Waiting to Apply to Health Profession Schools

Trying to balance academics, clinical experiences, community service, research, other extracurricular activities, hobbies, and relationships? Not feeling ready to prepare for your standardized test for admission to health professions schools or to tackle the application process? Not absolutely sure of your career path? Learn more about taking a gap year (or more) before applying to health profession schools.

Taking a Gap Year (Or More)

Trying to balance academics, clinical experiences, community service, research, other extracurricular activities, hobbies, and relationships? Not feeling ready to prepare for your standardized test for admission to health professions schools or to tackle the application process? Not absolutely sure of your career path? Have something you want to explore? Think about taking time (a “gap,” “bridge,” “opportunity,” or “glide” year or years) between completing your undergraduate education and entering health professions school.

  • Your senior grades will be seen and factored into your GPAs
  • You can spread your pre-health requirements over four years
  • You’ll have more time to take additional upper-level science courses
  • Your academic awards and honors achieved in the senior year will show on your transcript and application
  • You’ll have time to take additional courses after graduation if necessary or desired
  • You’ll have more time to prepare for your standardized test required for applications
  • You’ll meet additional professors and other people from whom you can request recommendations
  • You’ll have time to gain additional clinical experience
  • You’ll have time to gain additional service experience
  • You’ll have time to gain additional research experience
  • You can spend time out in the world: your experiences after graduation can help you to be more sure about your career choice, and to become a better applicant by enhancing your knowledge, depth, and maturity
  • You can take advantage of an opportunity to do something you may never have the chance to do again
  • You can take time to recharge after your undergraduate academic efforts
  • Health Professions Advising (HPA) will support you regardless of when you choose to apply
  • Losing momentum: you may be rusty when starting school again
  • You will be a little older beginning your training (but remember that you have your whole life to enjoy your career)
  • You will need to keep abreast of the information and deadlines posted by HPA regarding the application process
  • You’ll need to keep in touch with the professors from Wellesley and others from whom you would like to request letters of recommendation
  • You’ll need to ensure that you have computer/internet access when you apply and that you can be in the US for your interviews
  • You’ll need to make sure that your courses and standardized test scores are not out of date
  • If you are an international student, you will need to be up to date on immigration and work policies and requirements
  • You’ll need to check whether taking a gap year or more means you will need to begin to pay back educational loans

What Can You Do Between College and Health Professions School?

  • Complete and/or strengthen your academic record by taking additional courses on your own or as part of a master’s or post-baccalaureate program
  • Explore careers in healthcare more fully with opportunities to interact with patients, healthcare providers, families, and other members of the healthcare team
  • Participate in service activities such as AmeriCorps, City Year, Health Corps, Partnership for Public Service, Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, Peace Corps, etc.
  • Find bench, clinical, or other research opportunities
  • Travel and learn about people, their cultures, and other systems of healthcare
  • Do anything that will help you to grow as a caring, empathetic, communicative, and collaborative person who advocates for others

How Should You Begin Planning Now?

  • Remember, regardless of your reasons for delaying the application process, it is important that you continue to do some clinically relevant activity during this time.  Be sure that you continue to be engaged in activities in your field and show a continued interest in your health profession
  • Stay in touch with Wellesley Health Professions Advising. Be alert to meetings, information, forms, and required materials that will be necessary as you begin a future application cycle.  It will come sooner than you think
  • Familiarize yourself with the application process by visiting the websites for the application service(s) to which you’ll apply: see Completing Your Application in the APPLYING section
  • Remember that standardized test scores and courses may become outdated for use in future application cycles.  Keep an eye on professional school requirements and make sure you have the required courses and the standardized tests you will need to apply
  • Think about letters of recommendation now.  Speak with faculty members. Some faculty will want to wait until you are actually applying. Others will prefer to write something now while you are fresh in their memories, and will update their letters when you are ready to apply. Keep in touch with letter writers and provide them with updates when you are ready to request your letters
  • Find out about your student loans and if you’ll need to begin paying them if there is a gap in your education
  • International students should check with the Slater International Centerregarding immigration and work policies
  • Meet with your College Career Mentor in Career Education to brainstorm about interests and possibilities
  • Use tools in the Resources section of our website to learn more about preparing resumes and cover lettersnavigating the job searchinterviewing, and more
  • Google job sites, non-profit organizations, fellowships, volunteer organizations, community service organizations, international opportunities, national health organizations, public health organizations, research opportunities, specific hospitals and medical centers, etc.
  • Look on the Health Professions Advising Website to find out strategies for finding researchclinical, and service opportunities
  • Network to find possible opportunities!  Use family, friends, mentors, and find Wellesley alumnae on The Wellesley Hive and LinkedIn
  • Use the Health Professions Advising page on Finding Summer Opportunities to give you ideas about places that might offer internship and job opportunities
  • Use Career Education staff and resources to learn about fellowship and internship opportunities
  • Go to the Handshake website and regularly explore job postings there
  • Use Vault:  Vault.com provides in-depth information on what it’s like to work in an industry, company, or profession and tips on how to land an internship or job. You can also search for jobs and internships directly on their site
  • Interested in an international experience? Use GoinGlobal, a resource offered through the Wellesley Career Education website, that can help you learn about industries and locate jobs and internships abroad
  • Look for paid service opportunities through Service Year
  • Find a medical scribe position through ScribeAmerica and other similar companies
  • The Idealist has advice and listings of organizations and opportunities in US and abroad
  • GreatNonprofits  has reviews and listings of nonprofits searchable by state and metro area
  • Civil and Human Rights Career Center has job postings, fellowships, scholarships, internships, volunteer positions, etc. within organizations that focus on various civil rights issues
  • GuideStar  is a national database for non-profit organizations.  Search and learn about organizations 
  • Backdoor Jobs  posts short-term opportunities
  • Coolworks  is a good place to look for seasonal and recreational jobs
  • SchoolSpring has teaching opportunities across the US
  • Education Week  posts education news and also job listings
  • Chronicle of Philanthropy  has news, advice, job listings in fundraising and development
  • The Yale Office of Career Strategy has a list of opportunities to get you thinking outside of the box
  • The  Johns Hopkins advising website has a terrific resource page
  • The University of Michigan has a useful page that is a sampling of summer and gap year opportunities

