Gap Year Programs and Options for Medical School Students

August 17

Table of Contents

Many candidates for medical schools may not immediately enroll after graduating from college. Before beginning medical school, you may take at least one year off (the "gap year"). You may also need to wait two years if you apply a year after graduation.

Most applicants take two gap years because the average applicant is 24 years old. Frequently, these applicants must raise their MCAT scores, demonstrate academic improvement, or discover a strategy to stand out.

Therefore, you should anticipate taking at least one gap year unless you belong to a small group of exceptionally high achievers. 

The question is -- what should you do during your gap year? 

This article covers the best gap year programs and options for medical students like you. 

Should You Take a Gap Year Before Medical School? 

It's worth considering a gap year before medical school as it can be beneficial for many individuals. To determine if it's the right decision for you, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have MCAT or GPA results that fall below the national average? Do you still have to meet any requirements?

Take academic progress into account. You will gain a lot from taking a gap year before medical school to study for the MCAT and raise your GPA. Remember that getting into medical school largely depends on your GPA and MCAT scores

Do you have a substantial lack of clinical or research experience? Are you lacking in extracurricular activities?

Increase your exposure to intellectual pursuits like research and clinical settings. 

Research is one of the main prerequisites (and benefits) for applying to medical school, along with other extracurricular activities. Spend more time and effort concentrating on your studies. 

Would you like to acquire more knowledge about a particular area of expertise?

Spend a year (or two) honing in on a specific pastime or finding a new one. During your interview for medical school, this can be brought up. You do not want to blow a great opportunity to impress the admissions committee by citing a specific passion that inspired you to pursue a medical career. 

Do you need additional time to finish everything (your courses, the MCAT, your experiences), or do you want a break from school?

Most students cannot complete everything before the end of their junior year of college to be the strongest applicant. Therefore, many students require a longer time to prepare for medical school.

Whatever your reason for taking a gap year before medical school, take a break if necessary. 

What are the Gap Year Programs and Options for Medical Students? 

Students usually seek advice on what to do when they wish to take a year off before entering medical school. 

Our most frequent response is, "It depends on what you intend to achieve."

Before choosing how to spend your gap year, consider the red flag(s) on your CV and whether a specific choice clearly addresses it. 

In any other case, the year will likely be a waste because you will not contribute any fresh, beneficial material to your application.

The sections below discuss the most well-liked alternatives to gap years. Remember that during your gap year, you can pursue multiple possibilities concurrently.

Special Master's Program

A Special Master's Program (SMP) is a postgraduate course of study created primarily to raise the academic standing of medical school applicants.

Students frequently enroll in courses that last one or two years and are taught by medical students. 

Students can demonstrate their ability to excel in a demanding, scientifically oriented curriculum by enrolling in special master's programs.



If you excel in a Special Master's Program and demonstrate your ability to manage the challenging coursework, your likelihood of acceptance into medical school will improve.

The program will more likely provide you with new letters of recommendation.

You might locate fresh opportunities for clinical experiences or perform some research.

It will benefit you to take lessons with people with similar objectives.

Some programs give participants the option of connecting with a medical school.

Special Master's Program can be expensive, costing from USD 40,000 to USD 50,000 or more.

If you enroll in an SMP and do poorly, your admission chances may suffer. A GPA of 3.50 or higher should be the target.

You must consider how you would study while taking graduate-level classes if you need to take the MCAT.

Post Baccalaureate Programs

A post-baccalaureate program, which can be formal or do-it-yourself, is an additional choice for those who are changing occupations or have not completed the requirements for medical school. 

Students who have finished all prerequisites for medical school should not enroll in postbaccalaureate programs because this differs from an SMP.

Through post-baccalaureate programs, you can complete the required science courses, improve your GPA, and add the extracurricular activities you lack, such as hospital volunteer work. 

They can be completed formally (by enrolling in a program at a university, for instance) or ad hoc (by taking several courses through your local institution's extension program, for example).



Post Baccalaureate programs allow you to finish required science classes, raise your GPA, and (sometimes) gain the extracurricular activities you lack, like volunteering in a hospital.

They can be finished formally (by enrolling in a program at a university, for example) or informally (by taking some courses through the extension program of your local institution, for example).

