If you have taken time off and need to explain why in your application, you should look at a medical school gap year secondary essay example or two. If you have taken a gap year before medical school, you might find yourself in the position of needing to explain why. Most medical schools provide an opportunity to speak to this gap year, often in your medical school secondary essays.

It’s important to talk about your gap year because the gap can be seen as either a positive or negative by your institution. You need to show yourself as the perfect candidate, so take advantage of this opportunity.

In this article, we’ll talk about gap years and give you medical school secondary essay examples that speak specifically to gap years. This way, you can write your own and attend the med school of your dreams.

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Article Contents
10 min read

Why Take a Gap Year? Dos and Don’ts of a Gap Year Secondary Essay Medical School Gap Year Secondary Essay Examples Conclusion FAQs

Why Take a Gap Year?

There are lots of great reasons for a gap year as well as a couple of uncomfortable reasons that you can turn into positives.

Unsure of taking a gap year before medical school? Watch this video:

Cash Flow

Medical school is expensive. You might have needed an extra year to work a job or two and save up. This is not a problem; admissions committees know this. If you’re heading into your gap year, try to find work that has some bearing on health care so that you can double up on reasons for your gap year.

You can’t make an essay out of, “I needed money,” however. You should talk about your responsibilities, which could include supporting family members. You should also demonstrate your prudence, planning, and forethought and talk about your long-term goals. This way, you’re not just discussing the reality of needing money but illuminating your character and showing why you’re an ideal candidate for medical school.


You might need to pick up extra courses to make your application work. Maybe you actually need a course you don’t have. Maybe you just want higher grades for a better transcript, so you’re retaking some classes. However it shakes down, picking up your academic muster is a great reason for a gap year.

When speaking to your courses, talk about how they have improved your knowledge and understanding – show, don’t tell, using examples that show your improvement.

Gaining Experiences

You wanted to see the world, meet people, and find out about other cultures, so you took a year off while you had the opportunity. Great! Medical schools love a well-rounded individual who has the empathy derived from journeying to other destinations. Talk about your travels in the world and how they have shaped and changed your outlook on life.

Personal Reasons

Sometimes, personal responsibilities create pitfalls that get in our way. You might have had to deal with an illness or other strain in your personal life. This could be tragic – like the loss of a loved one and the fallout from that experience. Taking a gap year to deal with trauma is fine. Talk about your experiences – as much as you are able – and how they have changed you.

Requirement or Failure

This is the hardest gap year essay to write. You flunked a course and needed to retake it. How to get into medical school with a low GPA requires making certain moves – like retaking courses – to realize your dream. If you need a higher score due to medical school GPA requirements, or because you can’t get into medical school with a low MCAT, you might need to write about this experience.

Take heart: you can turn a negative into a positive! Say that you could have taken your lower grades and gone for one of the easiest medical schools to get into but that you are convinced that an institution with higher thresholds would fit you best. Provide the reasons you believe that is true. Talk about how you don’t rest until you’ve worked your hardest. Talk about how your failures will never hold you back or be repeated. Your “failure” can turn into an essay about the hardest-working, fastest-learning student the admissions committee has ever seen.

Dos and Don’ts of a Gap Year Secondary Essay

You need to highlight the experiences you have had, lessons you’ve learned, and growth you’ve undergone during your gap year. At the same time, avoid vagueness in your essay that will leave your admissions committee thinking poorly of your usage of time.



  • Complain about circumstances that caused the gap year. You can speak to the reasons why, just don’t be negative – that sounds like you’re stuck wallowing in self-pity.
  • Give the impression you haven’t done much over the gap year.
  • Just list activities you participated in without expanding on how you have grown as a result.

Medical School Gap Year Secondary Essay Examples

While essays from different schools might have different word limits, most are between 500 and 750 words. You can go a little lower or higher than that, depending on the school.

Medical School Gap Year Secondary Essay No.1: 

I was heartbroken. On reviewing my transcript in connection with my top-choice medical school, I discovered that I was two courses short. Inorganic Chemistry – with lab – and a mathematics course in Statistics were both prerequisites. As it had been communicated to me, they were optional, and I had taken different courses for chemistry and math.

