Why is taking gap/bridge year(s) so common? Is it necessary to get into more selective med schools?

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terra1556

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I just had my premedical orientation and apparently only 14% of students at my college (which has a huge premed population) go straight to medical school from undergrad. This came as a giant shock to me as I thought that this was the exception rather than the norm? Do most people do this to strengthen their application for higher ranked medical schools? I’m 100% sure I want to go straight through, is that going to be a big disadvantage?

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I just had my premedical orientation and apparently only 14% of students at my college (which has a huge premed population) go straight to medical school from undergrad. This came as a giant shock to me as I thought that this was the exception rather than the norm? Do most people do this to strengthen their application for higher ranked medical schools? I’m 100% sure I want to go straight through, is that going to be a big disadvantage?
Yes, and it depends! It's definitely a trend, although nationally it's around 2/3 that have at least one gap year, not quite 86%!

It has nothing to do with higher ranked schools -- it's pretty much all schools. The simple fact is that admissions are sooooo competitive, that it is an arms race to see who has the most impressive application -- clinical experience, leadership, non-clinical volunteering, research, great grades, great MCAT, service to others, etc., etc., etc. Some people (around 1/3) can do it the "regular way," so it's not impossible, but it is difficult, and becoming more so every year.

I'm not sure why the number is so low at your school. Maybe it's because the advising office is actively pushing gap years, maybe something else is going on?
 
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Building a strong application takes time. It can be done in 3 years of undergrad but many people are choosing to take extra time. Better to have a strong application and apply once than to be forced into a gap year and a second round of applications.
 
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I just had my premedical orientation and apparently only 14% of students at my college (which has a huge premed population) go straight to medical school from undergrad. This came as a giant shock to me as I thought that this was the exception rather than the norm? Do most people do this to strengthen their application for higher ranked medical schools? I’m 100% sure I want to go straight through, is that going to be a big disadvantage?
Do you mean 14% of each graduating class at your school starts med school the following year? Or 14% of graduates who eventually go to med school go straight through?
 
You've gotten good answers here so far. I'd add that taking one or more gap years will give you more time to have life experiences like a full time job, volunteering, perhaps something like Americorps, general adulting, etc. If you are going to go straight through, you'll have to simultaneously maintain an excellent GPA, study for and do well on the MCAT, and meaningfully engage in extracurriculars. Goro always tells applicants that it is important to get off campus and out of your comfort zone when it comes to ECs. I interpret this to mean that it's important to try and get involved in something outside of your school and not just join 10 clubs, be a TA, and call it good.

If you take at least one gap year, you'll have a bit more breathing room to focus on your grades at school (you do NOT want to be doing GPA repair after college) and round out any missing ECs later. I wish you the best of luck with your plan to go straight through, but please know that all is not lost if you take a gap year. A year is nothing. No matter what, please take some time to have fun, take classes that have nothing to do with science, study abroad if you can, and don't think that your career is over if you need a gap year.
 
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Building a strong application takes time. It can be done in 3 years of undergrad but many people are choosing to take extra time. Better to have a strong application and apply once than to be forced into a gap year and a second round of applications.

Do medical schools expect gap year applicants to have correspondingly more volunteering hours and accomplishments (and the more gap years, the more volunteering hours and accomplishments)?
 
Do medical schools expect gap year applicants to have correspondingly more volunteering hours and accomplishments (and the more gap years, the more volunteering hours and accomplishments)?
Mostly yes, especially for those who knew they were On a Pre-med track all during UG.
 
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Some schools are still about 50/50. You can look at the average age or median age of the incoming class. I believe a Cornell has one of the younger classes in the top 20.
 
Do medical schools expect gap year applicants to have correspondingly more volunteering hours and accomplishments (and the more gap years, the more volunteering hours and accomplishments)?

I feel like, yes to some extent, but the expectations are not so much higher for those who take a gap year. For instance, when comparing a gap year applicant with more on their resume than a trad applicant, the gap year applicant will more likely come out on top, even taking into account that they had an extra year. This is why many people feel compelled to take gap years.

I generally think a gap year (or two) is almost always beneficial, no matter where your application stands. Anecdotally, I've never heard anyone regret taking time off, but I know a number of people who wish they had taken time off.
 
