I answer a lot of questions. I ask them when I can. And so far, I have gotten pretty good at the system. The professor assigns homework, loaded with questions, and I answer them to the best of my ability. However, I find myself asking and answering different kinds of questions lately. They aren’t directed toward anything science related – not about mechanisms, cellular pathways, or animal behaviors. Instead, they are so simple that many people forget to ask them, and later feel unprepared for making a decision as a result. Of course, I am talking about taking a year off, and it is turning out to be a popular decision for more and more PreMeds. The question of whether or not to take a year off is becoming one you should be asking yourself far in advance. Simply put, ask yourself these questions and they should help you reach your gap year decision easier.

Am I Tired

It’s Tuesday afternoon and you’ve already put in 20+ hours of studying for the week. Sound familiar? To be fair, the average person might struggle to keep those kinds of habits for more than a few weeks – and it’s possible that you have been doing it for a few years. Maybe the past few years have taken a toll on you, and that is completely okay. Nobody minds a year of full night’s sleep, and certainly nobody can argue entering medical school fully rested and with a fresh mindset.

How Do I Look On Paper

One of the main reasons potential medical school applicants take a year off is to boost their application and appeal – whether it be clinical hours, research, or something entirely different. The actions of your year off may outweigh a few regrettable semesters. However, be weary. Make sure you seek the professional experiences that do not just increase your appeal, but strengthen the kind of doctor you wish to become.

What Else Do I Love

If there’s a significant other, sport, instrument, dog, friend, hobby, or grandmother whom you have neglected spending time with at the expense of studying, then congrats. We can probably establish that you love more than just science. A gap year gives a great opportunity to kick your feet up and spend time with the simple things and people that make you happy. You will have your whole life for schooling, but sometimes your grandmother’s pecan pie speaks louder at the moment.

What Other Experiences Do I Want Before Medical School?

Maybe you also have dreams about spending weeks out in the great outdoors, enjoying a lack of bathing covered up by the smell of your daily cup of coffee. Unfortunately, this probably could not be any more opposite of the traditional medical school scenario where you would be planted at a desk or at a hospital for a good portion of the week. Truthfully, I would never want to mix the two. I am no good being at the hospital wishing I were across the country on a wilderness trip, and vice-versa. In your gap year, you are given the opportunity to dream big and loud. Although there is never a perfect time for medical school, think about the experiences you want to have that might shape the doctor you become – whether big or small, smelly or not.

If Medical School Started Tomorrow, Would I Be My Best Student?

The choice to remove yourself from the loop for a year is not a reflection of your motivation toward medicine as much as it should be a reflection of your love for other things. If anything, it shows that you are patient, knowing that taking the time off would be useful. Anybody can enter medical school straight out of college, and anybody can take a year off. The real question is which decision you and your future patients will reap the most benefits from. Ask yourself with honesty if you will be the best student, and best doctor, if medical school started tomorrow. For me, the answer has been “no”. I would be selling myself short, and certainly others as well.

Whether it is medical school or gap year, maybe the message is still the same: each day is an opportunity to be different, to be better, and to answer the hard questions – which seem to not always be about science after all.