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Pros and Cons of a Gap year

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by AmyPond, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. AmyPond


    Mar 26, 2014
    So, I'm a first year pre-med and I know that obviously means I know barely anything about what I want to do in med school or until med school but I was curious about Gap years and what their benefits are. I'm asking from a stand point of a person who's going to do abroad work. Or what people usually do with their Gap years if they take one and how medical schools generally view them.
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  3. malamia

    malamia 2+ Year Member

    Nov 17, 2013
    There are many threads like this one where you can read around. IMO, it's not a bad idea to take one. It can be useful for many things that will make you a better candidate when it comes to applying. Some popular choices are:
    -Volunteer work (clinical or non-clinical)
    - Post-Bac or MS if you end up with a low GPA
    - MCAT prep

    or you can just pick up a hobby for one year.. just find a nice way to show the admissions committee it was worth it.
  4. AmyPond


    Mar 26, 2014
    I hadn't found any, but then again I haven't exclusively looked for them so I will do some more digging. Thank you for the options. I had found some programs for practicing abroad as a sort of Intern that was only available for Gap year students and I was curious.
  5. Heplayer92

    Heplayer92 2+ Year Member

    Jun 25, 2013
    One of my biggest motivators was to boost up my GPA, since my senior year grades would count.

    I'm also working full-time gaining experience in the pharmaceutical field.

    It's honestly also nice to just take a break from school...and enjoy working 40ish hour weeks and having legitimate free time =D

    But cross that bridge when you get there, enjoy school!
  6. Dr Stephen T Colbert DFA

    Dr Stephen T Colbert DFA Banned Banned Account on Hold 2+ Year Member

    Sep 16, 2014
    The Magic City
    I took a gap year so I would have my senior grades and thesis on my application. If you can, it's good to find a job for your gap year (I work in a restaurant) so you can get experience working (and the service industry teaches you how to be polite and friendly even if you don't want to be). I don't make that much, but it's nice having money to offset the costs of applying/interviewing.
    BePerfect likes this.
  7. Mad Jack

    Mad Jack Critically Caring Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    4th Dimension
    I can't think of a single downside to a gap year. Make it the best year of your life.
  8. Perrotfish

    Perrotfish Has an MD in Horribleness Physician 10+ Year Member

    May 26, 2007
    I took one, it had a lot of upsides: traveled the world, learned another language, decompressed after undergrad, etc. That being said, it has a downside, which is that you're a year older when you start medical school, and therefore a year older when you finish residency. There a point, somewhere between the age of 25 and 30, when you are old enough that everything involved with this training process gets exponentially more demeaning, and you're pushing another year of your training onto the wrong side of that line. Also you are sacrificing a year of attending salary, so whatever you think the year will cost you it is costing you an additional 150-500K on top of that.

    My gap year was actually involuntary, and since I needed to do it anyway I was happy with how I spent it. However for anyone with a choice I would recommend starting medical school as soon as possible. This process was designed for very young people and it does not get easier as you get older. If you want an adventure use your summers or just take a semester long study abroad.
  9. Mad Jack

    Mad Jack Critically Caring Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    4th Dimension
    I'm almost 30 myself. Yeah, this ain't easy and residency is just gonna be worse. But I wouldn't change any of it, not for anything in the world. Guess it all depends on what your goals in life are. If I died tomorrow I'd die happy- I've lived a full life up to this point, seen the world, loved, lost, made a ton of friends, and a hell of a lot more. Sure, you lose a year of income with a gap year, but the fact is, that income can't replace a year of your youth lived well. So if you're gonna have a gap year, make the most of it, live it up, make it a year that you'll look back on in your 80s and smile.
  10. Perrotfish

    Perrotfish Has an MD in Horribleness Physician 10+ Year Member

    May 26, 2007

    While I agree that money can't replace experience, I think its easy when you're in college to think that the fun part of life ends when you start medical school and to therefore put off medical school for the sake of stocking up on memories. Its amazing how many people think that college is their last chance to do whatever they want to do. Would I trade a year of good memories for a year of misery and an extra 200K of lifetime earnings? No. Would I trade my globe-trekking gap year after college for another year of relative youth to spend with my wife, as an attending physican? In a heartbeat, yes.

    If you're going to do it, do it right. But I still think it makes more sense to just go to med school.
    darklabel and southernIM like this.
  11. Mad Jack

    Mad Jack Critically Caring Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    4th Dimension
    What if you could spend a year of your youth with your wife, early on, versus a year with her as an attending? I think there's something special about young love and life experience that no amount of money can buy. You've got forever to be an adult, but only so long to be in your early 20s.

    I lived almost all of my 20s before going to med school. I lost 7 years of practice and roughly a million dollars worth of potential income. But, while most people wait until they retire to enjoy the world, I got to enjoy it for a good deal of time while I was in the prime if my life. When I'm old, I'll have a decade of fond memories I wouldn't trade for anything.
  12. Chillbo Baggins

    Chillbo Baggins Lord of Chaos 2+ Year Member

    May 24, 2013
    Time to recharge
    Don't have to work interviews around class/tests

    You're one year older when you graduate medical school
    DielsAlder, Ace Khalifa and Mad Jack like this.
  13. Afford

    Afford 2+ Year Member

    Jul 29, 2014
    I'm taking a gap year working a job and I'm not really happy with it because they expect me to give 100%, which isn't possible with secondaries/medical school interviews. At the end of the day, I care more about getting into medical school and I won't be long enough to reap the benefits of merit based bonuses anyways. If I had to redo my gap year, I would pick something less time consuming, so I could spend my time enjoying my life before medical school, but something still relevant, like volunteering or flexible research in a lab. Sure the money isn't as good, but money isn't everything.
  14. Gregor Wiesmann

    Gregor Wiesmann 2+ Year Member

    Nov 13, 2013 just made me want to drop out of school now haha!
  15. allantois

    allantois 2+ Year Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    Most people are in a dire need of taking a gap year.

