Words From Your Peers

What About That Gap

Posted by Vanessa Moore on June 01, 2014

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 dentistry.

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

About Vanessa Moore:

Vanessa Moore

University of Maryland School of Dentistry, Class of 2017

Vanessa was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She studied Chemistry and Spanish at Wells College, and upon graduating, conducted research for two years at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases(NIAID). After finishing with NIAID, she worked for a year at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Vanessa is a first year student  at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry this August.