Feb 20, 2021
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Hi all – long time lurker who just made an account to ask this specific question! I'm a high stats ORM senior at a T5 undergrad (planning on taking two gap years) and I'm shooting for top-tier MD programs but will obviously apply broadly. I was hoping to get advice on choosing between two gap year options:
  • Two-year postbac at NIH - full time research. Pros: the work aligns closely with my academic interests, my research experience so far is relatively weak, it's two years so don't have to worry about job searching again, NIH seems to have a lot of resources/support for postbacs, name recognition of NIH. Cons: I'm not 100% sure I would love doing research full time, location is a large downside for me, stipend is not super generous
  • TAing for a year - working full-time to coordinate the year-long intro biology sequence at my school. Pros: I think I would genuinely enjoy this more, getting another year on campus would be really nice after not being on campus for much of my last two years in college. Cons: Only a year so I would need to job search again (while starting med school apps) next year, teaching experience is already strong so I'm not sure it would add much to my app
For reference, here's a general breakdown of my ECs as they stand now:
  • ~1000 hours nonclinical volunteering, several leadership positions in different orgs + a national leadership position
  • ~1000 hours of research, but short summer gigs that didn't produce much. 2 posters in symposiums at my school, no pubs. A few different types of research, but I didn't feel like I absolutely loved any of it, which is why I'm apprehensive about potentially doing full time research for two years
  • ~100 clinical hours at a free clinic and with COVID efforts (I know this is low – planning on doing clinical volunteering in addition to whatever I end up doing full time next year)
  • ~700 hours in collegiate a cappella + writing my own music (would love to release my own stuff at some point!)
  • ~200 hours teaching - TAing/course coordinating classes, section leading
  • ~30 shadowing hours (some virtual due to COVID – also planning on bolstering this)
  • Other: leadership team of a global health student group at my school, technically published on Medscape under the guidance of a prof but I'm not sure this counts
Definitely don't want to apply this cycle because I'm not feeling prepared to have everything together in the next few months. Was wondering what you all would recommend I do because I'm super torn at this point – I would love thoughts on what to do/if there's other things I might be overlooking that should consider in my decision/if I take the one year position, potential other one-year options for year two.
 

Vivid_Quail

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Hi all – long time lurker who just made an account to ask this specific question! I'm a high stats ORM senior at a T5 undergrad (planning on taking two gap years) and I'm shooting for top-tier MD programs but will obviously apply broadly. I was hoping to get advice on choosing between two gap year options:
  • Two-year postbac at NIH - full time research. Pros: the work aligns closely with my academic interests, my research experience so far is relatively weak, it's two years so don't have to worry about job searching again, NIH seems to have a lot of resources/support for postbacs, name recognition of NIH. Cons: I'm not 100% sure I would love doing research full time, location is a large downside for me, stipend is not super generous
  • TAing for a year - working full-time to coordinate the year-long intro biology sequence at my school. Pros: I think I would genuinely enjoy this more, getting another year on campus would be really nice after not being on campus for much of my last two years in college. Cons: Only a year so I would need to job search again (while starting med school apps) next year, teaching experience is already strong so I'm not sure it would add much to my app
For reference, here's a general breakdown of my ECs as they stand now:
  • ~1000 hours nonclinical volunteering, several leadership positions in different orgs + a national leadership position
  • ~1000 hours of research, but short summer gigs that didn't produce much. 2 posters in symposiums at my school, no pubs. A few different types of research, but I didn't feel like I absolutely loved any of it, which is why I'm apprehensive about potentially doing full time research for two years
  • ~100 clinical hours at a free clinic and with COVID efforts (I know this is low – planning on doing clinical volunteering in addition to whatever I end up doing full time next year)
  • ~700 hours in collegiate a cappella + writing my own music (would love to release my own stuff at some point!)
  • ~200 hours teaching - TAing/course coordinating classes, section leading
  • ~30 shadowing hours (some virtual due to COVID – also planning on bolstering this)
  • Other: leadership team of a global health student group at my school, technically published on Medscape under the guidance of a prof but I'm not sure this counts
Definitely don't want to apply this cycle because I'm not feeling prepared to have everything together in the next few months. Was wondering what you all would recommend I do because I'm super torn at this point – I would love thoughts on what to do/if there's other things I might be overlooking that should consider in my decision/if I take the one year position, potential other one-year options for year two.
Have you already taken the MCAT? If you have, you can definitely get into an MD school this cycle...going to a T5 undergrad is huge. It is not a mistake that the first few interview weeks at many schools are basically just interview day after interview day of top 10-20 undergrad students.

Now, if you want to go to the absolute highest ranked medical school possible, then the NIH gig seems like the better choice on paper, especially if it will result in publications before AMCAS is submitted. Have you already been accepted to the NIH post-bacc?

Finally, don't discount the emotional strain that two gap years could have. Medical training is a long road and feeling like you are sitting around for 2 years when you could easily be an M3 by that time might be pretty discouraging. Neither gig sounds very relaxing or well paid so two gap years will hurt you financially and may hurt you emotionally.
 
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Nov 18, 2020
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Your profile looks great imo. Not an AO but the cost-benefit of two gap years is just not there..hell even one seems pointless. You say you don't like research yet you want to do two more years of research? Also 2 posters at a symposium is still far more than what most undergrad researchers produce. What about your national leadership position? Maybe you can focus more on that, sounds more interesting than your other two paths.
 
