Are applicants penalized for taking a few years off to kick back? (not the year before applying)

Gauss44

5+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2012
3,191
397
Status
Pre-Medical
Would a medical school (MD program) applicant be penalized in the admissions process for taking a couple (2 or 3) years off just to enjoy life - NOT the year before applying to medical school, but 2 years prior to applying?

For example, if Joe the applicant kicked back between 2010 and 2012, and then worked hard in 2013, and then sent in his MD program application on June 1st 2014, would he be penalized (for being lazy between 2010 and 2012)?

Joe may have had good reasons for wanting an extended vacation. For example, Joe might have worked 80 hour weeks prior to 2012, and he is still in his 20's if that's relevant.
 

Pose

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
Jul 6, 2004
1,124
173
Status
Medical Student
Uhm, I have no idea...but I spent like 15 months traveling before applying. I made sure to justify it in my own way during the application process, such as listing it as an activity on AMCAS, mentioning travel in my essays, and discussing it at interviews. Make it a really interesting period in your life if you can, not just sitting around being lazy.
 
  • Like
Reactions: okokok

okokok

5+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Apr 12, 2012
447
199
Status
Yeah, I spent three years living overseas and traveling and drinking a lot. But I had a lot of great experiences that shaped me as an applicant. They were mostly related to volunteering, which I could have done here or abroad and it would've been the same. I wasn't thinking about applying to med school during those three years, I was just living my life. People on this board seem to think that you need to change your entire life and personality to come across as an attractive applicant to med schools. It's weird. Just do you.

If you literally want to do nothing but sit on the couch watching tv for a year or two, I'd at least volunteer an hour or two a week. But that's just me, because I'd feel weird not doing anything with my life. If you ARE doing something with your life during those years (developing interests, exploring hobbies, etc) well then no, I don't believe schools will look down on you for being a normal human being.
 

okokok

5+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Apr 12, 2012
447
199
Status
PS, I think taking a couple years off to do your own thing is an excellent idea. I think a lot of physicians resent the fact that they worked so hard all throughout their 20s. I feel lucky that I had such amazing experiences ages 20-24 and now I'm ready to buckle down and work hard in med school and beyond. Also, I think it's harder to relate to patients who come from different backgrounds than you if you have never been around these people in "the real world." I very highly recommend an "exploratory year" or two where you just learn about yourself and other people and the world.
 

MedWonk

高飛車
7+ Year Member
May 13, 2010
1,773
958
New England
Status
Medical Student
Would a medical school (MD program) applicant be penalized in the admissions process for taking a couple (2 or 3) years off just to enjoy life - NOT the year before applying to medical school, but 2 years prior to applying?

For example, if Joe the applicant kicked back between 2010 and 2012, and then worked hard in 2013, and then sent in his MD program application on June 1st 2014, would he be penalized (for being lazy between 2010 and 2012)?

Joe may have had good reasons for wanting an extended vacation. For example, Joe might have worked 80 hour weeks prior to 2012, and he is still in his 20's if that's relevant.
No, probably not. My teaching gig abroad was essentially a really long paid vacation. Of course, I didn't describe it that way. I used the experience to describe how it related to my interest in medicine and how it would help me in the future when I practice medicine. It was looked upon quite favorably at all my interviews.
 

Law2Doc

5K+ Member
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2004
30,981
9,888
Status
Attending Physician
Would a medical school (MD program) applicant be penalized in the admissions process for taking a couple (2 or 3) years off just to enjoy life - NOT the year before applying to medical school, but 2 years prior to applying?

For example, if Joe the applicant kicked back between 2010 and 2012, and then worked hard in 2013, and then sent in his MD program application on June 1st 2014, would he be penalized (for being lazy between 2010 and 2012)?

Joe may have had good reasons for wanting an extended vacation. For example, Joe might have worked 80 hour weeks prior to 2012, and he is still in his 20's if that's relevant.
It's not just an "applicant" that gets "penalized" for this. Any resume/CV driven field is going to expect you to account for gaps. Reasons matter. Taking a few years off as an "extended vacation" or to "kick back" or to "recharge" or to "enjoy life" is going to conjure up images of laziness that trying a different job (like teaching abroad, doing peace corps, americorps, etc) or pursuing some hobby (writing, semi-pro sports, music) or dream might not. In the professional world if you take a month or two vacation to "kick back" that's a lot, so someone not even in medicine yet who needs a year or more has a lot of explaining to do. Telling an older surgeon adcom member who works 90-100 hours a week that you need multiple years off after working 80 hours a week is going to fall on very deaf ears. (The fact that you deem this a "good reason" is the most troubling thing in your post, so it shouldn't be mentioned to an interviewer BTW). Frankly they don't want to recruit someone who needs more than a year off after working 80 hours a week because a lot of people in medicine do those hours and get 15-20 days off a year for vacation. And most think that the way to "enjoy life" involves accomplishing things -- you don't ever want to go down this long road to live for vacations/weekends.

