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Should You Take a Gap Year Before Applying to Medical School?

Lauren DiProspero

Written by Lauren DiProsperoon December 30th, 2020

I began my undergraduate admissions career at Stanford University where I helped coordinate diversity events and outreach. This ignited a passion for higher education which led me to Columbia University where, after earning my masters, I began recruiting and reviewing the applications of students applying to Columbia College from all around the country including the northeast, mid-west, Texas and California. I also reviewed the applications of international students from countries across Asia as well as Canada and Mexico. During my time at Columbia, I was Director of Admissions at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons where I oversaw the entire medical school admissions process, including recruitment, application review, interview days, and admitted student events. From there I became the Director of Enrollment Management at the University of San Francisco where I oversaw a team that supported both undergraduate and graduate admissions. In that role I recruited in Southern California and reviewed applications from multiple domestic territories for the undergraduate admissions team. Most recently, I was the senior director at Stanford Medicine, where I again oversaw the entire medical school admissions process.
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by Lauren DiProspero, former admissions officer at Columbia University As college students studying pre-med progress towards the end of their junior year, they may start to wonder if they should begin applying to medical school. If you happen to be one of these pre-med juniors, it may feel like all of your peers are on track to do just that. The data shows a different story: many students choose to take a gap year, or even multiple gap years, before matriculating at US medical schools. AAMC’s data shows that the average age of medical school matriculants is 24 and that almost 64% reported waiting a year or more after graduating from college to attend medical school. There are many good reasons to consider taking a gap year:
  • Lack of experience: What are the gaps in your application? Maybe your exposure to research or clinical work is not as strong as it could be.
  • Mediocre or low GPA: Could you use additional time to improve or show continued academic success in your senior year?
  • Lacking letters of recommendation: How long have you know the individuals writing your recommendations? Do you have enough recommendations?
  • Advice from a pre-med advisor: Is your advisor recommending additional time to strengthen your application?
  • Uncertainty: Are you wavering on your commitment to medical school? That’s ok! The additional time can provide more targeted medical exposure and help you decide.
  • A chance to step off the treadmill: Healthcare burnout is real. A year or two away from school can help you be an even more successful medical school student – and doctor.
Did you read all of that and think, “Yes! I want to take at least one gap year”? If so, a plan is key. Let’s now focus on what you can do during that gap year. As an applicant, you will need to meet The Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students. This is a great time to have an honest conversation with your pre-med advisor and, more importantly, with yourself about how you can improve your application during a gap year. The sky is the limit when it comes to what you can do but be sure to focus on building experiences that fill any holes in your application – and that you choose something you enjoy doing. Some of the more popular experiences include:
  • Medical scribe
  • Research assistant
  • Medical translator
  • Public health policy
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Patient advocate
  • Contact tracer
  • Master’s programs
  • Volunteer service (Teach for America, City Year, Peace Corps, etc.)
Your college’s career counseling and pre-med advising offices will be a great starting point to explore opportunities for your gap year. Our College Admissions Experts


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