THE DREADED GAP YEAR
Why is there such a stigma associated with taking a gap year after undergrad? A lot of premeds view a gap year as a “fail” or a “plan b”. I know this because I was that premed. Is it the uneasiness that involuntary hovers over us constantly, or the societal pressures forcing us to think that medical school immediately after undergrad is the normal plan to pursue? I know what it’s like. My whole life I have been preparing, studying, sacrificing free time, volunteering and more to get into medical school to become a doctor. I understand not wanting to tell people that you’re talking a year off because they’re automatically going to assume you’ve dropped the ball somehow. But I’m here to tell you that taking a gap year was the best decision I could make, for me. Here's why..
What is a Gap Year?
In college I was involved in everything, literally. I was an athlete which took up 75% of my time. The other 25% of the time I majored in biology and chemistry, did melanoma research, was an advisor to the dean, founding officer of a pre-health honors society, and an avid napper. No complaining here though. I loved being involved! But as you can see, studying 8 hours a day just wasn’t realistic. So one day I looked at myself in the mirror and said “Micah, you’re going to have to take a gap year”. Thoughts of failure rushed through my head. Everyone else in my class was going straight to med school, did I fail? After I had a meltdown (as every premed knows all too well), I pulled myself together and made a plan.
My goal was to use the years until matriculation to completely immerse myself in medicine and learn as much as possible. If you take a gap year, this is the best way to do it. I’m all for getting a job that pays the bills, but it’s important to do something that involves medicine as well. If you can find a job that does both, you’re doing great sweetie. On every single application it asked me if I took a gap year and what I did during that time. You’ll definitely get a gold star if you are involved in medicine and can expand on it in interviews.
Benefits of a Gap Year
During my gap year, I was able to learn so much. I learned about medicine obviously, but more importantly about myself. I learned how to fine tune my study habits and get in the habit of conceptually studying. I learned that not everything is going to go as planned. Everyone always tells you this right? But it’s another thing to plan and pray for something and it not go your way the first time..or second, or third time. I learned how to pick myself up and keep pushing. I learned that people come and go, but true friends stay and never let go. I learned that family is EVERYTHING. Period. I learned that I am capable of amazing things. This past year has taught me a lot about how I view myself. My accomplishments this year have shown me that I am a boss, and doubting my abilities does me no good.
It's important to realize that everyone has a different path. My path doesn’t have to look like your path and don’t let that discourage you. Certain experiences and struggles are put in your path to make you stronger, force you to learn about yourself, and to better prepare you for the next step in your journey. Oh! And another thing, stop letting the assumptions and opinions of others cause you to question your journey to medicine. It's not about them, it's about you! Trust your gut and do you!