Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest post: Taking a year off before medical school

I found MiM while studying abroad, trying to decide between PA and medical school, and being thoroughly terrified of not being able to spend time with my future family if I became a doctor. Reading all of these amazing stories from mother doctors helped erase my fears. I just wanted to give back to the blog, if possible. Also, I thought there might be some other undergraduates out there who can relate. So, here are some recent thoughts:

Had anyone asked me three short years ago what I would be doing after graduation, I would have immediately replied, "going to medical school." After three long, but fun and enriching years at a small liberal arts college known for it's rigorous science reputation, I'm ready for a break.

How did I get from that young, enthusiastic 18-year-old to a 21-year-old who self-professes her exhaustion from school? How did I decide that I am probably going to delay motherhood for an entire year, since I'm planning on waiting to have a family until post-residency? (that was a pretty large factor in my thought process) No, I didn't have a horrible college experience. I didn't have to retake classes, or even get "lost" along the way. Honestly, I just grew up. Needing a break isn't something I'm ashamed of. In fact, as my aunt said, it's probably one of the smartest things someone looking at graduate/professional school can do. I realized I'll have one year in my 20s not in school-- whether I take a year off or not, so why not make it now? A year off will grant me the opportunity after 18 years of education to stop stuffing equations and facts into my brain and fit in some life experiences to look back on and utilize. I will be able to start medical school refreshed and ready to learn, not just going through the motions to add "MD" to my name.

So many people reply, "Oh," when I say I'm taking a year off. I practically have to convince them that I'm genuinely excited to have time to experience more of the world. I believe it's perfectly acceptable to do whatever is right for you, whether that's powering through, or taking a break! However, I think some people need to realize that we don't always need to be in such a rush to get done with something to move on to the next phase. Slow down and enjoy today because tomorrow may be completely different.

From a "traditional" college senior at a small liberal arts university in the Midwest who plans to become a pediatrician. 


  1. Good for you. I did something similar, and it actually helped to solidify my decision to go to med school. You just have to do something productive during your time off and be able to discuss it intelligently while you're doing interviews/etc. Knowing yourself and taking a break will make you a better physician in the end.

  2. TAKE THE YEAR. You will be so happy you did. I am a medical student right now and everyone I know who didn't take the year wishes they had, and those that did take the year (or two, or five, or eight) are so much more life-experienced, world-experienced, motivated, and mature. Do it, you will be so happy you did.

  3. I took two years - to mourn my dismal GRE scores that wouldn't get me into a Ph.D. psychology program, to take pre-med classes since I was a psych major in college, to work at an inpatient child and adolescent psych unit, and to do DNA ovarian cancer research. Oh and apply to med school. I got in early decision - I could tell interviews went stellar with my experiences. Enjoy:). I wish I would have traveled more in retrospect.

  4. I'm really glad to hear confidence in my plan from women in the positions I hope to be in someday! My current plan is to spend a few months in Spain as an au pair to improve Spanish, travel some, possible be an "English assistant" in Austria (where I studied abroad), and the rest I'm not sure of exactly. I would like to find some sort of experience that would be interesting and medically related.

  5. I think it's essential to take all the time you need before medical school.

    Becoming and working as a doctor is something that reshapes your personality and your outlook. It's essential to have a clear idea of yourself and your values before you undergo what is in some ways an indoctrination.

    There is no hurry. The wonderful and terrible thing you discover about life in your thirties is, it goes on. It goes on and on. There is no rush to be finished; in fact you will never be finished. Be deliberate, and confident in your path.

  6. My daughter is now a resident, she ended up taking a year between university and med school, mainly due to class schedule timing affecting MCAT timing, but it was a brilliant decision. She needed that year to work in the real world and be reminded of all the reasons why she wanted med school. More importantly, during med school it was reassuring to have had time off.
    It almost felt like a bad thing at the time, in her junior year, when she saw so many others applying directly, but, in fact, it made her application stronger and, more importantly, it made her stronger and more ready for the commitment. It is difficult o find any other times to take off and from what I read on blogs, the medical community is not enthusiastic about gaps in your experience once you begin practicing, so take the year, take two if you want/need to, but do the things you need to do while you can.

  7. I applied and got accepted to med school, deferred for a year, and went to China to teach English. It was wonderful, and I'm so glad I did it! I agree with the comments above that it's easiest if you're going to take a year off to do it before med school. It's much harder to do it once you've started training.


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