Post-Baccalaureate Planning

The description “post-baccalaureate” refers to the time after you’ve graduated from college. In the health professions world, it often denotes programs in which someone could enroll to try to improve her chances for admission to a health professions school.

Students and alumnae may need to take additional coursework after graduation for a variety of reasons. Some prospective applicants haven’t had a chance to complete their required pre-health courses (“career changers”). Others have taken the courses but need to strengthen their knowledge and their grades (“career enhancers”). Prospective applicants may also be looking for programs that will provide research experience, clinical exposure, service opportunities, special linkages to health professions schools' admissions offices, and/or preparation for the required admissions test.  

You should discuss your interests, needs, and options with your health professions advisor. Students and alumnae may enhance the academic portion of their applications in a variety of ways, including by taking individual courses on their own, enrolling in a post-baccalaureate undergraduate program, or entering a master’s-level program. Post-baccalureate programs are extremely varied and provide different services to people with different areas that require strengthing. 

If you do enter a formal post-baccalaureate program, meet with the advisor of the program to determine whether upon application to health professions school you will have a committee letter written by the advisor of the post-baccalaureate program, or if it would be better for you to request a committee letter from the Wellesley Medical Professions Advisory Committee (MPAC). Inform the Director of Health Professions Advising at Wellesley about your decision.

Each applicant has unique needs and should create an individualized plan that is right for her that takes into account time, cost, location, etc.

  1. What type of program would be best for my needs?
  2. How long a program do I want? One year? Two years? Full-time?  Part-time?
  3. How much do programs cost?  Which programs provide financial aid?
  4. What are the programs' success rates in having their graduates accepted into health professions schools?  What are their attrition rates?
  5. Can I work while I'm completing the program?
  6. Is there a certain GPA I need to apply to specific programs?
  7. Which programs require that I take the admissions test prior to applying?  Which programs do not want me to take the admissions test prior to applying?
  8. Do programs have special "linkages" to health professions schools?
  9. Beyond academics, will programs help me to gain clinical, service, and/or research experience?  Is admissions test preparation part of the program?
  10. Who will be in my classes?  Post-bac students?  Undergraduates?  Graduate students?
  11. Do I want to earn a degree from the program that might help me to pursue alternative career pathways?
  12. Does geography matter to me?  Can I live at home while I attend these programs?
  13. Do the pre-health courses I've taken so far dovetail with the way programs are structured?
  14. Would I benefit from programs created specifically to serve underrepresented applicants?
  15. Do these programs provide pre-health advisors and mentors?  Do they write committee letters on behalf of their applicants?
  16. What kind of academic resources are available for tutoring, etc?

Here are some resources for exploration:

  1. The National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions websitehas an explanation of the different types of post-baccalaureate programs and how to learn about them.
  2. The AAMC has detailed information about post-baccalaureate programs, a post-bac search engine to find programs,  and answers to common questions.
  3. Boston College has a detailed webpage on post-baccalaureate programs, including pre-dental and public health information.