Planning for a Gap Year

The term "Gap Year" reflects a year (or years) taken after graduation but before beginning medical or other health professions school.  The term gap year is misleading.  While it does reflect a gap between graduation and matriculation, the year is actually used for important and significant activities and thus is a year of growth, discovery, experience and maturation.  More than 75% of Duke students will take at least one gap year; nationally the average age of applicants entering medical school is around 24.  

What are the advantages of taking a gap year?

  • It's easier to work in prehealth required courses over a four year period
  • The extra senior year of classes can show advanced classes, graduation with distinction, and a stronger and more robust GPA
  • You have time for study abroad and robust summer experiences
  • You can put more energy into special interests (e.g., athletics)
  • You have more time for career exploration
  • A gap year spent in research can be particularly useful if you are applying to MD-PhD programs
  • A year of experience in economics, global health, finance, writing, teaching, etc. can give you background and skills that will be useful as a health care provider
  • It gives you time to recharge between Duke and medical school
  • It gives you time to be an independent employed adult, especially if you have always lived at home or in a dorm and have always been a student

What might you do during a gap year?

  • Take classes
  • Research
  • Enroll in a graduate program of interest
  • Enroll in a post-baccalaureate program
  • Serve others (Peace CorpsAmeriCorpsTeach for AmericaIndicorpsJesuit Volunteer Corps)
  • Work in healthcare as a scribe
  • Become an EMT
  • Gain leadership experience
  • Work in a business
  • Pursue an interest or dream (e.g. sports, writing, performing arts, entrepreneurship)
  • Continue to engage in health care experience and service to others when possible

The HPA office will offer Gap Year programming during the year; watch the HPA Newsletter for announcements. 

See the following for more information: