What Our "Plan B" Looked Like

Last updated: 06/09/2020

There are several resources available for you to plan and spend your gap year as productive and worthwhile as possible such as: 

However, unless you know someone who has taken a gap year themselves, it won’t be easy to anticipate exactly what it may be like. In this article, we hear from current medical students on their own gap years to give you some insight into what to expect.

Niall, 3rd Year Medical Student at the University of Glasgow

Picture of Niall, a 3rd Year Medical Student at the University of Glasgow

"As the interviews and applications led into February I worked in Tesco which was good to provide me with some freedom and some great experience of working with the public.

After that I spent a month interrailing around Europe and spent a lot of the money I had saved up.

I then helped to organise a youth festival which happens every year in Dumfries. This was amazing to be part of as it is important in strengthening community ties and helping disadvantaged young people and is a celebration of some of the best things which happen in my home town every year.

All in all although my year abroad wasn't optional it certainly was a good experience that taught me a lot about life and the lives of other people.

One of the biggest things I learnt is just how grateful I am to be able go to university and study whatever I want wherever I want.

I also learnt the importance of not rushing into decisions and how taking more time to reach milestones in life doesn't equate with a waste of time. More equates with having more time to consider whether the decisions are the correct ones."

Angelina, 2nd Year Medical Student at Bristol University

Picture of Angelina, a 2nd Year Medical Student at Bristol University

"I took a gap year before medical school because I had missed the A grade by two marks in chemistry. The medical school I applied for allowed me to retake and due to other incredibly lucky circumstances I was able to have my offer carried forward to the next year meaning I didn’t have to retake UCAT or do another interview.

Although studying wasn’t difficult, I found the loneliness unbearable at times. I was jealous of other people that had made it into university but I was determined to get into medical school.

Eventually I ended up with an A* and now I’m happier than I’ve ever been. If I could do anything differently I would’ve learnt to drive or gotten a job instead of focusing all my time on one subject.

Despite the toll it had on my confidence, I’m grateful that it happened. I learnt to persevere and to not give up. I also realised how much I wanted to become a doctor.

All in all I think I needed that year out to reflect on myself and to become a little more mature."

Rhea, 2nd Year Medical Student at Bristol University

Picture of Rhea, a 2nd Year Medical Student at Bristol University

"I unexpectedly took a gap year as I fell short of the grades required for medical school. Subsequently, I had to return to sixth form to retake my A Levels.

Initially, the thought of this was incomprehensible as I hated college, but my gap year ended up being one of the best years of my life.

I was in part time employment at a local bowling alley and the skills I obtained with regards to communication and leadership helped me develop as an individual and will inevitably be invaluable experience to develop in my medical career.

Thus, I recommend you get a job in your gap year - even if it is totally unrelated to medicine.

Furthermore, gain as much life experience as you can, do NOT spend your gap year studying. Do travel, work and engage with every given opportunity as you will be better equipped for university.

What I would have done differently is gain more medical experience, as the course is demanding, so you do really need to know if it is right for you."

Malcolm, 3rd year Medical Student at the University of Glasgow

Picture of Malcolm, a 3rd year Medical Student at the University of Glasgow

"I took a year out having got a deferred entry spot into Glasgow. I spent the first four months of my year working in a garden centre to be able to earn enough money to then go travelling.

I then spent eight months in Australia working at a boarding school as a “Gappie”. This allowed me to have free accommodation and food while also earning a little money and to live in the middle of Sydney.

I also had school holidays to go travelling in, which allowed me to spend three weeks in New Zealand, and basically explore the whole of Australia.

It was a fantastic experience and I would really urge anybody who was looking to take a year out to have a look into being a “Gappie” (and to be honest I really didn’t do very much work, probably only worked 15 hours a week)."

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