Many premed students choose to take time off between undergraduate coursework and medical school. The admissions process is grueling and competitive, so a gap year is a great time to enhance your resume and determine if medical school is really the right decision for you.
There are many options for students who want to use their gap year wisely. The right opportunities can help you stand out amongst your fellow applicants and increase your chances of acceptance to your dream school.
Volunteer abroad. Volunteering in a third world country at a hospital or medical center is ideal for premed students who want to travel and gain clinical volunteer experience. Traveling abroad gives you a unique experience that can set you apart from other medical school applicants.
Volunteering abroad is an incredible opportunity, but only students who are passionate about traveling should consider it. Medical school admissions offices look down on applicants who do it solely to enhance their application.
For those interested in a career with programs like Doctors Without Borders, going abroad is an especially good opportunity.
Participate in a research lab. For those who want to contribute to advancements in medicine, participate in a research lab. Research allows you to develop a mentoring relationship with the primary investigator or research coordinator.
Some students may choose to continue conducting research in labs they worked in during college. Following a research study from beginning to end can be very rewarding (and impressive to medical school admissions offices). Working on a study for an extended period may even lead to students getting listed as an author once the research is published.
Depending on the lab, paid research positions might be available.
While research is not a requirement for medical school, it does look good on a resume. Research is an important part of a medical student’s life, so having prior experience can better prepare you.
Become a scribe. A scribe position is a one-of-a-kind, paid opportunity to get hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Scribes work closely with physicians to gather and document information about the patient so the physician can focus on patient care.
Through this position, you will have the opportunity to develop a one-on-one relationship with a physician, who may become a valuable mentor and reference when applying to medical schools.
Scribes work in a variety of settings, from oncology to emergency medicine. Becoming a scribe gives you early exposure to different fields of medicine and can help you decide what you want to specialize in.
Quality clinical experience is a must when applying to medical school. If you were unable to get clinical volunteer experience during your undergraduate years, working as a scribe can give you those necessary hours.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your gap year, make sure it is worthwhile. Once you are ready to apply to medical schools, demonstrate that the time spent during your gap year was used to strengthen your skills. When acceptance letters arrive, you will be glad you took the time to become a better student and future doctor.
Marcin J. Kubiak is Vice President, Customer Care at Elite Medical Scribes, the nation’s leading provider of fully integrated scribe services.