What is a gap year? 

A gap year is a ​year after undergraduate graduation that premed students often take to help improve the quality their applications. It is common for students to take even more than one gap year based on their situation

Students who decide to take one gap will be applying to medical school during the summer after their senior year and rather than applying after their junior year. 

≈ 24

average age of matriculation

years between graduation and matriculation (2018)

While the stigma surrounding gap years has been removed, a gap year does not automatically enhance your application. Read below about some of the pros and cons of a gap year!

Should I take a gap year?


Earn Money to Pay for Medical School Applications

The cost of medical school applications often surprise individual. A gap year a great time to earn an income that will support your medical school application journey.

A Single Gap Year Lets Your Senior Year Count

Your senior year is typically the year where you have the opportunity to hold multiple TA positions and club leadership positions. By including these positions, your application may look even stronger.

Fill in Gaps in Application

During the busy undergrad years, it is common to have one aspect of your application that is weaker than the rest (clinical experience, research, GPA, MCAT, etc). A gap year will allow you to address one or multiple weaknesses in your application.

Avoid Burnout

Burnout is prevalent amongst premeds due to the workload and pressure that premeds experience. A year away from classes and engaging in enjoyable (but productive) activities can allow students to be re-energized to put their best foot forward in medical school.

Long Lasting Experiences

Due to the busy schedules during the school year, it can be difficult to spend large sums of time time on an activity. Having experiences that span at least year allow for producing tangible results that can help enhance your application.  


Become Disconnected From Medical Activities 

Gap years by medical schools are perceived as a time that will make you a better physician. If your gap year does not include any activities related to medicine, this gap year may hurt your application.

Lose Contact with Letter of Recommendation Writers

It is possible to lose contact with your letter of recommendation writers during your gap year and this may lead to them not remembering specific influences you had on them, leading to a weaker letter. 

Do Not Have Tangible Results After Gap Year

Having a strong plan for how you will spend your gap year can lead to significant wasting of time, which will hurt your application. It is important to have specific results from your gap year so that is clear how it assisted you as an individual.

Opportunity Cost of Physicians Salary

By taking a gap year, you automatically must give up a years of a physicians salary early in your life. While this year of salary might not have a large difference in the large scale, obtaining this income early may remove financial pressure of paying back loans and supporting your family.

Delay Progression of Life

One facet of a gap year that is overlooked is the psychological idea of feeling stagnant as many peers are earning large salaries or starting families. It can be difficult to cope with these feelings and continue moving forward without self-doubt.

Deciding what to focus on during your gap year is a difficult personal decision.


It can be challenging to know where someone should put their energy to benefit their application the most without knowing all of the information. Therefore, we recommend, listing out all facets of your application and identifying any potential weakness. 

While there are few specific mandatory activities, there are categories like shadowing, clinical exposure, and volunteering that should be covered by at least one activity in your application

Consider the questions to help figure out how to spend your gap year.

What is the weakest part of my application?

Do I have enough meaningful volunteering hours?

Is my GPA high enough? Should I enter a Postbac Program or Special Master's Program to help improve it?

Have I conducted research and could I get a publication by working full time in a lab?

Is there anything I want to do right now that I won't be able to do in medical school?

Do I need more time I need more time to study for the MCAT?

Do I have enough clinical experience to make a strong argument for wanting a career in medicine?

How should I spend my gap year?