How to Make the Most of a Gap Year
Whether you’ve planned a gap year or not, they really are amazingly useful periods of time to have. Whether you’ve got an offer for Medicine or not, you can really spend some time dedicated to achieving your personal goals, whether that’s travelling, working, relaxing – or a bit of all three.
If you have an offer for Medicine:
Well done! This is a year you can really relax and focus on getting yourself ready for university.
Explore your interest in Medicine
For many, this involves getting a job so that they can afford to not worry about money so much whilst studying. For others, this is a time to check whether medicine is the right thing for them, by getting work experience or spending time in healthcare settings.
Why not combine the two and work as a healthcare assistant? You can join the NHS Bank system where you can sign up for shifts whenever it works for you and nothing helps you get to grips with the hospital and how it runs than working on the wards for a year. Working is a brilliant way to bulk out your wallet and your CV, and you can fit around things that you really want to do.
Practice your interpersonal skills
Spending a year doing anything working with people, whether that’s voluntary or paid, is invaluable. Up until now you’ve spent most of your time either in school, studying or sleeping – so practice those interpersonal skills so needed by doctors. It’ll help you make friends once you get to university, help you strike up a rapport with patients and in general just make you a better medical student. The more time you spend with strangers, the more confidence you’ll get – and you’ll need plenty when you’re on the wards as a student.
Many people also choose to travel with their gap year. Once you start medical school, the opportunities to go travelling for such a long period of time really drop off, especially the further into medical school you get.
Travelling helps you to broaden your horizons, gives you more in common with patients and will hopefully help you relax and enjoy your free time before getting back into studying. Having a year to see different cultures and gain new experiences will enable you to be more open to them when you encounter them at university as well.
Travelling is an excellent way to prepare yourself for the independence that comes with moving away for university. It’s the perfect time to practice budgeting, cooking, cleaning and generally looking after yourself without the commitment and pressure of the first term at university. Maybe travelling will be the first time you’ve spent truly on your own, teaching you what it’ll be like in those first few days of university. Making friends with other travellers is the perfect way to work out what it’s going to be like leaving home and making new friends at medical school.
Try something new
You have a year in which you can spend some intense time on your goals. Maybe you’ve always wanted to work in America. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to sky-dive, or skinny dip, or work with orphans in Africa.
Maybe you have relatives that live in another country and you’ve been desperate for some time to visit and really spend quality time with them. Perhaps you want to write a novel, or explore a different career for a bit before you commit your life to medicine. Maybe you want to work on your fitness so you can join a new sports team in your new city. Whatever you do, remember you’ll never have this much freedom again, so make it count!
If you don’t have an offer for Medicine:
Not to worry! A gap year is the perfect time to show medical schools that you’ve really truly thought about what medicine entails and why you want to do it.
Strengthen your Medicine application
Gap years are built for people who want to prove themselves. Nothing shows more dedication than spending a year out of school, away from the pressures of teachers that desperately want you to do well, and still coming back and saying you still want to go to medical school.
Whether it’s bulking out your personal statement with work in care homes or hospitals, you have plenty of time to really work on your application. Nothing shows you’re more ready for medical school than showing you’ve taken that extra year to really get yourself ready by studying what medicine and hospitals are really all about. You can read more about how to strengthen your application on our blog, What To Do If You Don’t Receive Your Offers.
Develop your non-academic skills
Any type of work with people is useful, as is anything that shows you have a high level of responsibility, time management and empathy. You already have grades to show them you have the intellectual capacity to do medicine, so show them you have the other skills, the ones they can’t teach. And remember, relax- show them that whilst you do want to be a doctor, you understand it’s not the be all and end all and that you can manage your time effectively getting in both work and play.
Words: Katie Hodgkinson