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Gap year after undergrad?


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Hey everyone,


I've found many people are incredibly helpful here on PM101, so I hope I can get some feedback/suggestions from people and I apologize for the long message!


I'm a 4th year U of T St. George student and I'm thinking about my options in case (of the very likely scenario that) I don't get in this cycle. My success pretty much rests on my pending MCAT scores now, since my cGPA is ~3.5 (3.67/3.05/3.88) and first MCAT 31Q (10/9/12) are really borderline for Ontario.


From what I've gathered, if my 4th year goes according to plan >3.8 and my MCAT comes out 10+ across the board, I should stand a chance for Western this year. Same goes for Queen's if I apply again after graduation, but that leaves me with a year to fill up. I've only applied through OMSAS this year since money is a concern, but I plan to apply broadly to Canada and US next year if necessary.


The options I'm aware of are as follows:

1. Take year off, work/volunteer and re-apply after 4th year

2. Do a 2-year Masters, re-apply after (any comments on 1 year course-based Masters?)

3. Do a 5th year to bring up grades

4. SMP in the States...?


I think currently I'd like to take a year off or do a 1 year course-based Masters, but I'm aware graduate work has minimal benefit when research productivity is not shown (esp. U of T?). My concern with a research-based Masters is that there's no guarantee I'll be done in 2 years, and I can't apply next year since most schools require that I finish the degree before I matriculate. As for doing a 5th year, I'm not sure how much of an impact that will have on my cGPA, since my GPA suffered primarily due to a few low marks in 2nd year. Has anyone been through the process in a similar situation recently? I'd really appreciate any information and insight anyone can suggest. Thanks!

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^Sounds like we're in a similar situation. I'm a UT St George student with a similar GPA. I'm currently doing a gap year with no courses and applying to everywhere in Ontario. I was accepted into a research Masters but couldn't find a prof to to give me a project/fund me.


Honestly, this gap year is pretty good if you do a lot of volunteering. There are good options for casual jobs on campus to keep you afloat. I also have the time to research a whole bunch of professional school options and can focus on writing great letters of intent.


Who knows, maybe not finding a prof for a Masters is a blessing in disguise and med school will work out!

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I don't think it really matters about what you do in the gap year(s) following graduation as long as you can talk about it and show that you have improved as a person/applicant through those experiences. So the most important thing is to do what you like/enjoy and it will show through on your application.


Regarding graduate school, the research based degrees can teach you a lot about the topic you are studying but also about yourself (your strengths, weakness, your ability to put up with the failures to get to the end and much more). Now, as you mention, there is no guarantee that you will be able to finish in 2 years and there is no guarantee of publications. Many people say that its all about the effort you put in and as long as you are working hard everyday, you should be able to finish on time. This is not always true since no matter how hard you work, if you are stuck with a crappy project that doesn't yield significant results, life can become very miserable from there on.


A lot of people in grad school are not able to get a publication especially if they don't find great significant results. Nonetheless, you can attend a conference or two to present your findings, gain various skills and get some awesome reference letters from committee members. Maybe others can comment on the effects of not being able to have publications in the application process.

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Will it look bad on a med school or master's application if I take a year off? In that year off I'd be volunteering and and having a full-time/part-time job. Is that enough justification to take a year off?

Basically if I don't get in this year I don't have a concrete Plan B...


^ I have the same concern, given that the medical school application in Canada has such a strong focus on academics... can anyone weigh in on this? On one hand I feel like it's good to take some time off, but at least with doing a Masters, if all else fails, I get a Masters out of it.



Thanks for the opinions everyone; I really appreciate hearing some different perspectives.

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A gap year won't look bad by any means, as long you're staying busy, staying involved, and expanding your CV with things that you're personally interested in. There's nothing wrong with working and volunteering. The relevant personnel at Med schools definitely won't 'look down' on a gap year after undergrad... unless you take a 12 month vacation.


It's a bad idea in general to do grad school as a plan B if you're not actually heavily interested in doing grad school. Going through the motions in a Masters program would do less for your chances than an invigorating year in the work/volunteer force would.


An accomplished Physician who took a 'gap' year before his Med acceptance told me this, btw. He has also been involved in the admission process at a particular school.

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I'm in the midst of taking a year off, and so far it feels like a fantastic decision. I guess "year off" is the wrong word - I'm working full time, but it's a year outside of academia, which is something I felt was important. I worked throughout university, but I did a lot of research jobs, working at school and in hospitals... certainly not a bad thing, but I also wanted to get some outside experiences to broaden my horizons. I'm getting a ton of incredible real-world experience at my job that I never would have gotten otherwise.


Getting out of school and doing something different has allowed me to grow more than I could have possibly expected, and I've been learning like crazy and filling in weaknesses I never would have even known I had if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone and into the working world. Of course, that's just my experience - everyone is different - but if you can manage to find full-time work that's challenging and interesting, then I'd highly recommend it. I already feel like I'll be a much better applicant (and, hopefully, a better doctor someday) because of it.

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