At first, I was filled with despair and anger, but those feelings passed quickly as I realized that I could be upset all I wanted, but what I really wanted was to move forward and go to the school of my dreams. It wasn’t time to feel sorry for myself; it was time to get to work.

While I was not keen to delay my future, I took advantage of every option I could. I was able to take both courses at a local community college and have time to really focus on them, plus I could get a job and save up money for medical school.

What I had been dreading, I wound up loving. My Inorganic Chemistry course was fascinating. I particularly loved the laboratory work, where I wound up doing experiments in thermodynamics. I was allowed to come in on weekends to conduct research; I had to ask for extra time because of how exciting and engaging I was finding the work to be. My research was on how energy is lost in energy-matter conversions, and I wrote a paper on why perpetual motion machines cannot work. I’m not pretending this was groundbreaking research, but it was a wonderful expedition into a new world.

In the second half of my course, I researched magnets and how they might affect medicine. I’m not talking about the use of magnets in healing, but how magnetic fields might affect medical technology. We use magnets in MRIs, for example, but these can damage other medical technology like pacemakers. I found all the lab work and experimentation in this course both intriguing and inspiring. 

Statistics class was less fun. Cataloguing and number crunching has never been my strong suit, and I must admit that this disinclination toward this branch of mathematics was why I avoided the course when I thought it was optional. However, as difficult as I found it, I am glad I took the course. While I still don’t enjoy working with statistics, I am comfortable doing so. This has improved my confidence, and I no longer feel intimidated when contemplating the prospect of documenting patients or looking for anomalies in datasets to help diagnose problems.

My gap year started as a frustrating necessity that I accepted with a sigh. But during the year, I have gained confidence, piqued my curiosity, and learned that hard work and a good attitude can change a very negative experience into a positive one. I feel like a better person – not just a better candidate – thanks to this wonderful year.

Here're some more tips for making your medical school application stand out:

Medical School Gap Year Secondary Essay No.2: 

When we got the news, I was heartbroken, but not because it would mean a delay before pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor. Well, that was part of it, but my real sorrow came from the news that my mother was very sick and would need a tremendous amount of care.

It wasn’t just one thing, but several. In addition to a recent cancer diagnosis, she had had a bad accident while mountain climbing – one of her passions – and suffered a fractured leg and a concussion. I knew that between home care and medical bills, I would not be going to school in the fall.

Mom insisted that I go anyway, but I knew she would need me at home, so I insisted right back until she gave in. She’s not always easy to get along with, particularly since the concussion. It doesn’t matter to me. We might argue from time to time, but she’s still my mother and I couldn’t love her more if I tried. So, I canceled my medical school applications with letters of apology, and I learned what kind of home care Mom would need.

I was already working a part-time job in the evenings, doing some lab work with my Uncle Greg. Uncle Greg is a big influence in my life, and his scientific leanings inspired me to study biology and ultimately medicine. Moreover, he is more of a dad than anyone I’ve ever known. I explained the situation to Uncle Greg, and he offered me as many hours as he could. I also picked up a job working at a hardware store.

Everything went fine for a month or two, but I was feeling the emotional strain. Uncle Greg came around more to help out, and a neighbor also started coming by. This is when I recognized the importance of community in handling hard times. Pride is a luxury: I asked for help and got it. I found so many people in my friend circle who were willing to help, even in little ways like preparing a meal or letting me vent my frustrations and helping me emotionally.

Throughout my gap year, I came to appreciate the value of family and community as I never had before. It was harrowing and difficult, but I came through feeling cared for and loved by friends and by my community at large. Mom is doing much better now, and we’re finally in a place, in terms of health and finances, that allows me to apply to medical schools again.

Your school is at the top of my list due to its emphasis on programs like rural medicine and other community initiatives. With my love and understanding of the importance of social networks, I believe our values are aligned, and your institution will benefit me more than any other could.

