When people think about attending medical school they typically think about going as soon as they finish college. And while that is an option, many students take a gap year, or two, before medical school.
There are a number of reasons to consider taking a gap year after college. First, you might just not be ready to attend medical school and have other things you want to do first. Maybe you want to do some more research or volunteering in addition to what you did during college. Or maybe you are still weighing your options of what to do after college. Taking one or two years of gap allows you plenty of time to do something before committing to medicine.
Second, you may just want to have more time to study for the MCAT. If you are considering attending medical school right after college you would need to apply the summer before senior year. That means your MCAT score would need to be done by April of junior year at the latest. Given that it takes most students two plus years to get all of the required courses to be prepared to take the MCAT, you don’t have much time to study for the MCAT in this scenario. Your MCAT score is critical to establish how competitive you are for medical school admissions so you don’t really want to rush it.
Third, you might be late to medicine and haven’t taken all of the required courses. In this case you need more time to take the classes or maybe do a post-baccalaureate program. Then you would take the MCAT after all of that was done.
Fourth, medical schools like to see students that have taken a gap year or two. Why? It gives you more time to get outside the class room and become a more interesting person. Whether you are doing research, volunteering at a clinic for the underserved, working as a scribe or any of a number of other things, you are doing something outside the classroom and that is a good thing.
Does it matter what you do during your gap year(s)? Somewhat. If you are thinking about going into a profession like medicine, it probably wouldn’t look great if you became an investment banker to make a lot of money. Yes, doctors are paid very well but med schools don’t want students where earning money is the primary motivation. But things like research, health care volunteering or even volunteering for the public good, things like Teach for America, are all completely valid things to do. Some students will ask if working as a scribe is alright for a gap year and the answer is YES. Although these are typically paid jobs they don’t typically pay very well because there is a feeling of giving back that dominates scribing. And given the exposure to the health care field that is part of the job of a scribe, they are typically viewed favorably by medical schools.
Can you get to medical school without taking a gap year? Yes, but in my experience students without a gap year or two are less competitive than their classmates who have had one of these experiences. If you want to be the most competitive for a medical school, I strongly recommend taking one or two years of gap before medical school.