The answer to this question, no matter who you ask, will always be “it depends.” It should come to no surprise that I’m here to tell you that it does depend. I’m not going to focus on the pros and cons of why you should or shouldn’t take a gap year. I’m sure you made your pros and cons list which didn’t really help in your decision. What I will share with you is the most important factor that helped tip my decision on whether or not I should take a gap year, among other factors. (Spoiler Alert: I’m currently on my gap year.)

Stress. This is the number one factor that told me that I should definitely take a gap year. Anxiety, nervousness, over-thinking, worry, self-doubt; medical school application stress comes in many forms and it’s important to recognize them. Needless to say that I felt all of those things and if you’re feeling them too, you should ask yourself “Why?”

If you’re like me, then you’ll realize that the feeling of stress comes from not feeling like you’re a good enough medical school candidate. There could be something lacking in your application such as a good GPA, letters of recommendation, clinical experience, volunteer work, life experience, etc. So, take that gap year to supplement your application in those areas that you feel need a boost. After I spoke to some trusted advisors, friends, and peers, I decided that a gap year was right for me.

A gap year may seem like a waste but it’s only a waste if you let it be so make sure you maximize the extra time by really patching up those loose ends. Lastly, making the decision to take a gap year by letting the deadlines go by is not an easy one. At least it wasn’t for me. A part of me still felt like I was making a mistake and I kept thinking “Maybe I could still get into medical school with my current resume.” But once I let those deadlines go by, I immediately felt such relief that I didn’t realize how much stress I’d been harboring.

Now that I feel less stressed, I can focus my time and energy into opportunities that will heighten my chances of getting into medical school. Taking a gap year is supposed to make you go from being unsure about your application, to being more confident and I certainly feel my confidence growing every day.