Gap Year

A “gap year” is the period of time between the end of your undergraduate education and the start of medical school. In fact, a gap year might be a year or more depending on each person’s particular circumstances.

Frequently, the reasons for a gap year center on an applicant’s need for more time to participate in medically-related volunteer and lab experiences, strengthen GPA or MCAT scores, pay down debt, work on becoming a stronger candidate, or simply take a break. Some applicants must take a gap year if they are not accepted into medical school.

The PHMO can meet with you to decide if a gap year is right for you. Once you have made the decision, the PHMO advisor may refer you to the Career Center to create your gap year plan. Check out the Career Center website for more information and opportunities for your gap year.

For a list of AACOM post-bac programs, click here:

For a list of AAMC post-bac programs, click here:

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges: Making the Most of Your Gap Year. 3 August 2015. <>.

Gap Year FAQs

What is a Gap Year?

A Gap Year is a year (or a few years) between when you graduate from your undergraduate institution and begin a professional school program. A Gap Year is different than applying to a professional school and deferring.

When do I decide if a gap year is right for me?

If you plan to apply and go directly into a professional school program, you will be applying beginning the spring of your junior year (some schools will accept applications through your senior year). We recommend you begin thinking about a gap year as early as your first year at Emory. We encourage you to network and explore opportunities for a gap year, it is best to have a plan.

What could I /should I do during my gap year?

The options are endless and ultimately, the decision is yours. Depending on your professional goals and your undergraduate experiences, you may use the gap year(s) to take coursework to prepare you for application, extend/continue the work/research you started as an undergraduate, or participate in a new experience that relates to your personal or professional goals.

Emory students have served as Medical Scribes, worked in healthcare offices, served as EMTs in cities or on mountains, performed in the ballet, attended cooking school in Paris, studied abroad, attended related or unrelated graduate programs. Options are limitless as long as the experiences are meaningful to you.

If you are lacking experiences in certain areas within your holistic development, you can also use your gap year to further develop your portfolio.

Many professional schools require secondary application questions and interviews. The Gap Year allows you to visit schools and complete application/admission requirements when you are not completing course work (if you were applying to go straight in, you would be applying in the spring of your junior year).

Will a gap year hurt my application chances?

While there are never any admission guarantees, for many students, the Gap Year can make you more competitive by diversifying your experiences and perspective.  

What is the average age of students entering professional schools?

The average age of students who start medical school is 25, and a Gap Year can make you a more competitive applicant.  Other healthcare professional schools have a range of average ages.  You may check with each school for statistics on entry age.

Do students usually go straight to medical school/graduate school, or do they take gap years?

The Gap Year is becoming more and more common. Medical and other healthcare professional schools appreciate diverse experiences and maturity, and the gap year can provide that for students.