You want a CV that telegraphs that you are hard working and always productive. It doesn't have to be productive in terms of traditional premed ECs, but you'd better have some substantial accomplishments to talk about. Teaching, having a baby, trying another job, getting another degree, research, peace corps, living out your dream of being a professional musician or golf pro, etc all would be fine. A year of no significant accomplishments without a really good explanation doesn't fit this bill and can really hurt you. The notion of "kicking back" for more than a couple of months is a huge red flag for many on adcom. This isnt a good path for people who need long recharges, but most professional careers would have similar concerns. Sorry.
 
OP
G

Gauss44

5+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2012
3,191
397
Status
Pre-Medical
Would they know if an applicant took a few years off to kick back? If those years were not right before applying or in the middle of school?

"Kicking back" involves doing hobbies but it might not be verifiable. Enhancing hobby-related skills with ebooks and online courses, with no material to show for it.... And that "kicking back" period would be in contrast to holding a full time job, taking an average of 20 credits of coursework, leading and planning large events, holding offices in college clubs, playing sports, doing volunteer work, performing music, and handling personal issues like being homeless off and on during the semester. The idea would be that this person has done that much work for his entire life without a break, and he wants to experience life without all of that, just once before committing to a very busy profession. Knowing what you are passing up is part of making an informed decision.
 
Last edited:

Goro

7+ Year Member
Jun 10, 2010
52,622
76,322
Somewhere west of St. Louis
Status
Non-Student
Nope. People should apply not only when they're ready but with the best possible packet.

Would a medical school (MD program) applicant be penalized in the admissions process for taking a couple (2 or 3) years off just to enjoy life - NOT the year before applying to medical school, but 2 years prior to applying?

For example, if Joe the applicant kicked back between 2010 and 2012, and then worked hard in 2013, and then sent in his MD program application on June 1st 2014, would he be penalized (for being lazy between 2010 and 2012)?

Joe may have had good reasons for wanting an extended vacation. For example, Joe might have worked 80 hour weeks prior to 2012, and he is still in his 20's if that's relevant.
 

Law2Doc

5K+ Member
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2004
30,981
9,888
Status
Attending Physician
Would they know if an applicant took a few years off to kick back? If those years were not right before applying or in the middle of school?

"Kicking back" involves doing hobbies but it might not be verifiable. Enhancing hobby-related skills with ebooks and online courses, with no material to show for it.... And that "kicking back" period would be in contrast to holding a full time job, taking an average of 20 credits of coursework, leading and planning large events, holding offices in college clubs, playing sports, doing volunteer work, performing music, and handling personal issues like being homeless off and on during the semester. The idea would be that this person has done that much work for his entire life without a break, and he wants to experience life without all of that, just once before committing to a very busy profession. Knowing what you are passing up is part of making an informed decision.
I understand what you are saying, but gaps on your CV without something solid to show for it look really bad, period. Saying you need "a break" sounds bad. Saying you need to spend years being largely nonproductive to "experience life" sounds bad. The vast vast majority of people applying to med school figure out what they are passing up without goofing around for several years, and that's ho you are competing with for every spot. People with their head screwed on straight, who aren't crying about needing a multiyear break. If you wanted to spend just a few months doing what you are describing, i would say go for it. But you said years, so I'm suggesting that's big mistake career-wise.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BurberryDoc

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
Staff member
Administrator
Lifetime Donor
10+ Year Member
Oct 12, 2004
18,915
4,161
Florida/Fellowship
Status
Fellow [Any Field], Attending Physician
OP, I think the negative gut responses people are having to your question (and I responded negatively to your question too) stem from the fact that you appear to be looking for a way to justify laziness and even planning to be lazy in advance. You're (presumably) a nontrad and have already had time away from school to find yourself. So while many of us would kind of shrug at a 20-year-old wanting to take a year or two off to do whatever, a nontrad wanting to do it makes us wonder what's wrong with them that they still don't have their stuff together enough to commit to their career already. Being tired of working doesn't resonate well as a reason. We all have to deal with going to work when we don't feel like it. Steady employment is considered a sign of responsibility and maturity for an American adult of normal intelligence and normal psychiatric stability. Fairly or not, most people would assume that an unemployed adult who wasn't doing something else significant full time like caring for children was lacking one of those two qualities.

