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What to do during a gap year before medical school

Posted: October 12, 2022

5 min read

A gap year for college students can be a great way to prepare for studying medicine. Here’s what to do during a gap year before medical school.

Taking a gap year between college and medical school can be the breather you need from the rigorous application process and intense studies. You’ll have precious time to do what you love while gaining valuable experience for your application. 

Make the most of your time off with our tips on what to do during a gap year before medical school.

What is a gap year?


A gap year is a break from your studies, usually for the length of an academic year. Taking a gap year before starting medical school gives you more time to work on your application and pursue your personal interests. 

Once you start medical school, you probably won’t have much time to travel, learn new skills, or spend time on your hobbies. Gap year benefits include having the freedom to focus on these activities, before tackling the commitment of years of medical study. 

What’s more, the lessons you learn outside of the classroom are being seen as more and more desirable, particularly in medical school applications.  


Gap year ideas

If you have any major gaps in your resume, taking a gap year is a chance to address those and gain experience in the right areas. Community service, research  or volunteering gap year opportunities can all help give your application to medical school an edge. 

GVI offers a wide range of volunteering programs and gap year internships that combine skills development with adventure, giving you the best of both worlds. 

As well as comprehensive training, our programs also give you access to experienced mentors who are experts in their fields, meaning you can come away with a great recommendation for your medical school application. 

And if you’re keen on taking a gap year before medical school but can’t afford the time or money to travel right now, you can start with our Global Public Health online course, or Global Public Health online internship and travel at a later stage. 


Teach English abroad

Joining a volunteer teaching program abroad or teaching internship demonstrates your leadership abilities, empathy and willingness to use your skills to serve others. 

It’s also a great way to develop your interpersonal and intercultural skills, which are valuable for a career in medicine.



Teaching English abroad is also an excellent opportunity to experience international travel to destinations such as Cambodia, Madagascar or Costa Rica


Assist with international community development

Choosing to focus on community development activities during your gap year can demonstrate your commitment to supporting others. 

You can also learn more about the holistic health of communities and global issues that affect  health, such as gender equality and sanitation.

Taking part in international community development programs will show that you’re a well-rounded individual with a global perspective.


Volunteer in public health

Our volunteer health programs and internships in countries around the world, including Ghana, Nepal, and Cambodia and Costa Rica.


Volunteering or interning abroad in preventative health projects can help to show your commitment to a career in medicine. As well as giving you something to write about on your application, public health volunteering can help you learn more about the wider field you’re planning to enter. 

As a volunteer, you could build on  communities’ knowledge on topics such as HIV and AIDS or nutrition, or assist with gaining access to clean water and improved sanitation. 

One important thing to note is that GVI’s public health programs align with our code of ethics, which means they don’t include medical activities.




What to consider when looking into preventative health gap year programs abroad

In a gap year before medical school, it might seem logical to pursue healthcare volunteering

But, it’s important to make sure you select programs that distinguish between healthcare and public health programs. 

The reason for this is that unskilled, unqualified medical volunteering is unethical. 

Medical volunteer programs involve diagnostic activities, carrying out procedures, providing prescriptions, and other medical activities that require formal academic training, qualifications and medical licences. 

In programs that include these kinds of medical activities, there’s a risk of harm to everyone involved. As a student about to enter medical school you won’t be equipped to carry out these skilled activities safely. 

While GVI does train volunteers in Emergency First Response skills, for ethical reasons our volunteers and interns  don’t participate in medical procedures. 

Instead, we offer public health, or preventative health programs. These projects are still of great value and benefit to you in your gap year before medical school. 

The focus is on preventing illness and injury through education, which gives you the chance to work closely with community members. 

You could contribute towards health awareness and education workshops, or assist qualified health professionals in collecting relevant data on health. 


Take part in ethical preventative health gap year opportunities and other meaningful volunteering projects with GVI. Browse our range of volunteer programs and internships today.

Some images by: Lukas Allspach and Ian Taylor

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