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As someone who teaches medical students, I prefer to teach those who have taken gap years. There's a huge increase in maturity even with one or two gap years after college. (BS/MD students are tough--they act like they never left high school).
 
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Really? You think gap years are soft requirements?
As others said, if you are focused from day one, you can complete required ECs in 3 years. I know several kids who got into top schools without gap years.
 
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As others said, if you are focused from day one, you can do it in 4 years. I know several kids who got into top schools without gap years.
This^^^^^. It's a soft requirement for the 2/3 who are not talented enough to fit everything in in their first 3 years of UG. But it's worth pointing out you need to do everything in 3 years, not 4. Prospective senior year activities on an application are great, but they necessarily receive less weight than things you have already done, so it's really your 3 year body of work that determines whether or not you will be in the 1/3. Also keep in mind --- many people take GAP years not to address EC deficiencies, but to perform GPA repair, so there's that too.

If you are good enough to have a high GPA (3.7-3.8+), correspondingly good MCAT score, and have been focused and engaged in the appropriate ECs from freshman year on, you are likely to be in the 1/3. That's not an insignificant number of matriculants -- it's over 6,000 people every year.
 
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(BS/MD students are tough--they act like they never left high school).
Can you please post this in the other site's BSMD thread :cool: I have been saying same thing for last 3+ years :)
 
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Tried to look at that thread but it was very confusing.
 
Can you please post this in the other site's BSMD thread :cool: I have been saying same thing for last 3+ years :)
Tried to look at that thread but it was very confusing.
It's basically ORM parents jerking each other around. I tried to participate when I was applying to UG, but as @EdgeTrimmer noted, it's so toxic that some of the parents would actually bully some of the HS kids. And they relentlessly beat the crap out of each other, particularly anyone who doesn't agree that BS/MD isn't the greatest thing, ever, in the history of higher education. It's hard to follow because English is not the first language for many of the so-called experts, so the syntax takes some getting used to.
 
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It's basically ORM parents jerking each other around. I tried to participate when I was applying to UG, but as @EdgeTrimmer noted, it's so toxic that some of the parents would actually bully some of the HS kids. And they relentlessly beat the crap out of each other, particularly anyone who doesn't agree that BS/MD isn't the greatest thing, ever, in the history of higher education. It's hard to follow because English is not the first language for many of the so-called experts, so the syntax takes some getting used to.
Not just that even BS/MD parents bully other non-BD/MD parents w/o thinking objectively from applicants/student pov. Then someone has to draw line on them, just like how is being done here. However there are few good parents on that thread who helps out each year applicants objectively, keeping their bias at bay.
 
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I would also like to point out a quality highly desired by adcoms that you can't carefully plan to have in years on your resume, and that is maturity. Med school applications are not all about having a good resume, although important. Gaining experience in undergrad definitely contributes to maturity, but honestly at that point many applicants haven't really had experience just being normal adults yet. I personally had 2 gap years before applying 3 before matriculating, and I laugh in the face of the 22-year old just graduated me who thought they were mature. There's just things you learn about human nature and yourself in a manner of time that you can't dictate. I'm so glad I took the time in between. Don't rush yourself, especially before you even really have experience in the game.
 
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I feel like, yes to some extent, but the expectations are not so much higher for those who take a gap year. For instance, when comparing a gap year applicant with more on their resume than a trad applicant, the gap year applicant will more likely come out on top, even taking into account that they had an extra year. This is why many people feel compelled to take gap years.

I generally think a gap year (or two) is almost always beneficial, no matter where your application stands. Anecdotally, I've never heard anyone regret taking time off, but I know a number of people who wish they had taken time off.
If optional, Think of the gap year as costing you $600,000 or more in lost wages.
Does it sway your opinion? Certainly there can be experiences gained, but are they worth this opportunity cost? Many with certain specialties in mind are facing 11years of schools and training. Adding gap years to that timeline delays “life” even more.
 
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If optional, Think of the gap year as costing you $600,000 or more in lost wages.
Does it sway your opinion? Certainly there can be experiences gained, but are they worth this opportunity cost? Many with certain specialties in mind are facing 11years of schools and training. Adding gap years to that timeline delays “life” even more.

For some people, the benefit of living their life in their 20s and having rich experiences outweighs the opportunity cost of lost wages in the year that they are still in post-graduate training rather than earning a first year attending salary. I would venture to say that a first year attending salary is rarely 600K. If you are going to talk about lost wages, you might not want to be a PGY-11 either.