Medical School Gap Year Essay No.3: 

The hard part wasn’t looking at a transcript with such a low GPA; it was knowing I would have to admit it. My parents were furious, and I had nothing to say because I was angry at myself, too; I let myself down. After the initial shock and disappointment, however, I knew that I could not accept defeat. I would push past this and fight harder than ever for my goals in life. I let my passion drive me forward instead of holding me back.

I re-enrolled in classes to bring up my test scores. I targeted the classes that had the low grades – I hadn’t flubbed everything, after all.

I knew that to bring my grades up, I would need a whole new routine. So, I applied multiple methods to improve my results. First, I talked to a friend of mine who I knew had stellar grades. She helped me by explaining her study habits to me, and I used her rubric for inspiration to create my own. One of the most fascinating things she told me was about breaks and burnout. She said I was essentially studying wrong by studying in too-intense bursts. By spreading out my sessions and breaking up studying with physical activity, chores, work, or relaxation, I would achieve better results.

I also now employ a study app on my smart phone. This app helps me set up lesson plans and study sessions and keeps me in balance with other activities and nutrition. Nutrition surprised me, too, because while I understood that eating right was good for you, I had let my dietary habits slip in school; it’s easy to get hooked on junk food. I quit junk food cold turkey and switched to a healthier diet. Almost immediately, I saw results in my ability to learn and process information.

My improved studying habits paid off, and my three worst grades turned into my three best grades. On top of it all, I had restored some balance in my work-play-school and improved my health. My low grades had turned into a major lifestyle revision, which has left me feeling happier and healthier as well as more prepared for medical school applications.


You’re now ready to write your own medical school gap year secondary essay. Keep in mind that all essays boil down to selling yourself as perfect for the institution you’re applying to. Even a gap year essay comes down to addressing, “Why this medical school?” or “Why should we choose you?”

How to write a college essay can be hard. Even knowing how to start a college essay can be difficult! In addition to studying medical school secondary essay examples, we also recommend finding a college essay review service, which can be of great help.

At this point, you’re ready to start writing about your gap year with skill and knowledge that only essay examples can give!


1. How long should my essays be?

This changes from school to school, but 500 words is about average. Sometimes this is given in a character count – assume it includes spaces unless otherwise told – or a page count, but the main thing is to never exceed the limit.

2. How long does it take to write an essay?

We recommend you take a little time every day for 2 or 3 weeks. You have to write it, refine it, and proofread it – and that’s even before sending it out for other people to look over.

3. Should I take a gap year?

As we’ve said, a gap year can be a great advantage. If you’re going to use your time well, then yes, it’s worth it, but you also need to factor in your timeline for your future goals, too.

4. Do spelling and grammar matter?

Yes. Everything counts because it gives an impression of who you are: a careful spellchecker, or somebody who doesn’t care about their work.

5. I don’t have much to say about my gap year. What do I do?

You’re probably thinking surface-level. Maybe you needed money, so you got a job. What’s to write about? Tell the story of your dreams of med school, the hardship of knowing you can’t afford it, and how you won’t quit due to a hurdle in your path. That story is compelling and interesting. You probably learned something valuable along the way, too.

6. Do I have to write a gap year essay?

It’s recommended. If you took the gap year, it would be good to know why. You don’t want ambiguity leading the admissions committee to thinking that you just did nothing for a year.

7. What if there were multiple reasons for my gap year. What do I write?

Pick a main reason and focus on that. Mention the others in one paragraph or connect them to the main reason. For example, maybe you were saving up money but also helping your family through financial troubles. You can easily talk about both in the same essay. It is good to stay focused, however.

8. Do all schools allow a gap year essay?

Some schools won’t have a gap year essay, or secondary essays, so there might not be a direct prompt. If your school doesn’t have a direct prompt, you can use some of your medical school personal statement to speak to your gap year – it is part of your journey to med school, after all.

If the institution you’re applying to has no essays whatsoever, you cannot address the gap year directly. Trust that they don’t need to hear about it, or will ask about it as one of their medical school interview questions.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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