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Pre-Health Advising

Vassar College

Some statistics:

  • Nationwide, only 27% of the medical students who started in fall 2023 reported starting medical school without at least one gap year.
  • The average age of a student starting medical school is 24 and has hovered about that age for the last 5 years.
  • For PA students, 80% have had at least one gap year and the average age of a first year student is 26.

Why applicants take a gap year:

  • To get more research and/or clinical experience to be more competitive.
    • Competitive PA applicants have more than 2000 hours of direct patient care experience.
    • Competitive medical school applicants have a combination of shadowing doctors + hands on clinical + research.
  • To make sure this is really what they want to do.
  • To have more time to prepare for the MCAT (if medical) and the application process.
  • To spread the science coursework out a little more.
  • To study abroad.

Downside to taking a gap year:

  • It’s an extra year before finishing school and working.
  • Losing momentum as a student.

Why applicants choose not to take a gap year:

  • They started getting research and/or clinical experience early and have significant amounts of time spent in those areas.
  • They know this is their path, without question.
  • For pre-med students, they took the MCAT and received a competitive score.

Downside to not taking a gap year:

  • Only 3 years of college coursework to show medical schools.
  • For pre-med students, a very intense first couple years of college to get all MCAT subject courses completed to properly prepare for the MCAT.
  • For pre-PA students, difficulty getting enough experience while also completing a rigorous undergraduate degree.

What students do in a gap year:

  • Work as research technicians/assistants at research institutions – both traditional bench research and in clinical research.
  • Work as medical scribes, EMTs, medical assistants, or other medically related field.
  • Work in a field that is not related and volunteer or shadow in a medical setting.

See the AAMC for more information:
Making the Most of Your Gap Year and What to do in Your Gap Year