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Have you already taken the MCAT? If you have, you can definitely get into an MD school this cycle...going to a T5 undergrad is huge. It is not a mistake that the first few interview weeks at many schools are basically just interview day after interview day of top 10-20 undergrad students.

Now, if you want to go to the absolute highest ranked medical school possible, then the NIH gig seems like the better choice on paper, especially if it will result in publications before AMCAS is submitted. Have you already been accepted to the NIH post-bacc?

Finally, don't discount the emotional strain that two gap years could have. Medical training is a long road and feeling like you are sitting around for 2 years when you could easily be an M3 by that time might be pretty discouraging. Neither gig sounds very relaxing or well paid so two gap years will hurt you financially and may hurt you emotionally.
I just took the MCAT last month and am happy with my score. And yes, I'm holding an offer from a lab at NIH – I think pubs are a large part of the draw for me because this is a productive lab and their last two postbacs have ended up with pubs.

I actually hadn't thought about the emotional toll because I'm a fairly young senior (would be 23 at matriculation after the two years) so I don't feel rushed at the moment. I do think the relative financial loss is a good point though and perhaps something to consider more heavily.

In terms of my rationale for doing two gap years, I'm definitely a little concerned that my app is weak on the clinical side (have a friend who applied with shaky clinical experience and hasn't gotten in so I think that scared me) and doing two years would help substantially with that – though clinical experience wouldn't be my full-time job, I'm anticipating being able to volunteer after work and on the weekends. I also moved back home from school because of COVID so think it would be nice to take some time to live on my own again/regain a sense of independence before going to med school.

I hope that all makes sense, and appreciate the advice so far :)
 
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Vivid_Quail

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I just took the MCAT last month and am happy with my score. And yes, I'm holding an offer from a lab at NIH – I think pubs are a large part of the draw for me because this is a productive lab and their last two postbacs have ended up with pubs.

I actually hadn't thought about the emotional toll because I'm a fairly young senior (would be 23 at matriculation after the two years) so I don't feel rushed at the moment. I do think the relative financial loss is a good point though and perhaps something to consider more heavily.

In terms of my rationale for doing two gap years, I'm definitely a little concerned that my app is weak on the clinical side (have a friend who applied with shaky clinical experience and hasn't gotten in so I think that scared me) and doing two years would help substantially with that – though clinical experience wouldn't be my full-time job, I'm anticipating being able to volunteer after work and on the weekends. I also moved back home from school because of COVID so think it would be nice to take some time to live on my own again/regain a sense of independence before going to med school.

I hope that all makes sense, and appreciate the advice so far :)
It is ultimately up to you of course. I just know personally that being an M3 when friends your age are interns with an MD seems like something you can just ignore, but that takes a lot of self control. In my case, I desperately needed my gap years, but I don't think you need two gap years. One gap year could help your clinical hours a lot, I didn't see how low they are in my original reading of your post (only 130 hours it looks like). If you are a 520+ MCAT, 3.8+ sGPA guy from a top 5 UG like your post sounds like (that is high stats to me), then you can definitely get into an MD school this cycle. Add a gap year and you can probably get into a top 20 fairly realistically. And I think one gap year will give you everything you could hope to get from two gap years...i.e. living on your own and taking a break from school.
 

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If you aren’t ready to apply (and it kind of sounds you aren’t emotionally ready) then don’t apply. Currently, from what you’ve shared, your app screams lab rat. There isn’t much that says you want to spend the next 35+ years dealing with the sick, injured and dying. You do need to beef up your clinical hours and add about 20 hours to shadowing. Have you thought about taking one gap year before you apply and getting so good clinical experience? Good luck as you move forward.,
 

Vivid_Quail

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If you aren’t ready to apply (and it kind of sounds you aren’t emotionally ready) then don’t apply. Currently, from what you’ve shared, your app screams lab rat. There isn’t much that says you want to spend the next 35+ years dealing with the sick, injured and dying. You do need to beef up your clinical hours and add about 20 hours to shadowing. Have you thought about taking one gap year before you apply and getting so good clinical experience? Good luck as you move forward.,
@candbgirl are you an adcom? Some of your advice seems pretty cliche, but maybe some adcoms really do walk the walk of "we want altruistic medical students who want to help the sick, injured, and dying for 35+ years."
 
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And yes, I'm holding an offer from a lab at NIH – I think pubs are a large part of the draw for me because this is a productive lab and their last two postbacs have ended up with pubs.
Do you really think one pub over 2 years of work will make that much of an impact? You already have 2 poster presentations -- they know you understand research.
In terms of my rationale for doing two gap years, I'm definitely a little concerned that my app is weak on the clinical side
100 hours at a free clinic during COVID is most definitely not weak. That sounds more interesting than scribing or hospital volunteering. Plus, you still have plenty of time to beef that up before June, if you so desire.
I also moved back home from school because of COVID so think it would be nice to take some time to live on my own again/regain a sense of independence before going to med school.
This is the only thing you've said that makes sense...you shouldn't do research for 2 years just for a chance at one pub, especially since you've already vocalized that you don't even like research in the first place.
 
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Do you really think one pub over 2 years of work will make that much of an impact? You already have 2 poster presentations -- they know you understand research.

100 hours at a free clinic during COVID is most definitely not weak. That sounds more interesting than scribing or hospital volunteering. Plus, you still have plenty of time to beef that up before June, if you so desire.

This is the only thing you've said that makes sense...you shouldn't do research for 2 years just for a chance at one pub, especially since you've already vocalized that you don't even like research in the first place.
I agree with the above.

Additionally, any free clinic volunteering with patient interaction is top tier in my opinion.
 
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