written by: Alexandra Baum
More and more often, students choose to take time off between undergrad and medical school. Some spend their gap year(s) volunteering abroad or working as a scribe or research assistant to gain more clinical and research exposure. Others choose to do something completely different. There is no right or wrong way to apply to medical school, and if you feel as if you need the time off before applying, there’s no harm in doing so!
Before applying to medical school, I decided to pursue a Masters in Biomedical Science at Tufts University School of Medicine. I decided that I wanted to get my masters before applying to see if medical school was the right path for me. My masters program is often referred to as a “Special Masters Program” or SMP. These programs are designed to be similar in curriculum to the first year of medical school and help students boost their academic performance credentials if they feel as if they need to improve from their undergraduate GPAs. There are several known “academic enhancer” masters programs that have well-established curriculums and great advising.
Other students who have not taken the required premedical courses in undergrad but decide later on that they want to pursue a career in medicine may decide to do a “career changer” post-baccalaureate program, in which students take the required premedical classes within a year or so. Some of the well-established post-bac programs have linkage programs with medical schools, so this option is definitely worth exploring as well.
I chose to pursue my masters program, because I was looking for a school that really prioritized their students and community. As I finish up the academic year, I could not be more sure of my choice. Going to Tufts to pursue my masters has been an amazing experience for me. I have had access to medical school professors; admissions officers; various pre-health students across different fields like dentistry, medicine, PA school, etc.; and many other resources in the Boston area. I’ve even been able to get patient exposure by volunteering at a medical-student-free clinic that serves underserved populations in the greater Boston area. I chose a program focused on biomedical science, but I know other premedical students who have pursued masters in Physiology, Public Health, and Bioinformatics before applying to medical school as well. Next year, while I am applying to medical schools, I will be applying my advanced degree in Biomedical Science to the health-tech startup community to improve various gaps in the healthcare system.
There is no right or wrong time to apply to medical school. If you decide that you want to take a gap year and not do a masters program, that’s totally okay too! Many people decide to spend their gap year working in a research lab; working as a scribe; or traveling. My one piece of advice is to really take advantage of your time no matter what you’re doing and to make sure you’re spending your time doing something that you love!