Podcast Episodes

Podcast 60: Max Ruge and Dr. Marinelli Discuss Gap Years For the PreMed Virtual Summit


Max Ruge is a 4th year medical student who will be hosting a PreMed Virtual Summit in September! He recently sat down with Dr. Marinelli to discuss gap years. This is a sneak preview of the great information that will be shared in the PreMed Virtual Summit. Stay tuned for more recordings and visit thepremedsummit.com to learn more about the event!

[1:18] What exactly is a gap year?

Traditionally, somebody applying to medical school would do so in their junior year of college. It takes about one year to go through that process, and they would start medical school in the fall after they finish their senior year. A gap year is not applying during the junior year and applying later. It could be applying during their senior year, meaning they’d have a year off after it.

Gap years are becoming more common. Dr. Marinelli took one when she was applying ten years ago, a time when it was somewhat rare. They are not looked down upon; medical schools actually like to see gap years as long as the student is doing something productive.

[6:52] Good reasons to take a gap year.

The best reason that Dr. Marinelli sees is that students do not have enough extracurricular activities completed yet. Another reason is to get pre-requisites done. Thirdly, some students use the gap year as MCAT study time. Taking a gap year for personal reasons is fairly common as well.

[10:19] Knowing if you have enough extracurricular experience.

You need to have a decent number of hours in each category, but you also want to have depth of experience. Aiming for two hundred hours in most categories is a good target.

It’s ideal to get shadowing hours with different specialties. Shadowing experience can be hard to get, so if you have to do it all under one specialty, that’s fine too.

Research is something that students absolutely must have and is worth taking a gap year for. It’s easiest to do as an undergraduate and, ideally, it will be science or medical related.

[16:49] Improving your GPA.

Applying with a 3.6 in science and cumulative GPAs should give you a fair chance. If you had a 3.4, you could take one gap year to push it up. If you had a 3.1, you’d probably need more than one gap year to become competitive. Doing a post-bacc or a special master’s program could be an option here. These will allow the med school to evaluate an applicant based not only on undergrad grades.

Another option is what Dr. Marinelli calls a “DIY post-bacc.” Instead of going to a formal post-bacc program, the student just takes a different assortment of classes. Furthermore, you can take extension classes that contribute to your undergrad GPA.

You have to meet a certain GPA, and if you don’t, a lot of schools will filter you out based on only that.

[27:39] Studying for the MCAT in a gap year.

It allows more flexibility, but most people don’t need the whole gap year to study for the MCAT. Taking a gap year for this reason does allow a few solid months of studying, which is hard to do as an undergrad.

[30:54] Bad reasons to take a gap year.

Many applications ask if you have taken a gap year and what you did during it. It can come up in the interview, too. If you really didn’t do anything productive, that can look very negative. Anything that contributes to your personal character will be great. Mostly everything else is not.

[34:50] Putting clinical experience on the AMCAS.

You can put planned activities on the AMCAS, but it’s much better if you’ve already started. This allows showing what you’ve done instead of what you anticipate doing.

[36:43] Recommended clinical activities.

Scribing is awesome. You’re not directly interacting with the patient, but you’re right alongside a healthcare practitioner for your whole shift. The experience is very in-depth, and you even get paid. EMT is great too because you get paid, it doesn’t require a lot of experience, and it’s hands-on. Clinical research is also advantageous because it counts as research too.

It’s good to look for jobs that are flexible with your med school interview schedule. You could take a part-time job instead of a full-time one. Sometimes, you just have to make things work even if you’re busy. Don’t let it stop you from getting a job.

[40:53] Conclusion.

If you’re considering a gap year, look at your application and be honest with yourself. Many applicants overestimate their competitiveness. Dr. Marinelli was frustrated when she had to delay becoming a doctor because of a gap year, bot looking back, she realizes that one year is not going to make a difference in the long run.

To learn more about the PreMed Virtual Summit and to register, visit thepremedsummit.com!

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