For some people, not everything comes down to money. We hear again and again that thosewho get into medical school after taking gap years do not regret having taken that extra time before med school.
 
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We hear again and again that those who get into medical school after taking gap years do not regret having taken that extra time before med school.
What percentage of applicants take gap years purely to get life experiences vs gap years to fix the deficiencies? Also what percentage of doctors regret not taking gap years? Now I hear medical students are taking gap years to strengthen their app for residency. Is that going to be the new trend?
 
if i were an adcom i would be more impressed with a traditional applicant since high gpa/mcat/all the premed ec's/etc is insanely hard to squeeze into 3 years
 
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If optional, Think of the gap year as costing you $600,000 or more in lost wages.
Does it sway your opinion? Certainly there can be experiences gained, but are they worth this opportunity cost? Many with certain specialties in mind are facing 11years of schools and training. Adding gap years to that timeline delays “life” even more.

I strongly dislike the argument of "losing a year of income". I hope to practice medicine for as long as I possibly can, even beyond standard retirement age. And by that time, it will not matter to me whether I have been working for 35 or 36 or 37 years. It also hopefully won't matter to me if I have a few 100k less or more to my name.

I will, however, remember from my early 20s, my first full-time job, my first adult apartment, the human connections, actually engaging in the community that I live in. There are no delays in life if you are actually living life & figuring out how to live meaningfully outside of school and career :)
 
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If optional, Think of the gap year as costing you $600,000 or more in lost wages.
Does it sway your opinion? Certainly there can be experiences gained, but are they worth this opportunity cost? Many with certain specialties in mind are facing 11years of schools and training. Adding gap years to that timeline delays “life” even more.
Yes, this is the typical ORM parent response, widely evidenced on that "other site"! What cracks me up is that you insist on discounting back the last, highest salary prior to retiring (without accounting for the time value of money) when coming up with this entirely fictitious number.

This is why your peers love the BS/MD so much. No gap year. Might even be able to be done in 7 years instead of 8!! Yay!!!! Without whatever growth, maturity, experience is gained in that extra year, which might actually cost way more in the long run in diminished future opportunities.

Who knows? What IS certain is that the opportunity cost is NOT $600,000 (or more :laugh: ) -- it is the foregone resident salary in the first year out of school, not the last salary 40 years from now. That salary can be made up by working an extra year in 40 years!!!!
 
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if i were an adcom i would be more impressed with a traditional applicant since high gpa/mcat/all the premed ec's/etc is insanely hard to squeeze into 3 years
UMich incoming 2020 class, 56% is non-traditional (2+ gap years).
 
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if i were an adcom i would be more impressed with a traditional applicant since high gpa/mcat/all the premed ec's/etc is insanely hard to squeeze into 3 years
And that's the thing -- they are not more or less impressed either way. They just want what they want, because in today's market they can get it. The top 1/3 (it's really closer to 1/4 because a significant number of people going straight through are in BS/MD programs) are all set after 3 years of UG. The rest need the extra year (or two, or more). The adcoms really are indifferent as to how long it takes any particular applicant to get there.
 
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Besides the benefits of app strengthening, I feel the maturity gained from gap years can be super valuable as well
 
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I applied straight from undergrad.
I was fortunate enough to get an acceptance, but I can honestly say I think did it hurt me as far as receiving more consideration at top schools. I toyed with the idea taking a gap year, but I felt my app was strong enough and Most importantly, that I was ready for medical school. However, with Covid and the complete uncertainty of the application cycle this year, I have never regretted my decision.
 
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I am going to play devil's advocate here for maturity. I don't believe maturity is a guarantee trait with age, however age helps. By that token some BS/MD candidates are more matured than their peers, some regular UG don't achieve that even after multiple gap years.
 
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At almost all of my interviews I would say I was one of the youngest persons present. A lot of my fellow applicants were surprised when I told them I wasn’t taking a gap year...
 
I am going to play devil's advocate here for maturity. I don't believe maturity is a guarantee trait with age, however age helps. By that token some BS/MD candidates are more matured than their peers, some regular UG didn't achieve that even after multiple gap years.
Yes, pick an outlier and extrapolate from it!! :laugh:

Sure, some 21 year olds are more mature than 30 year olds. So what? That doesn't change the general idea that a college graduate who has been out on their own for a year or two (not necessarily living at home with their parents helicoptering them on SDN :laugh: ) will invariably be more mature than their college student counterpart. Don't believe me. Just ask the adcoms, who are choosing to fill over 60% of their classes with them. Not 50%. Not 25%.
 
