Make the most of your gap year before medical school

November 2, 2020

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

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Taking a gap year before medical school is common for premed or prehealth students. In 2019, the Association of American Medical Colleges conducted a survey that shows 43.9 percent of 15,000 students, who were enrolled in medical school, took at least one gap year.

Oftentimes students want to find ways to strengthen their medical school application or just take some time off before they begin their most rigorous academic years. Whatever your reason, we want to make sure you make the most of your gap year before medical school. We’ve considered the various options for you below. 

We can offer you an amazing experience during your gap year, that can make you a more competitive applicant for nursing, midwifery, physician assistant, or medicine. Our Global Pre-Meds programs offer you the chance to shadow a doctor on hospital frontlines and gain a global health perspective that few pre-med students have.

If you want to explore a new culture, get important, COVID-safe healthcare experience, and make the most out of your gap year, we hope that you consider joining us at Global Pre-Meds.

Shadow a doctor

Doctor shadowing is a cornerstone of what we provide at Global Pre-Meds. Before students commit to a career in healthcare, it’s helpful to spend some time shadowing a doctor or physician

Shadowing a doctor on hospital front lines gives you an idea of what day-to-day life is like for healthcare professionals. You are more likely to stay committed to your healthcare career goals when you have a better understanding of what it takes. 

With our program, you can start building your network of healthcare professionals now. We partner with wonderful mentors that guide you through the experience, answering all your questions and keeping you safe. 

Our program in the Dominican Republic guarantees 40 hours of shadowing and a personal letter of recommendation from your mentor, which is valuable for your application. 

Our program in Tanzania offers you the chance to start at the foundation of healthcare by observing traditional healers in rural villages, as well as observing doctors in community health centers.

If you want to make sure medicine is the right career path for you, take some time to shadow a doctor or physician. 


Volunteering is an important act of service that also adds to your CV or resume. While it’s helpful to find medical or clinical volunteer experience, you have to be careful about any program or organization you choose, especially when you are not a qualified healthcare professional.

If you are not certified to perform medical procedures, you should avoid any programs that are focused on hands-on, physical patient care

There are also volunteer organizations that are not focused on healthcare or medicine, but show medical schools your altruism and other passions. At Global Pre-Meds, we give you the chance to partner with local organizations for beach clean-ups or visits to the local orphanage, in addition to all the healthcare experience you will gain.


Medical research is a great way to spend your time during a gap year. Talk to your advisor or a professor and ask if they know of any research projects you could assist with. It’s also worthwhile to look at your university’s science department websites or find summer programs that are conducting research. 

You can use this opportunity to pursue research in other fields, as the benefits you will gain for understanding the discovery process will be valuable, regardless of the subject matter. By showing schools that you possess critical thinking skills and motivation for research, you can increase your chance of acceptance into future medical and research related programs.

Clinical experience

There are many ways for you to get clinical experience during your gap year. Many medical schools require applicants to have a certain number of clinical hours. You should check with your program to see what qualifies as clinical experience. 

Training to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is a common option for premed students during their gap year. An EMT is a paid position, where you get real hands on experience with patients. This is highly beneficial but keep in mind that it is a serious commitment. The training to get your license is rigorous and then you have to spend the time looking and applying for EMT jobs.

A medical scribe is another common option for students looking for clinical experience. Scribes are responsible for documenting patient visits to the doctor. They spend a lot of time on the computer, following behind doctors and making notes. This is a great option to make money while you are learning more about patient care. However, just like becoming an EMT, you have to become certified and then apply for the job, which takes more time and commitment.

Consider one of our Global Pre-Meds programs, which put you on the frontlines of hospitals and give you global health experience to bolster your application. While our programs are strictly observational, you will observe unique cases that most medical school applicants have never seen. 

Academic coursework

To be a competitive medical school applicant, you need a strong grade point average. If you have some time during your gap year, you could take some courses to boost your GPA. You could also consider taking some more advanced courses to strengthen your skills or to complete some prerequisites for medical school. 

Study for the MCAT

According to the Princeton Review, most people require 200 to 300 hours of studying to pass the Medical College Admissions Test. Use your gap year to study for the MCAT. Create a schedule that works around your other activities and practice, practice, practice. 

Rest and relaxation

This is a useful time to rest and reflect. Once you begin nursing, medical, or physician assistant school, you will be swamped. There won’t be as much time to spend with friends, family, or traveling, so make the most of it.

If you’re interested in visiting a new country, you should consider our Global Pre-Meds programs. You can take a break while exploring a new country and culture, and gain clinical experience. Check out our program dates and apply today