Gap year students

Are you thinking about taking a gap year? Make sure you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish during this time away from school and plan wisely—a year (or two) can fly by.

Gap Year: A span of time between the end of undergraduate education and the beginning of dental school. It can be longer than a year depending on your circumstances.

Reasons to Take a Gap Year

  • To strengthen your dental school application, or reapply.
  • To get your finances in order.
  • To refocus after a busy undergraduate career.

This is an opportunity to work on strengthening your application, therefore, you should approach the gap year with a plan.  How will you spend your time, what kinds of things will you do to improve your application.  Some students have decided to take a gap year because they believe they need the rest before starting dental school.  If you are taking a gap year because you feel you need a break, then it is important to maybe work on yourself.  Work on finding ways to handle stress, learn and practice meditation or work on your overall health.  Find something that is mentally stimulating and expands your mind.  The key point is to do something you are sincerely interested in doing.

Preparing for a Gap Year

To maximize your gap year, focus on what motivated you to take one in the first place. What are your weaknesses as a dental school applicant, and how can you strengthen them? Meet with your health professions advisor or career counselor, and get feedback from admissions officers at the schools where you plan to apply. Ask them how you can strengthen your application and your ability to be a successful dental professional.

Discussing Your Gap Year during Interviews

Instead of worrying about how your gap year will be viewed by admissions, use your year(s) to prepare how you will describe your experience during dental school interviews. Talk about what you accomplished during your gap year that makes you a better applicant and future health professional. Explain how your gap year experience made you a better person overall. Be honest about how the year affected you beyond working through your dental and professional concerns, and highlight how your experiences strengthened your desire to become a dental professional.

Preparing Financially for Dental School

A gap year is a great time to get your finances in order, especially after incurring costs from undergraduate education. Some decide to use this time to determine how they will cover the cost of dental school. 

Questions to Ask Your Advisor

  • How will taking a gap year impact my application?  
  • What suggestions or recommendations would you have for me during this time? 
  • What are the benefits of/challenges with taking a gap year?
  • Should I continue to shadow during my gap year? 
  • Should I engage in an abroad program where I can get experience/exposure to dentistry? 

Obtaining Letters of Evaluation

You should meet with your health professions advisor to discuss any plans for a gap year. During this discussion, ask your advisor how letters of evaluation will be handled. This varies by institution. Some colleges collect the letters and hold them for the student, some will encourage the student to meet with those faculty for whom they are seeking a letter of recommendation and let them know of their plans and that they will be asking for the letter a year later. Meeting with faculty and health professions advisors is critical to assuring that you will be able to obtain your letters at a later date. During your gap year be sure to maintain contact with these individuals by updating them on your activities and letting them know where you are in the application process.