A gap year is a great idea but only if you use it well

November 21, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Students in their Gap Medics scrubs Are you planning on taking a gap year between high school and college?

A gap year is a break that many students take in the middle of their education. Typically a gap year is taken from the end of one academic year until the start of another academic period in the following year. Your gap year may be for a longer or shorter duration, depending on various circumstances.

Some students take a gap year just to travel or relax after a hectic course. Some take it out of compulsion because they did not get admission into a school of their choice. Some even take a gap year just to prepare for a professional entrance examination or to engage in internship activities. If you are planning on taking a gap year, keep in mind that when you apply to medical school, the admissions authorities will definitely want to know what you did and whether or not you made the most of this time.

Here’s how you can use your gap year to give your medical school application a valuable boost.


Spend time volunteering in your community

Volunteering will not only be a great bonus on your application but it also gives you very useful experience. When you volunteer in a medical field, you will get to know what it is actually like to work as a doctor. It will give you a little insight into what the rest of your life could be like. If you enjoy it, you can capitalise on this experience, grow as a person and improve your skill set. If you don’t enjoy it, maybe it is time to sit down and take a long hard look at whether you really want to get into medicine or whether you should back out now before it is too late.


Do additional courses

Whether you need to boost your academic scores or not, a few additional courses will also help give you the competitive edge. Look for short foundation courses that are relevant to healthcare such as those conducted by John Hopkins or the Red Cross or even courses in other transferable skills such as leadership or communication, which add value to any profession. 


Combine travelling with medical experience

For most students, travelling to foreign shores is the highlight of their gap year. If you have thoughts of travelling abroad, even if it’s backpacking around Europe, you should consider factoring in a stint of medical shadowing. With Gap Medics programmes available in both Poland and Croatia, a week or two shadowing medical professionals in a clinical environment could easily fit into any European travel plans. Alternatively, Thailand and Tanzania are great destinations in which to gain a real appreciation for global health.

Such experiences will give you an invaluable insight into your desired medical profession and is guaranteed to give your medical school application a real boost. What’s more, as well as medical shadowing opportunities, all of these destinations offer the fantastic sightseeing and adventure opportunities you would expect to have when taking a gap year. Combining work experience and adventure is a great way to ensure that your gap year is time well spent when pursing a career in healthcare and will show admissions authorities that you are serious about your chosen career path.