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

What have other Duke students done during their gap year(s)?

Their experiences are widely varied and tailored to each alum’s interests or needs! Learn from five Duke alums who were members of the October 2021 Gap Year Alumni Panel Discussion by reviewing their brief bios and viewing the recorded Zoom panel discussion here.

How can you learn more about planning your gap year experience?

Review resources from the Fall 2021 Gap Year Planning Labs: