Waiting to Apply to Health Profession Schools

Trying to balance academics, clinical experiences, community service, research, other extracurricular activities, hobbies, and relationships? Not feeling ready to prepare for your standardized test for admission to health professions schools or to tackle the application process? Not absolutely sure of your career path? Learn more about taking a gap year (or more) before applying to health profession schools.

Taking a Gap Year (Or More)

It is increasingly common to take time off between undergraduate education and professional school. For example, the average age for starting medical school is 24, with over 70% of medical school students taking at least one gap year. At Wellesley, this number is higher, with over 80% taking one or more gap years. Because so many applicants are taking time off and working, applicants who apply to go direct are competing with candidates with more experience.

Wellesley applicants who are ready to apply direct do quite well in the application process. As you are considering taking a gap year, review the Self-Assessment to decide if you are ready to apply or if you would be better off taking more time to gain experiences, increase your GPA or study for your entrance exam.

  • Your senior grades will be seen and factored into your GPAs
  • You can spread your pre-health requirements over four years
  • You’ll have more time to take additional upper-level science courses
  • Your academic awards and honors achieved in the senior year will show on your transcript and application
  • You’ll have time to take additional courses after graduation if necessary or desired
  • You’ll have more time to prepare for your standardized test required for applications
  • You’ll meet additional professors and other people from whom you can request recommendations
  • You’ll have time to gain additional clinical, service and research experiences
  • You can spend time out in the world: your experiences after graduation can help you to be more sure about your career choice, and to become a better applicant by enhancing your knowledge, depth, and maturity
  • You can take advantage of an opportunity to do something you may never have the chance to do again
  • You can take time to recharge after your undergraduate academic efforts
  • Health Professions Advising (HPA) will support you regardless of when you choose to apply
  • Losing momentum: you may be rusty when starting school again
  • You will be a little older beginning your training (but remember that you have your whole life to enjoy your career)
  • You will need to keep abreast of the information and deadlines posted by HPA regarding the application process
  • You’ll need to keep in touch with the professors from Wellesley and others from whom you would like to request letters of recommendation
  • You’ll need to ensure that you have computer/internet access when you apply and that you can be in the US for your interviews
  • You’ll need to make sure that your courses and standardized test scores are not out of date
  • If you are an international student, you will need to be up to date on immigration and work policies and requirements
  • You’ll need to check whether taking a gap year or more means you will need to begin to pay back educational loans

Gap Year Ideas

Because so many pre-health students are taking time to work between undergraduate and professional school, there are a growing number of one or two year positions available in reseach, service and clinical settings. Common gap year experiences include:

  • Working in a bench, clinical, or other research position
  • Working in a clinical setting as an EMT, Certified Nurses Aid (CNA), Medical Assistant, Medical Scribe, Emergency Room Technician, Mental Health Assistant or optometry assistant.
  • Participating in service activities such as AmeriCorps, City Year, Health Corps, Partnership for Public Service, Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, or Peace Corps.
  • Completing and/or strengthening your academic record by taking additional courses on your own or as part of a master’s or post-baccalaureate program
  • Traveling and learning about people, their cultures, and other systems of healthcare
  • Working in public health, public policy, or for a non-profit.
  • Doing anything that will help you to grow as a caring, empathetic, communicative, and collaborative person who advocates for others

Gap Year Planning

  • Keep active in a clinical setting through work or volunteering. Learn more about your career as you approach your application cycle.
  • Stay in touch with Wellesley Health Professions Advising. Note all deadlines and meetings in your calendar.
  • Familiarize yourself with the application process: see Completing Your Application in the APPLY section.
  • Plan for your standardized test, making sure that it won't expire before you apply.
  • Think about letters of recommendation now.  Speak with faculty members before you leave campus. Keep in touch with letter writers and provide them with updates when you are ready to request your letters.
  • Talk to financial aid to understand if you will need to begin paying back student loans.
  • International students should check with the Slater International Center regarding immigration and work policies.
  1. Meet with your College Career Mentor in Career Education to brainstorm about interests and possibilities
  2. Use tools in the Resources section of our website to learn more about preparing resumes and cover lettersnavigating the job searchinterviewing, and more
  3. Go to the Handshake website and regularly explore job postings there
  4. Look on the Health Professions Advising Website to find out strategies for finding researchclinical, and service opportunities
  5. Network to find possible opportunities!  Use family, friends, mentors, and find Wellesley alumnae on The Wellesley Hive and LinkedIn
  6. Use Career Education staff and resources to learn about fellowship and internship opportunities

Following are potential positions to consider:

Post-Baccalaureate Planning

If your grades have not met requirements for admission at graduation, consider a Post Bac program where you can take additional coursework. There are options to either take additional undergraduate courses or to complete a master's degree program. The AAMC has more information about doing a post bac and a searchable list of post bac programs.

These programs are extremely varied and provide different services. Some programs cater to prospective applicants who haven’t had a chance to complete their required pre-health courses (“career changers”), others are for students who have taken the courses but need to strengthen their knowledge and their grades (“career enhancers”). Prospective applicants may also be looking for programs that will provide research experience, clinical exposure, service opportunities, special linkages to health professions schools' admissions offices, and/or preparation for the required admissions test. It is a good idea to talk to a Health Professions Advisor as you plan to apply to Post-Bac programs to ensure you are choosing a school that will be a good fit.

Each applicant has unique needs and should create an individualized plan that is right for her that takes into account time, cost, location, etc.

  1. What type of program would be best for my needs?
  2. How long a program do I want? One year? Two years? Full-time?  Part-time?
  3. How much do programs cost?  Which programs provide financial aid?
  4. What are the programs' success rates in having their graduates accepted into health professions schools?  What are their attrition rates?
  5. Can I work while I'm completing the program?
  6. Is there a certain GPA I need to apply to specific programs?
  7. Which programs require that I take the admissions test prior to applying?  Which programs do not want me to take the admissions test prior to applying?
  8. Do programs have special "linkages" to health professions schools?
  9. Beyond academics, will programs help me to gain clinical, service, and/or research experience?  Is admissions test preparation part of the program?
  10. Who will be in my classes?  Post-bac students?  Undergraduates?  Graduate students?
  11. Do I want to earn a degree from the program that might help me to pursue alternative career pathways?
  12. Does geography matter to me?  Can I live at home while I attend these programs?
  13. Do the pre-health courses I've taken so far dovetail with the way programs are structured?
  14. Would I benefit from programs created specifically to serve underrepresented applicants?
  15. Do these programs provide pre-health advisors and mentors?  Do they write committee letters on behalf of their applicants?
  16. What kind of academic resources are available for tutoring, etc?