Suppose you did not develop relationships with instructors throughout undergrad. In that case, post-bacc courses provide you more chances to do so and provide you with solid letters of recommendation.

Admission to post-bac programs is frequently not too tricky. Strong grades will not be regarded favorably as strong marks at your undergraduate university.

Post-bac programs often do not offer the same level of competition as your undergraduate preparatory courses.

Post Baccalaureate programs could have high tuition costs, increasing your debt before starting medical school.

Master of Public Health Programs

An MPH degree prepares students to serve as public health practitioners who collaborate with communities, execute and assess public health initiatives, and help increase a general understanding of excellent medical practices.



Many aspiring medical students are interested in the public health curriculum, and the degree itself can open doors if you decide to work in a field other than medicine.

You can incorporate a "public health angle" into your application materials.

Since MPH programs might be very simple to get into and succeed in, their GPAs might not be as crucial as other gap year programs.

The majority of the MPH curriculum does not overlap with premedical prerequisites.

Performing well in it will not always convince admissions committees that you can succeed in the classes you will take in medical school.

A sizable financial commitment may also be necessary for MPH programs, like post-bac programs and SMPs.

Studying for the MCAT

Preparing for the MCAT can be daunting for medical students, and it is considered one of the most challenging exams they will encounter. This is why some students take a gap year to focus on studying and preparing for the MCAT.

Depending on how (you think) you are ready for the MCAT, a year is usually enough to make yourself prepared for the MCAT.



Studying for the MCAT during your gap year can be far less distracting than it is to do so throughout your undergraduate studies.

You will maximize your chances of getting the highest possible MCAT score by going all in.

Focusing solely on the MCAT may prevent you from achieving other pursuits, such as gaining the missed patient exposure hours from your resume.

No matter how much time you invest in the MCAT, there is never a guarantee that you will get a specific score. It can be challenging to comprehend the opportunity cost without knowing your final score.

Pursuing Professional Medical Experience

It would be incredibly advantageous for you to have expertise in any medical sector or healthcare environment. Your chances of being accepted are better the more diverse your experience is. 

Suppose you opt to take a year off and focus on gaining professional medical experience. In that case, you can hone your people skills in a clinical setting and gain relevant work experience in a real-world healthcare environment.



The potential to make up lost patient exposure hours can be excellently served by gap years.

Pursuing medical-related activities (such as a medical assistant, EMT, or scribe) can show admission committees (and prospective employers) that you are serious about becoming a doctor.

Instead of taking out huge loans before entering school, you can earn some money.

One significant downside is that if you are a student looking to take a breather from the pressures of pre-med requirements before tackling even more challenging medical school coursework, you may not realize this by accepting these responsibilities.

If you also need to raise your GPA or prepare for the MCAT, you can pursue any of these experiences part-time.

Conducting Medical Research

Gaining expertise in clinical research might help your medical school admission (and career), primarily if you can publish your findings. You can contact your current university or apply for a local research position.

Opportunities for fellowships and internships are available at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), according to their website. A bachelor's degree is required for the majority of these jobs. A position in research may also be available through theNational Institutes of Health.



Although it is not a formal requirement for medical school, most strong candidates have research experience from their undergraduate and beyond.

Research is a kind of unstated demand that fits well with gap years.

Putting extra effort into your job and, ideally, publishing a paper or two might help increase your chances of getting accepted if being a top researcher is a key selling point on your application.

A thorough research project can take a lot of time. 

It could be challenging to pursue research meaningfully while appropriately resolving other red flags on your resume.

You might be the type of individual who dislikes research.

Additional FAQs – Gap Year Programs and Options for Medical School Students

What Percentage Of Med School Applicants Take Gap Years?

According to a recent AAMC research, 33.7% of matriculants went straight to medical school after college. 

In comparison, 44.1% took a gap year before applying. This indicates that more graduates took a gap year before applying to medical school.

Will My Medical School Application Be Affected by a Gap Year?

If you utilize this time well, taking a gap year or a break will not hurt your likelihood of getting into medical school. A gap year should not just be considered a vacation.

Ensure you can articulate to the admissions committee the advantages of taking a gap year and that you have a strong justification for doing so. Self-improvement is crucial and will always be regarded highly.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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