Taking a Gap Year before Studying Medicine… how, what, and why?
Taking a gap year between finishing school or your first degree and studying medicine can be a fantastic way to create some lifelong memories, earn some money and boost your medical CV. Future medical students taking gap years fall into two categories; those with an offer who have deferred entry, and those without an offer who are reapplying during their gap year. Whatever the reason, a gap year should be productive.
Reasons to take a gap year
As mentioned, a gap year needs to be productive, this takes time to put into planning what you’re going to do. Below are some reasons why you may be taking a gap year.
Rejections: it’s not uncommon to receive four rejections initially when applying. Competition is high for Medical School. A gap year is a great time to improve your application; learn new extracurricular activities, gain new work experience and improve entrance exam scores.
Financial reasons: you’re going to be in Medical School for 5-6 years and may not have the luxury of enough spare cash either from student loans or parents to see you through. Taking a gap year can be a great way to give yourself some financial security. Working in the NHS during your gap year will boost your medical CV at the same time.
Additional experiences: you’ve got a year, that’s plenty of time to do some things you want to do. You may not feel ready to straight into higher education from school and want some time to get to know yourself better, see the world, try new things and prioritise what you want to do.
How to make the most of your gap year
Planning: proper planning is key to making sure you accomplish everything you want to in your year off and to ensuring you’ve got a few things in there to impress medical schools! When planning your year off it could be helpful to write two lists a “personal” list – things you want to do for yourself and a “medical school” list – things that will improve your CV by completing them.
Things to include in any gap year before studying medicine:
Boost your medical experience, its key to show you’ve maintained a strong interest in medicine on your year off. This can be done through:
- Work experience: shadowing or volunteering
- Getting a job as a healthcare assistant: this will boost your medical knowledge and provide you with an option of picking up work during medical school on the NHS bank.
If reapplying due to rejection, make sure to work on the weak areas of your application:
- Look at our ‘ultimate guide on dealing with medical school rejection‘ to help you do this
- It may simply be academic scores or entrance exam scores, ask your old school for help if you’re struggling to register for any resit exams
- It may be other elements of your application such as extra-curriculars, work experience etc. If this is the case then pick up a new hobby, gain some more work experience or do some volunteering
Volunteering abroad – something different to consider: by now, you may already understand how healthcare is delivered in the NHS from your work experience or paid work. Volunteering abroad offers students a unique opportunity to gain insight into healthcare in a different country whilst enjoying a new and rich culture. Understanding healthcare in another country can provide some useful points to talk about at interview. Medical Projects offer international work experience placements in Kilimanjaro, Sri Lanka and India, for example.
How do Medical Schools view gap years? provided you can produce evidence on how your gap year has helped you develop into a better prospective medical student, they will view them favourably. There is an expectation that you will have finished the year more mature, better informed and with a deeper understanding of medicine.
Final Note: If you’ve taken a gap year, be prepared to answer questions on it during your interviews as this will almost certainly happen.
Author: Cameron Elsworth
Manchester Medical School