Hello my lovely readers! Today we are chatting all about GAP YEARS! I'm going to chat a bit about what gap years are, why I decided to take one and what I plan to do in my gap year. I'm excited to chat, so grab a cup of tea and coffee and let's get into it!
What are Gap Years?
Gap years are the phrase we use for the year(s) between undergraduate and matriculating into professional school. I think gap years used to have this stigma that the person wasn't ready for professional school yet or that it is a gap in their journey to being a professional. I'll always remember my pre-health appointment when my advisor told me I would have to take a gap year - it seemed like a bad thing and that I had done something wrong on my pre-health journey but this is far from the truth.
Gap years are really ENRICHMENT years - they are opportunities to grow in several ways and are absolutely part of your pre-professional journey! So if you're reading this and thinking a gap year may be best for you - embrace the idea! I'm going to be giving several examples of what you can do in your gap year(s)!
Gap Years and the Medical School Application Process
I suggest reading one of my recent posts where I discuss the medical school application process. So how does gap years affect this process/timeline?
Well it is important to realize that you apply to medical school one year before you will start medical school. So NO gap year means you would apply the summer between your junior and senior year, this way you will start medical school the fall semester right after you graduate.
If you are like me and are applying to medical school in the summer after your senior year, this means that you will be taking one gap year.
What Can You Do in Your Gap Year?
There is a lot you can do in your gap year! One of the questions I got was how did I decide what to do in my gap year...well one of the first things I did was talk to people about what they did in their gap years and hear from their experience. Next I thought about what did I want to gain from my gap year? This helped me make
Do you need more clinical exposure? Maybe you can spend your gap year as a medical assistant or scribe
Want to strengthen research skills? You can look into postbacc programs
Need to study and take the MCAT? Look for a job with flexible hours that all allow you to do this
Need to strengthen grades? You can do a DIY Postbacc or apply to postbacc programs where you take upper-level science classes and boost your GPA
Want another degree? You can also spend your gap year in a degree-awarding program such as a Masters in Science or Masters in Public Health
Gap years are a great opportunity to strengthen your preparedness for medical school, it allows more time to gain experiences such as shadowing, clinical volunteering, and community service!
Also, your gap year can also be spent in a non-clinical setting or spent traveling! It is really up to you, I think what is important is that you are able to explain your choice and why it was the best decision for you.
Making my Decision
I considered several options from doing a masters program, to traveling, to scribing and research programs. I got advice from various people but ultimately I knew I had to making a decision that was best for me. I'll explain some of my choices, and again this is specific to my experiences and journey.
I decided not to do a Master's program because while I am interested in an MPH I didn't want to have to take out loans for the program before knowing if I could get into MD/MPH programs in medical school. I also was questioning if I really wanted to be in school for me gap year - I thought it was time for me to go out of my comfort zone and not be student for a year.
Next I thought about clinical jobs, this would be great to increase my clinical exposure and time working with patients. I got advice about different certifications I could get that could allow me to work in clinical settings. This gap year idea was a high contender and became my back-up plan
Travelling! When I first decided I would be taking a gap year, my plan was to be ready to apply in senior year and spend my gap year in Saint Martin and traveling. However then the pandemic hit and I lost out on a lot of clinical and shadowing experiences. Also as much as I would love to be home I knew that there were opportunities here in the US that could really enrich my experiences and exposure to medicine and help me achieve my goals as a doctor. I'll still be spending a month home and hopefully another one or two months next year before going to medical school.
So what did I decide? I started looking into research positions for my gap year - particularly at the NIH! I found out about the NIH IRTA program and I felt that this program combined many of the experiences I hoped to gain in a gap year.
Why the NIH IRTA Program
Why research? I found research to be a way to contribute new knowledge to my lab and field while gaining many technical, problem-solving and professional skills. The NIH IRTA program is dedicated exclusively to biomedical research and is connected to their Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center which would allow me to focus on clinically-centered research projects and shadow physicians which will strengthen my clinical exposure and understanding of medicine. The NIH in particular is an exciting place to be able to pursue these additional experiences; it is a resource-rich environment in which I can attend seminars, programs and conferences within the world’s largest biomedical research institution.
They also have a special program which would allow me to deepen my understanding of health disparities - which is a problem I am really passionate about.
Finally, this is a PAID position! The money that I will make during my gap year will be going into my savings to help me when I am in medical school. If you follow me on instagram then you know that I was so blessed to have been offered and accepted a position as an NIH IRTA fellow!
Want to know more about how to successfully apply to the NIH IRTA program? Stay tuned for the next blog!
Other parts of my Gap Year
The great thing about this pre-med journey is that we are non one-dimensional people! Along with my NIH IRTA program I am looking forward to taking opportunities to convitnue to serve my community. I am applying for a leadership fellowship program, working on launching my own mentoring program and I hope to bring back my digital planners!
I will also be in the medical school application process which means doing interviews throughout the gap year as well!
Looking Forward for my Gap Year
I am really looking forward to my gap year because I truly feel that it will allow me to grow as person. I welcome all the challenges and lessons that this year will bring and I am excited for this next step in my journey. I am excited to not be a student for a year (or two) and seeing what I will learn, accomplish, and how I can work on the goals and missions I have set for myself.
If I can leave you with one thing today, it is that gap years can be a good thing! Embrace them as an opportunity to have more enriching experiences!
I wish you all the best on your journeys! If you have further gap year questions feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org