Taking a Gap Year before Medical School

January 10, 2012

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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Taking a gap year before medical school? Combining a gap year with medical work experience could be the best way to prepare for med school by shadowing doctors abroad in some of the worlds most breathtaking countries.

The year I was accepted into medicine, my medical school ended up overestimating the amount of offers it sent out. This is easy to do; because the vast majority of the offers they send out are conditional on future exam results, they have to make many more offers than they have places, so that when students turn out to have done less well than predicted they still have enough coming through with the appropriate grades to fill the next year’s cohort of places. It’s certainly not an exact science, so when it goes wrong the soon-to-be-medical students tend to find – as I did – that they receive a steady stream of summer mail promoting the benefits of electing to take a gap year. Unfortunately I was in my late 20s at the time and, although another gap year certainly sounded like a sensible idea to me, my girlfriend was less enthusiastic…

But if you do not have the same sort of relationship commitments or, indeed, are about 10 years younger, then a gap year can be a brilliant opportunity to really get some perspective on yourself and the world around you. You can use it to gain some experience, perhaps in a career path which interests you. You can then use it to save up some money to support yourself in this chosen direction, or you can blow it all on a never-to-be-repeated around-the-world trip, where you can visit exotic far-flung destinations and see incredible sights that you could never have previously imagined. And because the idea of a Gap Year is becoming more and more acceptable with every passing year, most of you will be able to do it all safe in the knowledge that you will still have a place waiting for you back at home with your folks at the end of it all!

If you have already been offered a place at medical school then I would thoroughly endorse deferring for a year – in fact I would consider it to be the ultimate gap year dream! Many gap years are overshadowed by an element of worry – about having to do another UCAS application, and then having to be around for interviews, if called upon. But if you know you have a place awaiting you when you return then you can really enjoy your time!

Another aspect to this is that it gives you some space, some time out of education for probably the first time in your life (aside from those first four blissful years of course!), when you can really assess your future direction. More than a handful of the students who joined my course straight from school clearly weren’t ready to go directly into medical school, and ended up dropping out. Perhaps if they had had another year to consider their options, they would have been ready to face the course, or would have had the opportunity to find something they really did enjoy doing in the meantime.

On the other hand, if you haven’t succeeded in getting into medical school this year, or are considering putting together an application for entry in 2011, there is a great deal that you can be doing during this forthcoming year. Top of your list would probably have to be getting some experience of medicine in a clinical setting, and this is where Gap Medics comes in.

For it is relatively easy to secure yourself some work experience in a domestic hospital, clinic or GP surgery, but this simply means that every single UCAS application that drops on to an admissions office desk will include a paragraph or two on the applicant’s experience as a GP receptionist or hospital porter. However if you really want your application to stand out then why don’t you have an application detailing your experiences in a hospital in Tanzania , India, Thailand or the Caribbean ?

Exploring Jodhpur by zipwire!

A Gap Medics placement in one of these destinations will be full of the sort of experiences which will give you not only a first rate application but make you an interesting, easy person to interview (believe me – some of the people sitting on your interview panel will be almost as nervous as you, and they always feel much more comfortable when they can see that you are exactly the sort of candidate that they want at their medical school!). We provide you with unrivalled support, arrange all aspects of your placement and supply you with all your meals and accommodation, for the duration of your time away with us.

Our placements can be easily fit into a gap year, or even just a short holiday if – like me – you do not have such an extended period of time in which to escape these shores…Hopefully we will see each other out there!