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The Benefits of a Gap Year Before Medical School

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An increasing number of students are opting to take a “gap year” (or two) before enrolling in medical school. There are tremendous benefits to taking a year after graduating from college to engage with the world and learn more about the medical profession. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) show that the average age for entering medical students is now 24 for both men and women.
It’s common—and preferable—for applicants to have some real-world experience before starting medical school.
The benefits are obvious:  those who take gap years have jobs that show they can meet professional responsibilities and they often gain very valuable experiences either in research or with patients (or both, if conducting clinical research).

A recent article in the Harvard Crimson describes the trend in its students to take time prior to applying to medical school to explore the medical profession and gain work experience. In the article, Dr. Robert Mayer, associate dean of admissions at Harvard Medical School, states that only 35% of Harvard medical students come directly from college; thus a majority of applicants take time after graduating to engage with the world and do professional work.

The website for the Office of Pre-Professional Programs & Advising at Johns Hopkins is an excellent resource for those planning a gap or “bridge” year. The University of Michigan also has a list of opportunities for those wishing to take a gap year. In addition, the AAMC’s website has helpful information about “Making the Most of Your Gap Year.”  An article in the Atlantic, titled “Why I Did the Unthinkable—And Took a Gap Year,” describes a medical school applicant’s experience with his gap year.

Don’t be in a rush to get to medical school. Your application will likely be stronger if you have a gap year. If you have questions about how to spend this time, please feel free to contact me at or call me at 410-292-5219.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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