The “Dreaded” Gap Year

First let me start by saying, the gap year or years ( the time off between completing your undergraduate studies and starting your professional education) isn’t as dreadful and horrible as most people think.  I know you had your life planned and dreams to enter professional school the fall after your senior year, and you think the gap year is the worst possible thing ever.  Know that it isn’t.  In the grand scheme of life, finishing your professional studies one or two years after you anticipated really isn’t that bad.  What difference does it really make if you finish your training in 2017 vs 2018?  And know, again, that you are not alone, approximately 50% of applicants to professional school are not successful on his / her first attempt and have to reapply.  So take heart,  and know that your dreams are still attainable.

Now to get down to business!  No matter how you view the bridge/ gap year, the bottom line is that you now have a period of time where you can make yourself a more competitive candidate.  This requires a plan!  There are several options for what to do during your bridge year.

1.  Work:

Not everyone has the financial luxury to take this year off to focus solely on preparing a better application.  If you must work, I would suggest looking for a position in the field you are planning to go into.  You could be a scribe ( which I think is a position I think  more of our students should explore) at a hospital, a CNA, a unit secretary at a hospital, a receptionist at a doctor / dental / optometry etc office.  You can go that route, or you could take this time to explore an interest you’ve long neglected.  Admission committee members love applicants with diverse interests.  If you love dance, yoga or zumba considering getting a part time job at a dance, or yoga studio. Whatever you choose to do for employment, make sure that during this time off you are getting adequate, valuable, experience in your field of interest so you can incorporate that into your application; be that in the extracurricular activities section or as a framework for your personal statement.

****One good option for employment is as a supplemental services provider.  What’s that you ask?  Its a fancy name for a tutor.  There are tons and tons of opportunities to provide one on one tutoring to students from schools that are deemed “at risk” due to low state testing scores.  During my gap year in between my 2nd and third year of medical school I worked as a SES, made decent money, and felt like I was making a difference in someone else’s life as I taught a 6 year old sight words and algebra to a 7th grader.  Definitely consider it!  You can find opportunities on craigslist.  Just look for your desired area, under jobs >> education.  ****

2.  Volunteer / Mission work: 

The bridge year is a great time to volunteer or do mission work – things you felt too pressed studying physics or organic chemistry to take the time to do while you were in college.  Now is the time to give back to the world and take some time to reflect on others and take some of the focus off yourself 🙂

3.  Boost your academics

You can take some advanced level science classes to improve your science GPA, or this can be the chance to devote adequate time to preparing for those grueling but EXTREMELY important entrance tests like the MCAT / DAT / PCAT or OAT.   An option for those seeking an academic boost is a post bacclaureate or Master’s Program.  The deadline for application submissions for many of these programs are fast approaching ( like tomorrow) or have passed unfortunately, but there may still be one or two that are still accepting applicants.  Or, who says you have to apply to your post bacc this cycle.  Like I said, the bridge years or years, isn’t a set period of time.  It’s however long you need to improve your application.

4.  Research

You could use this time do some research.  Universities are always conducting research and always need assistants.  Do some searching and you may be able to find a position available.

***Be sure to take a look at the prehealth advising website for John’s Hopkins, near the bottom of the page there are actual student summaries of their experiences during their gap year.  It will give you some insight into what lies ahead and remind you that you’re not alone, and some of the options other’s have explored. ***

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