thr1932359

2+ Year Member
Dec 24, 2018
3
0
Hello SDN,

I've gone through the FAQs to see if I could find anything related to this situation but haven't found anything particularly specific.

I'm currently a sophomore undergraduate considering taking a leave of absence from school to do research and volunteering full-time after this school year (with most time being spent on research). The reason I am considering this is because I am on track to graduate in 3 years from a combination of AP / dual enrollment credits from high school, but would like to apply to enter an MSTP program in 2023 (so I'd apply Summer 2022).

My thinking is that while I could graduate in May 2022, I'd rather take the 2021-2022 school year (or part of it) to maximize the amount of time I have to do research and gain volunteering experience before I apply, and graduate in May 2023 instead.

Some context: >3.9 cGPA and sGPA as an engineering major at a T20, have finished all pre-health prerequisite courses and am planning to take the MCAT this Spring. I have been doing well on practice materials (including FLs) so far. I have some teaching assistant / grading experience for engineering classes at my university, and started undergraduate research this past semester working on a project that I will continue working on this upcoming Summer. I will have 90 semester units under my belt (not including AP credit) by the end of this semester, so I think I won't have to worry about being screened out for not having sufficient class units by application time should I choose to take an LOA.

The one thing stopping me from considering this further is that I have heard LOAs for non-medical / emergency situations in undergrad are greatly frowned upon. As a result, I am considering other options, including taking lighter course-loads in upcoming semesters and taking the full 4 years to complete the degree. However, that would cost an additional year of tuition + room & board, and I'm not sure if it'd be particularly different if the plan is to take easy classes and focus on gaining experiences anyways. I'm also considering taking an LOA for a shorter period of time than originally proposed (i.e. only leaving for 1 semester).

Any information or advice is greatly appreciated from those with experience being in (or dealing with) these situations, and sorry if this post comes off as a particularly stupid question. Thanks all!
 

reveries

7+ Year Member
Apr 9, 2014
29
17
Status (Visible)
  1. MD/PhD Student
Is there any reason you can't just graduate and then spend a year as a research technician?
 
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thr1932359

2+ Year Member
Dec 24, 2018
3
0
Is there any reason you can't just graduate and then spend a year as a research technician?
I would prefer not to take more than 4 years total (I would be applying "straight through"), which is why my thinking is to take a year to prioritize getting as much research experience as I can by the time of application (along with volunteering experience), since taking classes could take up a good chunk of time and reduce the amount of time spent in lab.

It'd essentially be swapping the places of year as a research tech and my final year of school so that it's year 1 --> year 2 --> research tech yr (apply Summer 2022) --> year 3, instead of year 1 --> year 2 --> year 3 (apply Summer 2022)--> research tech yr.

I do think that I could have a competitive amount of research experience by the time I apply if I were to go with the setup you proposed, but if I could take an LOA without running into issues, I think I would prefer to do that. Again, this goes back to my original concern as to whether non-medical / emergency reasons for taking an LOA are heavily frowned upon, even if the time period of the LOA is used in a productive manner. If that is the case, then I won't give this idea any more time of day. Thanks for your input though!
 
Sep 8, 2020
27
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  1. Pre-Medical
I’m just a current applicant but I think your LOA plan makes a lot of sense. A lot of the secondary apps will ask if you took any time off school and give you a space to explain why, and I think your explanation is very solid. A gap year is certainly the much more common option, but an LOA sounds like it makes the most sense for you.
 

thr1932359

2+ Year Member
Dec 24, 2018
3
0
I’m just a current applicant but I think your LOA plan makes a lot of sense. A lot of the secondary apps will ask if you took any time off school and give you a space to explain why, and I think your explanation is very solid. A gap year is certainly the much more common option, but an LOA sounds like it makes the most sense for you.
Thanks for your input! I am definitely leaning towards it and plan to use it productively (my PI is also open to the idea), but I'm still worried it's going to look like a random hole in my transcript with no good reason to exist. That being said, your thoughts do put me at ease. So I guess this also serves as a bump if anyone else has any input...
 
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