What About That Gap
People take gap year(s) for different reasons. I took time
off to explore different careers, whereas some of my classmates took time off
to explore the world or for familial reasons. No matter the reason, taking time
off can be helpful if done correctly. After taking 3 years off and going
through the dental school admissions process, I found that it is important to
present your life choices appropriately and to use your time wisely. Your goal
in the admissions process is to make yourself marketable. In addition to
academic achievements, your marketability is directly linked to how you present
yourself. Therefore, never refer to your gap year(s) as “time off” or as a “gap
year”. A “year of enrichment” sounds so much better. This will help the
admissions committee to view you not as an indecisive adult (which some of us
may be) but as someone who seeks progress both in and out of the classroom.
Since actions speak louder than words, you should use this “year of enrichment”
to do just that…enrich yourself.
As previously mentioned, I have been out of school for 3
years. I used the first two years to further explore several careers of
interest, while continuing to develop my interest in science. During this time
I conducted research at the National Institutes of Health where I taught myself
immunology and collaborated with and learned from world-class physicians and
dentists. Furthermore, I presented my work at two major infectious disease
conferences and published my first of two papers. Therefore, during interviews
it was evident that, in addition to getting good science grades, I was able to
apply my scientific knowledge to real-world problems which will be necessary
when treating patients. Furthermore, collaborating with so many different
people demonstrated my ability to work with people, which is crucial in
I went through the dental school admissions process during
my third year while working as a laboratory manager at a prestigious research
university. Working as a lab manager taught me how to be organized, detail
oriented and flexible. I also gained experience managing people and budgets.
These are all practical skills that dental students and dentists must possess.
This job allowed me to present myself as a well-rounded candidate which helped
me a lot during interviews.
Overall, I believe that my “years of enrichment” helped me
immensely in that I was able to grow scientifically and socially. However,
everyone has his or her own path. I have a friend who upon finishing undergrad,
took two years to obtain his masters and then spent a year doing missions trips
in different countries. In addition to growing academically, my friend’s
travelling experience exposed him to different cultures and further helped him
to become the type of culturally competent person that dental schools are
looking for. He too was very successful in the admissions process.
Year(s) of enrichment can be used to grow as a person and as
a future professional. Therefore, do not worry if you decide not to go directly
to dental school. However, you should use your time outside of the classroom to
do things that will make you a competitive candidate and help you mature. Best
of luck in your journey!
*Original post published on 6/24/2013