The term "gap year(s)" applies to any amount of time spent between graduation from college and matriculation into your chosen health profession school. You may also hear this referred to as a bridge year, glide year, or growth year. Increasingly, pre-health students are choosing to take time off before applying to health professions schools. You may be asking, “What should I do during a gap year?” The answer is different for everyone. The most important thing is to spend your time doing something you care about (and potentially won’t have the opportunity to do again once you’ve been accepted to your career of choice). Health professions programs often value this time and view it as an opportunity to grow, mature, and hone your experiences and skills.
You should reflect on your journey - do you need to improve your GPA? Have you found this interest later in your career and you need to explore the field a bit more before you apply? Do you need to bolster your experiences in patient care, research, or volunteering? Your pre-health advisors in the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center and the counselors at the Career Center can assist you in developing your gap year plans.
Often referred to as “Post-Baccs” and “SMPs” these programs are designed to address and strengthen your credentials as a future applicant to health professions graduate and professional programs. These programs are often split into two categories: academic record enhancing programs and career-changing programs.
Consider reading the AAMC’s pages dedicated to Post-Baccalaureate programs.
Including their article, Is a Post-Bacc Program Right for Me? Seven Benefits to Consider
Peruse AAMC Post-Bacc Database to explore post-bacc programs based on your needs
Academic Record Enhancement:
Programs tailored for students who need to focus on increasing their GPA. Doing well in these programs illustrates to health professions programs you can be successful in rigorous coursework.
Programs designed for students who desire to apply to a health professions program, but were not previously on a pre-health path. Often these students need to take all, most, or many of the required pre-requisite courses needed to apply.
Pursuing an Area of Interest:
Some students would like to pursue a program, often a Masters degree program, in an area that holds a particular interest to them. While there are professional programs that offer the opportunity to complete a dual Masters degree with the professional program (ie. MD/MBA, PT/MPH, etc), some students find it appealing to concentrate on their masters studies before they enter a professional program. Please note that if you are in need of academic record enhancement, specialized masters programs and programs in the traditional sciences are better suited for your needs.
Taking additional time to focus on gaining more exposure and more experiences related to the field you are hoping to enter is another important factor when considering a gap year(s). While many programs do not have set requirements for the number of shadowing, volunteer, research, or clinical experience required to apply,* having a robust number of hours within areas that are meaningful to you and can corroborate your desire to enter the field is essential. You should reflect on your reason for waiting to enter this profession and be able to back those statements up with ample “proof” and typically this comes from clinical experiences, volunteering, or research. If you feel your application would be improved by gaining experience, time away during a gap year allows you to focus on weaker components of your application.
*Note: Research your target schools to determine requirements for experiences. For example, many dental schools require 100 hours of dental shadowing; most PA programs require 500-1500+ hours of direct patient care experience.
Check out the University Career Center’s page to get ideas for volunteering, employment, and gap year options.