceptance letter, interview, or didn’t apply at all, a successful gap year begins with honest self-reflection on each of your application components.

Think about what strengths you already would bring to an MD program and, more importantly, which areas an admissions team might like to see improved first. If you had any interviews and haven’t done so already, write down as much as you can from the experience (e.g. did any questions take you by surprise? which responses did you feel were weak versus strong?). If possible, have your application reviewed by your institution’s career center, medical students, or residents and staff members and make sure to ask for as objective feedback as possible.

2. Plan: successful gap years are focused and self-directed according to your needs, goals, and circumstances. 

Depending on the areas of strength and improvement you just identified, ask yourself: what can I do to address this weakness (and even turn it into a strength)? For instance, if you had trouble at the interview stage then start preparing with others as early, effectively, and realistically as possible. Alternatively, perhaps your leadership skills are underdeveloped, in which case you could reach out to your mentors for additional responsibilities accordingly. Don’t forget about your strengths either! Always be on the lookout for opportunities to add something new to your skillsets, whether it is mastering a new research methodology, pushing for a promotion, and anything in between.

3. Act: you’ve looked at your application objectively, consolidated various sources of feedback, and did your homework on what the best next steps are, but all of your careful planning can’t help you reach your goal until you act on it. 

Solidify your academic backing with a well-planned year of undergraduate or graduate studies, apply for that job posting in a team setting, or start preparing for interviews early. Whatever it is that is going to help you round out your application, now is the time to step out of your comfort zone and make the most out of it. 

Looking for additional resources or have more questions on alternative and different pathways to medicine? Check out our blogs:

Thoughts on Having an MBA in Medical School
The Benefit of Completing a Master’s Degree Before Applying to Medical School
Graduate Degrees Before Medical School


Book a 1-on-1 consultation with a medical student who has been admitted to medical school after taking the non-traditional route to get there!