Take your time: Why it’s ok to take a gap year before graduate school

A gap year (years) is a break between college and graduate or professional school. More and more we hear about students taking a gap year before continuing their education, but there are still a few misconceptions and misunderstandings about why some people take a gap year and what to do during that time. Taking some time before attending graduate school is not a sign of failure. It will not make you look bad to the admissions office when you do decide to apply to grad school. In fact, if you spend your gap year wisely it might even help boost your application. 

Reasons why someone might decide to take a gap year:

  • They need more time to take prerequisite classes 
  • They want to be able to study abroad during college 
  • They want to gain more experience (shadowing, working in a lab and conducting research, volunteering, getting more clinical hours) 
  • They want to work and save some money before starting graduate school
  • They want to travel and gain more cultural experiences
  • They need a break from school

Ideas about what to do during your gap year before continuing your healthcare journey: 

  • Work in a research lab 
  • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about
  • Get some observation and shadowing hours 
  • Work in a hospital setting (CNA, medical scribe, phlebotomy, EMT, PT aide) 
  • Travel
  • Take classes to increase your GPA
  • Do a fellowship
  • Study for the GRE/MCAT/DAT
  • Work on your graduate school application

During my freshman year, my advisor told me: “It’s perfectly okay to take a gap year. But it is so much better to prepare for it rather than to let it happen to you.” There are a few reasons why I decided that a gap year was the best choice for me. I knew that I wanted to study abroad while in college and I also wanted to be able to spread my pre-req classes throughout all 8 semesters rather than having to complete them during my first 3 years. I also knew that I would want to take a break from studying before going to medical school and to use my gap year to grow in more professional, cultural, and personal aspects. 

 Whether you decide to take one gap year, 3 gap years or go straight into graduate school that’s okay! You are making your own unique path in life, not anyone else’s. So just make the right decision for yourself. It will all work out in the end! 

By Fernanda Aiala
Fernanda Aiala Peer Career Fellow: Healthcare and Clinical Research