Deciding whether to apply for matriculation to medical school is one of the more important decisions that you should be making right now. For those of you who are undecided, here are a few reasons that it may not hurt to wait.
- Delaying your application will give you more time to study for the MCAT. To be as early as possible in this application cycle (which, as we already know, gives you a better chance to be invited for an interview and thus possibly be accepted at rolling admissions schools), you should be focusing on MCAT no later than April if you want to see your scores before you submit your AMCAS. Applying for this year also means you could spend all summer studying MCAT, and still have time to retake it if necessary before applying.
- You can use senior year to improve your GPA. The numbers part of your applicant profile almost always improves in your senior year because you have more control over the courses you take, and you’re just more acclimated to the college environment. If you’re a senior, you may want to look at various post-graduate options to improve your GPA before applying.
- You might secure stronger letters of recommendation. Again, if you’re a junior, your classes are likely to be smaller next year, and you’ll have more opportunity to forge relationships with your faculty. You’ll also have this summer to work on getting a letter from a supervisor or volunteer coordinator in your summer activity.
- There may be a stronger economy next year. Whenever the economy is suffering, applications to fellowships, graduate programs, and professional schools increase. In 2012 there were 45,266 MD (compared to 42,315 in 2007 when there was a much stronger economy). More applicants mean that med schools can be more selective in who they accept. Preliminary numbers indicate that applications for 2013 have also increased. Waiting a bit could improve your chances based on sheer numbers.
- You can get your finances in order. Medicals school is expensive, as is the process of applying. Taking time away from school may mean that you will, however, have to start replaying student loans. However, working full-time should allow you to make payments on loans during this time (helping to defray some debt load) while also saving money for future applications and related expenses. And if you have a poor credit score, spending time rebuilding your credits credit may also pay off when your file is reviewed by medical school financial aid officers.
- You’ll have more time to focus on the preparations required to apply. You have essays to write, letters of recommendations to gather, MCAT to study for, schools to research, as well as the rest of real life and figuring out what to do this summer. If you can’t spend the time you need on application preparation now (and secondary/supplementary essay writing this summer), it might be better to start getting organized this year, but focus on applying next year.
- “Everyone else is doing it.” Actually, only 43% of Yale applicants for admission to medical school in 2007 were from that year’s graduating class. Indeed, every alumnus with whom we have talked states that he/she benefited tremendously from taking time off. They have all found something productive to do in their time off, and in fact admissions directors routinely tells us that these applicants in general are more attractive because of this new experience as well as the maturity that one gains from being in the “real world” for awhile.
- You can gain more experience in your chosen field and most likely be more articulate, both on paper and in person, describing your commitment to a career in medicine. Without having participated substantively in some activities that allow you to serve the community and to build the skills you need to be a empathic physician, it will be difficult to convince schools that you have a realistic understanding of what you’re about to undertake. The more time you spend in health-related settings, the better you’ll be when interviewing and the easier it will be to focus on your medical school applications. If you need more experiences to back up your “gut” feeling that you “must” be a doctor, by all means take the time NOW to find those experiences. If you’re having trouble writing your essay or practicing interview answers, you may just need additional time and experiences to collect your thoughts and present them in a professional manner.
- Life is short! After you matriculate to medical school, it is more difficult to take time off. You are more likely to have financial and/or family concerns, a curriculum that may prevent you from traveling, and a professional school that does not value academic breaks/leaves of absence. Health professions school will still be there for you when you are ready to apply and the Yale Health Professions Advisory Board will be there to assist you with the application process.
This list was originally prepared by Kate-Fukawa-Connelly, Director of Health Professions at Princeton University, and subsequently modified by the Health Professions Advisory Board of Yale College.