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Gap year? Or not?

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confusedstudent2195

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Hey guys!

I recently changed my major from nursing to exercise science to pursue medical school. Currently a traditional student. I was in the clinical portion and hated it. This new degree fulfills most requirements I just have to add in a few classes. The problem is.... My schools chemistry and physics department is awful to say the least. Picking a professor requires you to hopefully get the best of the worst. Needless to say I wanted to take those classes at another university during the summer but that would completely destroy the prospect of taking the mcat the second semester of my "junior" (I'll be a senior technically because of the major change...) year. So I was thinking of taking the mcat my graduating spring semester in hopes for applying in the fall or the fall after that! Is this a good idea? Around which semester would I even be able to start? What exactly is a gap year? I am involved in my sorority as recruitment, fundraising, and intramurals chair, in 2 honor societies, will be starting my shadowing during Christmas break, I work in an office in the hospital, my gpa is a 3.7 with room to grow, and I'm very motivated. Sos! Help!
 

thatwouldbeanarchy

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The med school application cycle (for MD, anyway) starts in June. That's when the primary ACMAS application opens and you typically have until October/November to get all of your application materials submitted. Ideally, you submit your application ASAP after it opens in June and get accepted anytime between October and May. Most schools start sometime between June and August. So for example, I submitted my applications in June/July of this year, got accepted last week (!), and will be starting medical school in August 2016. (DO programs have a bit longer of an application cycle. I didn't apply DO so I'm less clear on that.)

It's best to apply as early in the cycle as possible. It takes time for your application to be processed and many (but not all) schools use rolling admissions so you may be at a slight disadvantage if you apply later in the cycle. I would say that you should take the MCAT whenever you feel most prepared for it. But I wouldn't take it any later than July of the year you're planning to apply (since it takes about a month for scores to be reported to schools). If you can take it in the spring of your application year, you'll give yourself plenty of time for scores to come in (and, worst case scenario, time for you to retake it, if you need to).

A gap year is a year (or more) that you take off in between graduating from undergrad and applying to medical school. Many people use this year to work/volunteer/shadow/do research/get clinical experience in preparation for medical school. Some people complete a postbacc or other similar program to complete courses they may not have taken in college or to improve their GPA. (Sounds like you already have a strong GPA, though!)
 

confusedstudent2195

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Thank you for making things clear! I worry that I will not be prepared till after the traditional mcat semester. Do you think I should get a guaranteed A somewhere else and feel more prepared and have to wait to go to school or should I take them with my colleges chemistry and physics department and risk possible C's and be able to apply as a traditional student without a gap?
 

thatwouldbeanarchy

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It's hard to say. There's no real disadvantage to taking a gap year. It's becoming more and more common and it can really strengthen your application and improve your chances of getting in, if you use that time wisely (by getting clinical experience through volunteering, shadowing, etc.).

I'm not sure if you're saying that your school's Chem and Physics classes are hard or poorly taught. Either way, you certainly could opt to take them somewhere else after you graduate and ultimately, that MAY be fine as long as you do well. If you go that route, though, I would be prepared to explain to medical schools why you didn't take all of your prereqs while you were still in undergrad. It's not a hard and fast rule that this will harm you - but it does sometimes raise red flags if it seems like a student opts to take their prereqs at a less rigorous school in order to get an 'easy A' rather than taking them at their home university where they may be more challenging. Again, not a hard and fast rule but just something to consider. I'm not sure that chemistry and physics are ever a 'guaranteed A' unless you're some kind of science prodigy!

Also, keep in mind that you shouldn't plan to take the MCAT until after you've completed all of your science prereqs (gen chem, orgo, physics, biochem) since these will be tested on the exam.
 
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ConfusedChemist

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So....what was it about the clinicals you hated so much?
Something to consider before heading into another clinical career path
 
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