Skip to content

Graduating? Here’s how to get the most out of a gap-year experience

What is a gap-year program and why consider it?

If you’re ready to graduate, maybe you’d like a little breathing room in your schedule, so you can focus on applying to medical school or a graduate program, while accumulating some work experience to add to your application.

Or maybe you need to take a step back before you firm up decisions on your career, and decide what kind of impact you want to make in the world. After all, graduation can be overwhelming. A gap year can help you find your focus by breaking down long-term career goals into bite-sized chunks.

Many students find that a gap year makes it far easier to concentrate on their long-term career goals. If you still need to apply to a graduate program, a gap year can give you some extra time. After all, you won’t be under intense pressures to excel in your upper-level science classes and labs, along with everything else you’re juggling.

A gap year can also help you gain more of the work and volunteer experience to make you shine on your post-grad applications.

But your gap year should accomplish more than provide free time or help you earn a paycheck. These are some of the things that can be accomplished in a gap year job opportunity:

  • Direct care and clinical hours
  • Research opportunities
  • Volunteer hours
  • Professional experience
  • Job shadowing
  • Networking
  • Leadership experience
  • Professional development

The right gap year work opportunity can help you become a more attractive candidate for the grad school program you have your eye on. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to meet with your advisor and discuss how the right gap year program can provide that stepping stone for your career dreams.

Gap year vs internship: What’s the difference?

The two concepts have important similarities. Both are short-term jobs programs designed to help students gain relevant experience to help them ladder up.

Compared to a typical internship program, a gap-year job often offers something more strategic and intensive for the student seeking specific real-world experiences to help them reach their dreams.

That said, some organizations are now offering gap-year programs to serve the needs of students and recent graduates. Whatever handle they give their program, take time to ask questions and talk to people who completed the program ahead of you. At the end of the day, the goal is to help you get the most out of this time you’re taking, so make sure it serves your needs.

A higher impact gap year

For years, ACR provided a natural fit for recent grads looking for the right stepping-stone in their career. Students planning to apply to medical school or a physician assistant program found exactly what they were looking for: Clinical hours, a chance to hone their leadership skills and a paycheck.

For others, ACR provided meaningful work experience that helped them chart their next steps. Some took on internships to complete a specific research project in their field, while others took on a full-time job that put them into leadership roles. Still others gained valuable clinical experience by taking an emergency float position.

Starting this summer, ACR is launching a new gap year program, Impact Year. This will combine our internship, e-float and leadership opportunities into one high-powered program so recent grads (or those needing to take a break from school!) can feel well-prepared for the next step in their careers. If you’re looking for answers on how to spend that year after graduation, ACR’s Impact Year program might be the one for you.

Could you be one of 10 people accepted in ACR’s first ever Impact Year program? Discover the details here and think about applying.