Updated: Apr 20, 2019
Rest, Refresh, and Get Back to Work
You never realize how difficult being a pre-med student is until you’ve lived it. The countless days spent in the library, hours spent volunteering, working, and researching, and all the effort that goes into trying to make yourself stand out among the huge pool of applicants. To put it lightly, it's exhausting. I find that most freshman entering undergrad as pre-med students usually have high hopes of going straight through to medical school. I was one of those students too.
Once junior year hit I felt myself getting more and more burnt out. It’s extremely difficult trying to keep yourself disciplined enough to study when you’re that mentally exhausted. I was seriously struggling trying to juggle tough upper-level classes, working, researching, and extracurriculars. One day I sat down and thought to myself, “If I’m this burnt out already I’m not going to make it through medical school.” Every student that has that strong of a desire and goal to become a doctor will do everything to get there, including sacrificing their own mental and physical health. Once I had realized all of this I knew I wanted, and more importantly needed, to take a gap year.
What did I learn during my gap year?
Taking a gap year has been the best decision I have ever made. I was afraid that it would make me feel like a slacker, or that I wasn’t good enough to get into medical school the first time around, but it actually gave me the opportunity to rest, refresh my mind, refocus my goals, and most importantly gain a TON of experience. I have spent my gap year working in the hospital, studying for my MCAT, and finally taking care of myself like I should have been during my time in undergrad.
We all strive to be “well-rounded” applicants, but we often forget that includes living a well-balanced life as well. Although my schedule is still busy, I am completely in control of it. There are no “due dates” or “assignments” for me, just goals that I have set for myself. I have learned to schedule in time for myself, whether that be relaxing after a long day, taking a nap, going to the gym, or just having fun with friends and family. It truly is all about balance, and listening to your mind and body well enough to see what you want and (more importantly) need.
Should you take a gap year?
Now, let's go over some pros and cons of taking a gap year. For the pros, you can really focus on your classes during undergrad because you’ll have a year (or a few) afterwards to get all of your clinical experience and other resume boosters. You can also really focus on taking your MCAT without the stress of having other classes to worry about. When you start going on med school interviews it’s going to be a lot easier to make time for all the traveling because you won’t be missing classes. And most importantly...you can give yourself the break you deserve.
Now for the cons. It will take you longer until you are able to start working and earning your physician’s salary. In addition, you also might have a hard time readjusting back into “school” life. You really have to take a step back and look at the pros and cons in your own eyes and determine what the best course of action will be for you personally. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who can handle going straight through to medical school, but most of us will only benefit with some time to rest and recover before we take the next huge step into our career paths. Of course medical school, residency, and everything that follows is a long process, but taking a year or a couple years off in between will only make you more motivated and more ready to succeed. I could tell you all the cliches, like “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” and more but I simply hope that by reading this article you really really consider what is going to be best for you and your physical and mental health in the long run.
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