Seeking advice: Should I take a gap year? How can I further strengthen my application?

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Gao Xiong

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May 15, 2023
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I graduate next Spring 2024 and am at a crossroads right now. I’m in desperate need of advice so that I know what next steps I should take.

I’m a psyc major. My current GPA is 3.4 and I’m hoping that after grinding my courses this year, I will be able to get at least a 3.5. My plan for now is to do some physician shadowing during my senior year to gain more insight on different specialties and clinical settings.

My extracurriculars are as noted:
- 900+ hours as a PT scribe at a women and children’s clinic (meaningful experience - I learned a lot)
- 200 hours as a crisis counselor at Crisis Textline (meaningful experience in crisis intervention)
- 100 hours as a tutor at the American Indian Studies program at an Indigenous magnet school (meaningful experience in diversity)
- 60 hours as the secretary of a Minority student organization

- 3000+ working in customer service all throughout college.
- National Society of Leadership and Success member since 2021
- Religious community leader since 2021
- Caregiver of my father in 2017 (now deceased due to renal failure).
- Caregiver of my mother (current) who just entered stage 3 kidney disease.

I also have some 60 hours of research experience, but it was with my genetics course. My professor entered us all in the GEP Pathways Research Project which was fun, but not as meaningful to me so I didn’t list it

With all of this, 1) I am hoping to find out if I will need a gap year once I graduate next spring and 2) what could I do to strengthen my application. Also 3) I’m not sure when I plan on taking the MCAT, but would like the first two questions answered so that I can plan out my timeline to prepare for the MCAT.

Thank you for all your input! I appreciate it.

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Overall, I think you've got some great experiences. Your MCAT will probably be the deciding factor for whether or not you take a gap year, but imo here are some pros/cons to taking a gap year in your situation:

  1. Extra time to prepare for the MCAT: A higher MCAT score can help compensate for a slightly lower GPA.
  2. Opportunity to boost GPA: If you take post-bacc classes or a Special Master’s Program (SMP).
  3. More time for extracurriculars: More clinical experience or pursue a research project you're passionate about.
  1. Delayed start: You would begin med school and consequently your career a year later (delaying the "attending salary" that SDNers always mention).
  2. Potential for stagnation: If not used productively, the gap year might not improve your application much.
  3. Financial considerations: Especially if you're considering post-bacc/SMP
To strengthen your application:
  1. MCAT: Knock it out of the park.
  2. Boost GPA with your remaining courses.
  3. Research: Although your previous research wasn't as meaningful to you, you could consider finding a research opportunity that aligns with your interests.
  4. Shadowing: Your plan to shadow physicians is great, as it'll provide valuable insight and add to your clinical experience.
  5. Personal Statement: When the time comes, make sure to write a compelling personal statement that draws on your experiences and portrays your passion for medicine.
Given your circumstances, taking the MCAT after graduation might be beneficial and allow you to fully concentrate on it without the stress of coursework. Depending on your MCAT progress and score, you can decide whether to apply immediately or take a gap year to strengthen your application.
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Adding to the above poster’s information, you really need to crush your fourth year’s courses to push past the 3.5 sGPA which may be a screen-out at many MD schools. If you don’t mind DO, then you’re in the ball park range with your current GPA, but like stated earlier, your MCAT will be the biggest determining factor of whether going full MD or MD/DO.
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Thank you both very much for the extensive feedback. I’ve been looking for something like this for a long time! I appreciate it.
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