    All these talk about gap years makes it sound as if everyone but doctors have a fun life.
  16. Mad Jack

    Mad Jack Critically Caring Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    4th Dimension
    Doctors have plenty of fun, usually about midway into their 30s when their life is full of responsibility. This makes for a different sort of fun than you can have when you've got no ties, no responsibility, no family, etc. Kids, in particular, can seriously limit your choice of activities for years. So, sure, you may be able to take a month off once you are an attending at some point, but you've got to stock to places that will keep the whole family entertained and that allow children. Couple that with having to juggle school schedules and the like, and you're often finding taking more than a week or two to enjoy yourself while traveling close to impossible.

    A gap year presents you with 52 weeks you can make of what you will. Given that most physicians only get 3-4 weeks of vacation a year and the pressures of family life, you'll likely never have a block of time this free and unstructured again until you retire or are an empty nester that is between jobs in your 50s.
    Imrizzle and allenlchs like this.
  17. Gregor Wiesmann

    Gregor Wiesmann 2+ Year Member

    Nov 13, 2013
    What if you want kids though? If you spend your 20's in Med School and Residency, you won't have as much freetime with your wife, but you could opt to have your children after Residency is over. If you wait until you are older to start school, you can basically have kids when you are in your 20's, which would prove to eat up all of that "freetime" you had been looking forward to, or you could forgo having kids until your 30's.......but then you would never get to see them because you would be studying all the time. That to me seems like the only downside being a Non-Traditional applicant. Do you have or intend to have kids?
  18. SouthernSurgeon

    SouthernSurgeon Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    My gap year was involuntary. Took my pre-reqs senior year of college and the summer after college so I wasn't prepared for the MCAT until August (this was back in the days when MCAT was a bi-annual affair, on paper with a #2 pencil) so I was a late applicant even then.

    Most of the year was spent boringly working in a micro lab.

    I've had way more fun in med school and residency than I did during the gap year.

    I wouldn't recommend it unless it's needed like mine was.
    HopefulHardWorker likes this.
  19. Mad Jack

    Mad Jack Critically Caring Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    4th Dimension
    When we're talking about a single gap year, it isn't going to have that big of an impact on child rearing. Having kids one year later isn't going to make or break your life. I'm not advocating waiting several years to go to med school- it worked out for me quite well, but wouldn't work out all that well for most people.

    So far as having children after residency versus during med school versus during residency- this depends largely on your partner and the resources you have available. If you have a non-working spouse, any time is fine for having kids. Yeah, you won't be around a whole lot for some of their life, but that's a problem many people regardless of whether they are in medicine or not. My father worked on the road and only got to see us on weekends for the majority of my life- that was the sacrifice he had to make to keep our family financially stable. Time with your children is something many young couples have to sacrifice until they reach a point in their careers that they are stable enough or have enough control to stay home more often. If you're both training to be physicians, things get a bit more difficult- you'd better have either family nearby or the resources for childcare if you want to have kids before or during residency.

    I might or might not decide to have children in the future, but I am not dating a future physician, so that option is open to me at pretty much any time if we decide it's what we want. I'm okay with only being able to see the kids every now and again until they're older- honestly, the early years aren't the best ones anyway. It's more the later years that I think are awesome, when kids are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. That's what I want to be there for.
    Gregor Wiesmann likes this.
  20. soccerusa

    soccerusa 5+ Year Member

    Aug 10, 2011
    City of Angels
    I have a little bit of a different take on the gap year thing. I am going straight through and I will try and explain why I chose to do that.

    If you have a burning desire to do a program (TFA, Americorps …), travel or anything else specific then go for it. It is likely the only time you'll have a year to do something like this. However, taking a single year off just to make some money or have an easier time applying isn't worth it in my opinion. If you have chosen to go med school for the right reasons, your medical training and future career should be the most exciting things in your life and I can't imagine putting it off just to go work a so-so job and doing the interviews.

    Personally, I had already had the chance to travel a bit and couldn't imagine anything I would rather do then medical school. Also, even though it might be easier to spread out your classes/MCAT and whatever, I think if you want to go to med school you should be able to handle it all in the first three years of college if you really put your mind to it.

    Brief Recap: if you're super passionate about a 1 yr opportunity, go for it. Otherwise, to borrow a slogan, just do it! Apply get in and start pursuing your lifelong goal of being a physician.

    Best of luck!
  21. Aerus

    Aerus Elemental Alchemist 5+ Year Member

    Apr 20, 2012
    hSDN Member
    hSDN Alumni
    As a person not taking a gap year, I can think of no downsides of a gap year. If circumstances permitted me, I would definitely do one!

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  22. darklabel

    darklabel MS4 5+ Year Member

    Jan 11, 2012
    I agree with this. If you know you want to be a physician by the end of your junior year and you have a solid application, why postpone your dream? I took a gap year to strengthen my application and I don't regret it one bit. But if I had a solid application, I would've applied ASAP because I wanted to reach my goal and get as many years of practice available to me as possible. But everyone is different and if you wish to pursue other things before medical school, then go for it! The only other con not mentioned often is sometimes when people pursue other things, they become busy and the 1 year gap is increased and may get to the point that they no longer want to go to medical school or feel like they don't have the time, resources or circumstances to pursue it like before.

    But honestly, nontrad is sort of becoming the norm now. The average age of my class is around ~25 and a 1 or 2 gap year still puts you on the younger side of the class. I don't see any true negatives and its really just a personal decision.

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