Many pre-health professions students choose to take at least one year off after they complete their Bachelor's degree. In fact, over 60% of first-time applicants to medical school apply after their senior year or later. Having a time off between undergraduate studies and beginning a program in the health professions is often beneficial for applicants and does not hurt your chances of admission as long as you continue to strengthen your application. It allows time to gain additional life experiences, continue volunteering, or pursue non-academic interests; it is a positive thing! Many students ask what they should do during their time off. To create the best plan for you, it’s essential to evaluate yourself as an applicant and determine if you have any weaknesses in your current preparation. Talking with an advisor in the OAA can help you make the most of your time off.
Parents: We understand you want what is best for your student. If your student tells you that they want or need a gap year between Rice and medical/dental school, please listen with an open mind. The OAA at Rice publicly endorses gap years, and we would like to reassure parents that students who take a gap year (or two or three!) always benefit from the extra time to strengthen their applications. Please feel free to explore the resources below.
Click here to see the top 10 reasons to take a gap year.
Click here to view the AAMC's page on gap years.
I want to strengthen my research experience.
- Rice has many faculty working on research year-round. Consider joining a lab to work either full-time or part-time during your gap year. Other research opportunities exist in labs housed within the Texas Medical Center.
- Center for Civic Leadership - Fulbright Scholarship
- Center for Civic Leadership - Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship
- National Institutes of Health Training Programs
- National Institutes of Health PREP Program
I want to gain more clinical exposure.
- Use your time off to shadow physicians or other professionals, or to volunteer in a clinic or other healthcare facility. Even if you're working full or part time, you can still volunteer on nights and weekends at hospitals or clinics to gain additional experience with patients or in a healthcare setting.
- Consider part-time or full-time employment during your gap year through medical scribing or through an entry-level certification like becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), phlebotomist, patient care technician, etc.
I want to boost my GPA and/or MCAT score.
- Take additional science courses as a post-baccalaureate. You may decide to supplement your undergraduate curriculum with additional science courses in order to boost your overall academic record. You may take these courses at a 4-year university close to your home or here in Houston.
- Enroll in a special master's program designed to enhance your academic record. Many options exist, but typically they are non-thesis degrees in the life sciences that allow you to go to school full time and demonstrate your academic ability in an upper-level setting. Most of these non-thesis master's degrees can be completed in 1-2 years. The AAMC has a postbaccalaureate pre-medical programs list that can be found here. We have also listed some great example programs below:
- Loyola University Chicago - Master of Science in Medical Physiology
- Georgetown University - Master of Science in Physiology
- Brown University - Master of Science in Medical Science (Gateways)
- University of North Texas Health Science Center - Master of Science in Medical Science
- Texas Tech University Health Science Center - Master of Science in Graduate Medical Education Sciences
- Spend your senior year studying for and retaking the MCAT if you are unhappy with your first score.
I want to demonstrate a stronger commitment to my community or explore another interest before entering health professions school.
- Your gap year(s) may be the only chance you get to devote a significant amount of time to something other than your career. Perhaps there is a non-profit at which you've always wanted to volunteer. Now can be a great time to do that.
- Center for Civic Leadership - Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and Luce Scholarship
- If you have an interest in public health, consider the UTHealth 4+1 Master of Public Health (MPH) program and earn your MPH in one additional year.
- Traveling abroad during your gap year(s) can be very fulfilling. Often, you gain perspective, skills, and unique experience from traveling abroad that can enhance your application.
If you are going to take a gap year and will be applying to your health professions programs a second time, consider these helpful tips as you consider re-applying.
Often, the best approach to reapplying to medical school is to not immediately reapply in the next application cycle. Taking additional time to focus on the weaknesses of your application will allow you to be most successful. You can consult with an OAA advisor before making the decision about which application cycle to apply in next.