If you dislike your job that much, maybe a better solution would be to find a new one instead of quitting working altogether. Those of us who have changed jobs we hated can certainly identify with a desire to get out of a bad work situation into a better one. And if that's the situation you find yourself in, you'd likely find people very supportive of you doing that.

Hope this gives you some insight, and best of luck.
 

futuredoc331

SDN Bronze Donor
Bronze Donor
5+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Apr 28, 2012
557
138
Status
Pre-Medical
OP, Some of the most knowledgable people on these forums have chimed in. Take their advice seriously.

I'm going to add to what they've said.

It is all about how you portray your time off. Using the term "kick-back" is going to be an utter fail. Even saying "taking a break" may not go over well. Most people on this path live for success and progress. Extended idle time would drive most of us crazy.

Even if it was idle time you have to give it value and present it in a meaningful way.

I served in the Army Reserve. The truth of it is that my time in the reserves was a joke. We sat around 1 weekend a month doing nothing all weekend. We literally sat in cubicles all day wasting time. I'm not going to present it as such though. I'll talk a great deal about the discipline and leadership skills that were acquired. It doesn't matter that I was just leading groups sitting around cubicles talking about politics.

Never lie. But don't make yourself look bad either.
 
OP
G

Gauss44

5+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2012
3,191
397
Status
Pre-Medical
The other question is would ADCOMs even know?
 
Apr 23, 2013
1,697
743
Status
Medical Student
The other question is would ADCOMs even know?
I was interrogated at some interviews about a approx. 6 month gap when I had no major activities after graduating college. Some adcoms and interviewers might not notice but a noticeable portion of them will reconstruct your entire work and activity history from graduation from college and you may be called on to account for every piece of it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: vc7777

BlackBox

7+ Year Member
Mar 16, 2010
772
447
PA
Status
Medical Student
Best not to simply "kick it" unless you're a Beastie Boy.

EDIT: Or you are actively fighting for your right to party.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Pose

vc7777

Nontrad MD/MS Resident
Moderator Emeritus
7+ Year Member
Jul 1, 2009
3,568
280
Midwest
Status
Resident [Any Field]
The other question is would ADCOMs even know?
Because they will scrutinize what you have done - particularly after graduation. You really haven't explained what "it" is - but I suspect you are planning on doing nothing productive. At all.

Therefore, if you have nothing to show for this time, it will raise many questions. Mind you, this might not be caught until after your interview - but be certain that it will before an acceptance is offered.

If you have the means to take a year or two off - then I'm envious. Because you then also have the means to find something cool to do that recharges your mind and soul yet doesn't equate to "work" in your mind.
 

Law2Doc

5K+ Member
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2004
30,981
9,888
Status
Attending Physician
The other question is would ADCOMs even know?
They will see your CV and they will ask about what you have done in each year since college. It's very hard to hide a short gap in a resume, near impossible to hide a multi-year one. And a bad idea to lie on an application or in an interview.

See Qs post above, it crystalizes some of the advice here pretty well.

Again, IMHO if a multiyear break to kick back is necessary after working 80 hours a week, this really might not be the right path or the right set of colleagues/bosses with whom you want to surround yourself.
 
OP
G

Gauss44

5+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2012
3,191
397
Status
Pre-Medical
To be clear:

1. I'm not asking for myself.

2. Please don't suggest that I would lie.

3. Thanks for the info.: ADCOMS would know. And any "break" should be represented as work or a learning experience.
 
Last edited:

sazerac

rye sense of humor
5+ Year Member
Feb 26, 2012
2,000
2,137
Status
Medical Student
There is a fine line between kicking back meaning playing video games, and kicking back meaning hiking the Appalachian Trail or something.

I did stuff like the latter for ten years before taking some chemistry classes and getting in to med school. My interviewers were relieved to have something interesting to talk about. Hasn't held me back professionally so far.