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The benefits and drawbacks of taking a gap year before medical school

There are many different reasons why people decide, or are maybe forced, to take a gap year before medical school.

Gaps years can be beneficial in the grand scheme of things, and they can also have a few drawbacks.

The drawbacks aren’t necessarily related to admission to medical school or anything like that, they are more related to the long term losses.

Really from some research and multiple peoples opinons these are the main pros and cons of taking a gap year before medical school. 

Pros

  • Time to get clinical experience
  • Not rushed to apply and move
  • Can focus on applications only

Cons

  • A year of lost income
  • Waste of time if you didn’t do it for a good reason
  • Can lose academic focus

Now, lets go into more detail.

Pro #1: Time to get clinical experience

The benefit of this goes far beyond just having another talking point at a medical school interview. Gaining clinical experience is so helpful for the clinical years of medical school.

If you find yourself in a gap year before medical school, gaining clinical experience is something you should heavily consider doing.

Here are a few examples of good paid clinical experience jobs.

  1. EMT
  2. Phlebotomist
  3. Medical Assistant
  4. Scribe

This clinical experience can put you in a situation where you are comfortable with patients and that will make the clinical years of med school so much easier. Instead of spending time figuring out how to exist in a hospital, you can spend that time learning medicine.

Pro #2: Not rushed to apply and move

Many of my med school classmates said they felt extremely rushed to apply and interview to medical school. They had a lot of trouble navigating and managing applications and finishing up their coursework to graduate undergraduate at the same time.

During the gap year that I took I was able to focus 100% on working to make money/gain more clinical experience, as well as interviews and applications.

Having the extra time makes all the difference. You know that you are done with your undergrad courses and you can dedicate all of your time to interviews and preparing for them.

Also, the ability to work and gain a little bit of real life experience is huge as well. Not only does money help out, but it can help you understand and connect with your preceptors a little bit easier if you have held a real job, which can help get letters of recommendation from them.

Pro #3: Can focus on applications only

We already discussed this one a little bit, but I just want to reiterate how important it is.

Some of the most successful people such as Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Grant Cardone all speak to the value of being able to focus on just one thing at a time.

There is a huge emphasis put on the ability to multi task, but even more impressive than multi tasking is putting all of your focus on one thing for an amount of time and crushing that one thing then moving onto the next.

Being able to focus on just applications and interviews, if done the right way is likely to increase your chances of getting into medical school.

A gap year before medical school can make it so you can focus solely on the application and admission process.

Con #1: A year of lost income

If you are thinking in terms of money, then maybe a gap year before medical school can be at least a $200,000 mistake.

This is because by adding another year in the process to becoming a doctor, puts another year between you and your real income as a physician.

Now I know that money is not everything, but if we can be completely honest with each other money is an aspect of the reasons we all decide to become doctors.

For each one of us there has been at least one time that we have thought of the money we will make. This isn’t an issue by any means, we are spending a TON of time dedicated to learning how to take care of people, and we should be rewarded and valued for that in terms of monetary value.

Adding a year to the pre med process can delay your earning of that income, plain and simple.

Con #2: Time wasted, if not for good reasons

If you are planning on taking a gap year before medical school, then make it a productive year.

Do some research, get some clinical experience, do a trip (my wife and I went on a cruise), make it worthwhile for both your sanity as well as your medical school applications/interviews.

One thing that you do not want to do though, is to start studying for medical school. If you are itching to be academically productive, take a single course at the local college or something like that.

Or, better yet spend some time learning what will be the most efficient way to get good grades, good board scores, and absolutely destroy med school!

Because there was such a lack of instruction on how to actually succeed in med school. I decided to make a course on how to do just that.

Con #3: Can lose academic focus

Taking a class or two during the gap year can help you to maintain your academic focus.

If you take an entire year off without doing anything academically related there are concerns from some that you might lose your ability to study and focus.

I personally don’t agree with the idea of losing the ability to be able to study in just a year, especially if you do some personal study on a topic that you want.

I guess this comes down to you making a choice on how you can stay academically focused if you are taking a gap year.

You can continue to take a few courses at a local college, or you can choose to study something on your own.

This is all largely based on how you feel about your ability to maintain your academic ability.

I will say that from my personal experience that taking the year off from academics didn’t have any affect on me, but I know that everyone’s experience is different.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to make that choice for yourself.

If you don’t mind helping other students, please comment below to let us know if you will or won’t be taking a gap year before medical school. And then if you are, what are you going to do for that year.

Thanks, I hope this has helped you.

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