Over the past 2 weeks, we’ve discussed the pros of the gap year and outlined some of the things students can do in the time between completing their undergraduate studies and starting professional school. Today, we have a real life gap year story :) Jessica Malcolm MS1 talks candidly about her experiences with applying to professional school and what she did during her gap year. Hope you find the information valuable. Also check out previous posts regarding the gap year.
HealthOU: What year did you graduate from Oakwood?
JM: I graduated from Oakwood in 2013.
HealthOU: What were your academic goals / aspirations (career plans) upon starting college?
JM: Prior to starting at Oakwood, I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that involved building long-term relationships with many people. Looking back, I also remember feeling like God was leading me towards some kind of career in the medical field. I knew that Oakwood had a great pre-med program and that became one of the main reasons why I decided to attend.
HealthOU: Did those goals change at all? How so? What were some of the factors that led to those changes?
JM: They did not exactly change but instead, became more solidified. While I was at Oakwood I looked in to a number of different careers but soon decided that I wanted to become a doctor. I looked into nursing, bio-medical research, accounting, physical therapy, and engineering to name a few. At first, I looked into these fields because of my own curiosity. Later on in college, I started to look into other fields because I did not do well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT.)
The first time I took the MCAT, I did not commit to studying as long and intensely as I should have. As a result, I did not do well. To make matters worse, after getting a poor score, I applied to 2 schools very late in their application cycles. (I mean “the day that their application closed” type of late.) Needless to say, I did not get in that year. That failure was very difficult for me to deal with. I took that failure as a sign that God no longer wanted me to become a physician and I started looking into other careers.
The more I looked into other fields, the more I realized that I wanted to become a physician. So I prayed and fasted about it, and God sent the right people in my life to propel me towards medicine. After my senior year, I decided I would work as hard as I could to get into medical school. I then decided that if it did not work out, I knew that was not the career door that God wanted me to go through.
HealthOU:What was your academic / professional path after Oakwood?
JM: When I left Oakwood, the first thing I did was to pray and spend time reading the Bible. I did this to draw nearer to God and see the direction He had for my life. After that, I did my best to get into medical school. For about two and a half months I did nothing but study in the library with a few MCAT resources and a good friend.
After I took my exam, I started working to help pay for my application and living expenses. I also volunteered in a research lab at a medical school (about 10 – 20hrs a week) to help keep myself connected to science. (I also knew that medical schools love to see research on your application!) On weekends I would volunteer at my church and in the community.
HealthOU: What are you doing currently (professionally)?
JM: I am currently in my first year of medical school at the University of Connecticut (UCONN.)
(By the way — UCONN really likes Oakwood graduates. I strongly encourage all science majors to apply for their Medical, Dental, and Graduate programs!)
HealthOU:What are you future professional aspirations?
JM: I am very interested in pursuing a career in Primary Care. I am currently looking into Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.
HealthOU: Were there any resources or websites that you found helpful as you explored different options for your career?
JM: Yes! The following resources I used were incredibly helpful:
- The Bible. – It helps connect you with God, who will direct you towards the career He has planned for you. It is also full of encouragement!
- The teachers at Oakwood. – They are so willing to help! They also have many contacts in different careers that you can speak with and even shadow.
- Student Doctor Network – http://www.studentdoctor.net/ – Which is full of medical resources.
- This blog. I really enjoyed reading it. It is also full of resources and encouragement from your peers.
- Missionary Orthopod in the making. – http://doctajay.com/ – A blog of an Oakwood grad thoughout his entire journey from applying to medical school to his residency.
Career Advice – http://christianworkingwoman.org/broadcast/get-over-it-part-ii/ – Specifically this article. I strongly recommend it to everyone who is struggling with what they want to do in life.
HealthOU: Can you give a timeline from the time you first took the MCAT to when you actually started medical school.
- Here is the timeline of everything I did:
August, 2012 – I took my first MCAT in the summer following my Junior year.
Nov/Dec 2012: Applied to medical school. Did not get accepted**
May, 2013 – I graduated from Oakwood.
July, 2013 – I took the MCAT for the second time.
August, 2013 – I submitted my AMCAS application.
August/ early September, 2013 – I started volunteering in a research lab.
August, 2014 – I started medical school
HealthOU:What advice would you give to a student who is currently where you, facing a gap year before starting medical school?
JM: At the beginning of my gap year, I can I vividly remember feeling like a failure. Most of my classmates were headed to graduate school or to medical school and I was not. I had to make a decision as to which direction I wanted to go in – graduate school or medical school. So I prayed, spoke with a lot of people, did some shadowing, and decided to pursue medicine. I put together a plan about how I would tackle my gap year. Even though I had a plan in place, it definitely was not an easy year. I can remember cringing at the anticipated question… “So what are you doing now that you’ve graduated from Oakwood.” But looking back, I am so happy that God allowed me to go through that experience! It was a period of growth both spiritually and mentally.
I would definitely advise other students to put together plans A, B, and C before they graduate! Do some reflection about the career they want to enter and find a way to set themselves up toward that path. If their goal is medicine and their grades are low, I suggest they find a post-bacc program to enroll in. If their grades are high, try to do some research or engage of some kind of clinical experience. But they MUST do something, it is vital to stay active!
Also, I would like to tell students to not let go of their dreams out of fear. The fear of failure is often worse than actually failing. If you humble yourself and do your best, God will take you to heights you’ve never imagined. I can often remember wondering what I would do if things did not go according to plan. However, during those rough points I would pray and cling to the promises in God’s word. If you give your all in pursuit of your dreams, trust that God will open the doors you are supposed to go through. He did it for me and He will do it for you too!
**Added by HealthOU for clarity
Jessica Malcolm is a 2013 graduate of Oakwood University. She was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica but grew up in Massachusetts. Jessica is currently a first year medical student at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Her favorite bible texts are: Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:19. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, cooking, swimming, and spending time with friends and family.