Medical School

Benefits of a Gap Year | Why I applied for deferred entry medicine

We’re going to dive straight in with the benefits of a gap year.

Speaking of diving, here’s a picture of me free-diving in Thailand on my gap year.

Benefits of taking a year off.

I personally think that just feeling like you want to take a year off should be reason enough to just do it. However, if you’re still not convinced or looking for a reason to take the leap, here’s my top five benefits of having a year off between School and University.

  1. Avoid Education Fatigue. You will most likely have been in structured education since the age of 4! I know I can’t remember I time when I wasn’t in education (my earliest memories are in Nursery). Give yourself a break from education and take a year off. By the end of the year you will either be excited to get back to learning, or will have discovered that maybe university isn’t for you (and saved yourself at least a year’s tuition)!
  2. Earn some money. A gap year is a fantastic opportunity to earn some money before starting university. Believe me, the whole “I’m a broke student” is a stereotype for a reason! University life is hard work an having a social life can be expensive, especially in a city like London. Although working at university is entirely manageable (I’ve written a whole piece on it before) it is great to have a little extra cash in the bank.
  3. Get some experience living away from home. If you haven’t lived out of your parents’ house before moving into university halls, it may come as quite a chock to you! I really found I was much better equipped for living independently than many of my peers who came straight from their childhood homes.
  4. Pick up non-academic skills. A gap year is a fantastic opportunity to learn a new language, whether it is continuing a language you started learning at GCSE or learning an inclusive language to further your abilities as a healthcare provider, such as British Sign Language. Travelling and immersing yourself in new cultures is a fantastic way to learn a new language as you have no choice but to use it!
  5. Increase you self-confidence. Taking a gap year can increase you sense of maturity, your self-sufficiency and your self-esteem. By earning your own money, living alone and/or travelling without your family for the first time, you will find your independence. Realising you can be self-sufficient is a very liberating feeling, and it is fantastic to have this realisation before attending university, arriving at halls confident that you’ll be fine!

So should everyone be taking a gap year?

I am not at all saying that everyone should or can take a gap year. However, I think that if you are already considering a gap year, then discuss with those around you and with admissions tutors at the universities you are applying to. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

There is also the common occurrence of applicants not getting into medical school on their first attempt. Only approximately 10% of applicants to UK medical schools are accepted each year, and for the large number of school leavers who aren’t successful first time round, a gap year is a great alternative to starting another undergraduate degree and applying for postgraduate medicine. If you are applying to medicine this year, remember to checkout my content on applying for medical school

As you may or may not know, I applied for medical school in October 2013 but didn’t start until September 2015. I chose to take a year out of education, commonly called a gap year.

Many people assume that this must have been because of being rejected from medical school, but I actually applied for differed entry.

I knew from the age of 7 that I wanted to take a year off before I went to university!

My eldest sibling is 11 years older than me, so when I was 7 he was 18 and travelling around Australia with his mates. I was incredibly jealous.

Even as a seven year old, I loved the sun and hot weather. I still do. I would always choose a beach, the sun and the sea over any other holiday!

Does that mean that you knew you wanted to study medicine at seven years old?!

Not at all. I didn’t know that I wanted to study medicine until year twelve, when I was studying my A Levels. But I think I did always assume that I would go to university.

Some people warned me against applying for differed entry medicine. I was told that universities wouldn’t look kindly upon me applying for a 2015 start in 2013, and that I would end up having to apply again in 2014 on my gap year.

They were completely wrong.

University admissions tutors told me that my honesty and excitement regarding my gap year plans was refreshing and interesting. You have to remember that the admissions tutors reading your application, ranking applicants and sitting across from you in an interview are people too. If you have interesting plans, then tell them about them! I bet they would love to hear about your plans to get some work experience as an HCA or phlebotomist. Are you going to save up for a month travelling by working in your family’s newsagents? Tell them! That’s amazing!

I hope that you found this article useful and inspiring! Are you planning on taking a year off, or maybe have ended up taking an unplanned gap year? I would love to hear what you have planned! Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

If you are looking for advice on how to include your gap year plans in your personal statement please contact me, and I can help you out!

Applying to medicine? make sure to check out my aspiring medical student content here!

Sitting the UCAT in 2020? My UCAT Study Guide is available for purchase now on Etsy here.

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Connor is a medical student at King’s College London. For the 19/20 academic year he is undertaking an intercalated iBSc in Imaging Sciences, also at King’s.

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The BMAT explained

10th June 2020