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I should also point out that I started college when I was 17...
 
Yes, pick an outlier and extrapolate from it!! :laugh:

Sure, some 21 year olds are more mature than 30 year olds. So what? That doesn't change the general idea that a college graduate who has been out on their own for a year or two (not necessarily living at home with their parents helicoptering them on SDN :laugh: ) will invariably be more mature than their college student counterpart. Don't believe me. Just ask the adcoms, who are choosing to fill over 60% of their classes with them. Not 50%. Not 25%.
some <> outlier <> majority, as usual your center of gravity stops at helicoptering, a live example of maturity!!
 
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some <> outlier <> majority, as usual your center of gravity stops at helicoptering, a live example of maturity!!

A bit of a confusing post.
not sure what you mean by that...
 
some <> outlier <> majority, as usual your center of gravity stops at helicoptering, a live example of maturity!!
Sorry, but they're outliers. Most students who were chosen in HS are NOT more mature than college grads with gap years. "Some" meaning more than one are still outliers. And trust me, most of them are far from mature, and would never survive the regular admission process without multiple gap years, which is why they (and their helicopters) opt for BS/MD in the first place!
 
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Sorry, but they're outliers. Most students who were chosen in HS are NOT more mature than college grads with gap years. "Some" meaning more than one are still outliers. And trust me, most of them are far from mature, and would never survive the regular admission process without multiple gap years, which is why they (and their helicopters) opt for BS/MD in the first place!
I tend to disagree as there are both types of BS/MD kids (some of they are even advising to regular applicants through consulting), both types of regular UG students too. So my point is its not a paint brush one way or the other, rather case by case basis. Just by pure numbers, 5% BS/MD will always be seen as minority if not outliers.
 
What IS certain is that the opportunity cost is NOT $600,000 (or more :laugh: ) -- it is the foregone resident salary in the first year out of school, not the last salary 40 years from now. That salary can be made up by working an extra year in 40 years!!!!
One argument from a parent on that other website is if you invest the salary differential (1 in case of BSMD) and then invest in the market. so if first year savings is 100K (after taxes), that will be $761,225.50 after 30 years :) I didn't support that theory otherwise my kid could have been a MS1 this year.
 
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At my school I'd say about 80% took a gap year or more.

It feels weird being one of the youngest and I wish there were more people who went straight through. Admissions needs to make things less competitive.
 
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Besides the benefits of app strengthening, I feel the maturity gained from gap years can be super valuable as well
so when did we establish 22 years are not mature enough to enter medical school? Did medicine became harder or kids got dulled by social media?
 
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Med school applications is an overly glamorized process.

At the end of the day, nearly everybody who gets into medical school is just an average person.

We need to stop emphasizing getting 100 research hours, 500 clinical hours, etc. And just focus on metrics. The 'holistic' approach failed because it forced applicants to get ridiculously high stats *and* have crazy hours in ECs
 
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I don’t think it’s fair to lump all of the BS/MD students into a helicopter parent paradigm…
There are lots of these kids who know what they want to do from a younger age and pursue it. I did not attend a BS/MD program but I do know that I have wanted to be a doctor ever since I was about 14 or 15 years old. Medical training in the United States is already much longer than in every other country in the world. If you take two gap years, and you want to practice in a competitive specialty, you will not be practicing until you’re in your mid thirties. That decreases a lot of potential learning power compared with almost any other profession, who earn money starting as early as 22-23 or into the mid and late 20s. Many of my “non-traditional” classmates are struggling with basic anatomy and histology, and test taking right now. Well they really make the best doctors? I don’t know. I hope they do. I really believe that the emphasis on obtaining more and more gap years is a function of the ever-increasing competitiveness of medical school admissions rather than the absolute qualifications of the applicants themselves.
 
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No offense but why do parents come onto SDN for their kids?

Are you a physician?
last I checked, it’s an open forum.
So what If it’s a parent. Or a non physician. Pre-medical students and admissions committees are not the only people who have insight and advice to offer.
 
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