What is a gap year?
A gap year is a year between academia, usually taken between a bachelor degree and a graduate degree in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness. It can be viewed as a ‘year on’ as opposed to a ‘year off’.
Why do people take a gap year?
A gap year is quite common and taken for a variety of reasons! Some view it as a chance to travel, some have a chance to increase experience hours, some for personal reasons and some for financial reasons. Whatever your reason, be sure to evaluate both the pros and cons of your decision.
Things to keep in mind:
Finances will play a large role in your decision. Applying to PA school is quite expensive, CASPA alone can set you back around a thousand dollars and interviews/travels will still need to be factored in. Taking a year off may allow you to gather the necessary funds. On the flip side, if you took loans out from undergrad, you may need to start repaying during your gap year. In general, subsidized loans will begin accruing interest once you are no longer a full time student. Verify with your own loan company in regards to subsidized and unsubsidized loans, interest accrual rate and date of repayment. For more on finances, see this prior blog article
Most people take time off/gap year during their education in order to gather more healthcare experience. The average amount of experience hours accumulated by incoming PA students is 2800 hours. Being a full time student makes it quite difficult to accumulate thousands of quality experience hours. You can find the types of experience recommended for PA school @ (https://www.thehumeruspa.com/blog/2018/12/13/extracurricularactivitiesforpaschool); you have the option of having a paid position in an attempt to gather funds while gathering experience.
There are a variety of personal reasons to take a gap year including but not limited to: familial obligations, travel, religious priorities or an “eat, pray, love” year. Many people to take the year between undergrad and graduate school to get married, to start a family or take time to spend with children, parents or grandparents they haven’t been able to in the past four years. Many people take a full year off of school to travel, see the sights before buckling down for the rigorous PA school. Many take time off for religious priorities whether it be a pilgrimage or other obligations. And some people take an “eat, pray, love” year to discover themselves and what they truly want from life.
There is a rise in nontraditional applicants over the past five years. Non traditional applicants are those who have either majored in something non-science or have a previous career. Many if not all of those who fall into the above categories must take post baccalaureate classes prior to applying to PA school. Some majors may not cover the common prerequisite courses needed for PA schools for even traditional students. Many applicants take a gap year to gather the necessary courses.
A gap year is completely 100% up to each and every individual. Weigh the pros and benefits of you taking a gap year, side with which side is heavier. Don’t fall into the trap that so and so did it or the majority of applicants do not. Don’t follow someone else’s path. Your path is your own and you should carve it yourself.