If you decide to take a some time off from school, the world truly is your oyster because there are so many things to do during this precious time. It’s becoming more common to take time off before starting graduate or professional school and there’s no shame in doing this! It allows for a pause from the hustle and stress of studying and let’s you reflect.
Travel: If you have the means to travel, DO IT. This was the one piece of advice I heard from everyone I asked. Travelling allows for literally broadening your horizons and some soul searching.
Volunteer, Study, and Intern Abroad: Like travelling, but with a purpose to boost the resume.
Take a Break: Breathe. Relax. Pick up a hobby. Let the brain rest. Aside from stressing about acceptances and everything that comes after, these will be some of your most worry-free days.
Study for the MCAT: Important: Take the MCAT after graduation if possible. Many advise to take it during or after junior year when your knowledge of biochemistry is still fresh, but it’s difficult to do with the stress about college classes and extracurricular activities. Studying for and taking it in the summer between junior and senior year made me feel rushed and unprepared and the MCAT is not something you should rush.
Obtaining more research or clinical experience: I wrote more about this here.
Work: Professional school is expensive, so finding a way to finance your education is important. A gap year job doesn’t have to necessarily be in the medical field, and it can be difficult to find one if you only plan on taking one year off because some positions require a master’s degree and months of training time. Ideally, positions are looking for commitments of at least 1-2 years. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something you can tolerate doing for a year or so and can speak about during application season.
It’s important to try to pay off any existing loans before starting medical school. If you’re fortunate to have no undergraduate loan debt, start saving for med school. The less you borrow, the less you’ll have to pay back after graduation. Depending on the type of loan, interest can start accruing as soon as the school receives the loan money while you’re still in school.
Enrolling in A Post Baccalaureate Program: Some enroll in these programs as a stepping stone between undergraduate and medical school. Some use it to take prerequisites they have not taken during undergrad or to retake classes to obtain a higher grade. Keep in mind that post bacc grades do not replace grades from undergraduate. Depending on the school, programs can last from 1-2 years and vary in tuition cost. Masters programs in specific areas such as Biomedical Sciences may fall under the category of a post baccalaureate program.
Pursue another degree: An increasing amount of applicants are pursuing other degrees before attending medical school. The programs can prepare those for the strenuous schedule and content of medical school. Many of these programs allow for familiarity with the campus and faculty, should you decide to apply to medical school there. Some even have a guaranteed interview with the medical school (not acceptance, but interview) upon successful completion of the program. Common ones are but not limited to: Master of Biomedical Sciences, Master of Public Health, and Master of Business Administration.
Here is a separate post I wrote on some gap year reflections.