With the rising competitiveness of medical school, the level of anxiety students face increases as each year goes by. Many students are unaware of the specialty they want to pursue when entering medical school and even if they are sure, most end up changing their mind upon entering clinical clerkships.
This, in turn, gives medical students anxiety as they want to show that they’re active and productive via leadership, research, etc. upon applying for their specialty. Consequently, many students these days are electing for gap years to further their education and increase their competitiveness when applying for residency.
I hear many medical students ask, “Is taking a gap year right for me?” This is a difficult to answer because it’s truly dependent on the end goals of the student. Questions to ask oneself are…
- “What specialty am I considering pursuing?” Typically, surgical careers are incredibly competitive to match and it could be of a student’s benefit to pursue a gap year in research if they feel they need the extra edge.
- “Do I have other interests I would like to pursue prior to starting residency?” Many students elect to take a gap year and obtain a master’s degree in public health/business, or pursue an internship in health policy/advocacy. These are all great options to enrich your education and a wonderful time to pursue these interests is during a gap year. It can also give you a competitive edge and something to discuss during interviews.
What is most important to remember is that medical school is what you make of it and what you want to get out of it. There is no “perfect” path for everyone.
Do some soul-searching. Discuss these questions with your medical school advisor, mentors, and loved ones. Ultimately, the decision is yours!
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