Taking a medical gap year: the preferred choice

October 16, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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A “gap year” is the time between the end of your undergraduate education and the beginning of medical school. Although it is called gap year, it could actually be a year or even longer, depending on the reasons behind taking the gap year. 


Why Take a Gap Year?

The main reasons why students opt for a gap year is so that they can use that time to  participate in various medically-related lab and volunteer experiences, study to strengthen their UKCAT or GAMSAT scores, pay down their debts, work on strengthening their skills or simply take a much-needed break. Those do not get accepted into medical school the first time around, will have to take a gap year as well.

Taking a gap year is very commonplace and even encouraged in several countries including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Every year, in the UK alone, over 200,000 students opt to take a gap year. Generally the gap experience is a mix of volunteer work, academics and travel and is considered as a chance for students to develop their skills.

Medical work experience students in Tanzania 

The Benefits

Students who take a medical year gap are called “gappers”. Most speak very highly of the gap experiences they have had. A gap year literally offers an unparalleled growth opportunity and also adds weightage on your application to medical school.

British Universities and colleges support this concept and students with plans of a gap year are granted a deferred admission. It is believed that students who end up taking a structured and well-planned year out are more likely to complete the course of their choice and be satisfied with it.

A gap year is also a much-needed breathing space students give themselves before they fully commit to any course or career. This is even more relevant before embarking on demanding courses such as a medical program.


Make The Most Of Your Medical Gap Year

While there’s no doubt that a gap year can be very beneficial, the important thing is to make sure that you do not let that one year be a waste. Instead, use this time wisely to develop work experience that will stand you in good stead when you start applying to medical schools. This work experience can be obtained either at home or abroad by volunteering work at healthcare facilities or medical units or by shadow a doctor if you know one.

Playing with the kids at the local orphanage

If you find it difficult to find any relevant doctor shadowing or volunteer opportunities in the UK, consider a medical placement abroad. There are several placement companies that help organise work opportunities for medical students in hospitals and health care facilities in developing countries around the world. These placements offer you an opportunity to gain tremendous exposure not just to different medical ethics and techniques but also to different cultures around the world. A gap year should be used as a time to mature and grow and reflect on your own personality, values, skills and desires and when it comes to personal and professional growth, nothing can beat the experience gained from a medical placement abroad.