How do I plan my gap year (especially due to COVID-19)?
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
It is very important to plan your gap year once you’re set on your decision to take one. This is to ensure it is the most productive it can be and that you achieve what you set out to do. Below is how I went about planning mine and some modifications/ideas you could consider in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Write down your goals - and be specific
This is a time to reflect on what went wrong during your first medical school application (if you have already made an application) and what you want to focus on this year. Ask yourself specific questions:
What stage of the medical school process were you unsuccessful at?
Was it your interview that needed more work?
Was it your personal statement?
Was it the medical admissions tests?
Do you need more work experience?
Write down how you did in each of these areas the first time round which can help you figure out what you need to improve on.
2. Make a list of all the resources you need to accomplish these goals
You will need to get some more work experience for your application (you must have something to show for your gap year) and re-attempt the medical admissions exams,
For work experience:
Please see my blog post on what work experience you can do during quarantine for all online opportunities during the pandemic.
Please see my blog post on my healthcare assistant experience
For medical admissions exams:
3. Have a calendar
I use Google Sheets calendars (templates that you can download off the Internet) or Excel spreadsheets. Alternatively, you could buy a wall calendar or have a white board that you record your dates on. This is going to help you map out WHEN you want to achieve your goals throughout the year and mark the key dates down. Some of these are shown below (these are the 2020 dates and are subject to change slightly from year to year):
UCAT TEST PERIOD IS FROM EARLY AUGUST - EARLY OCTOBER (03/08/2020-01/10/2020)
Registration opens – 1st July
• £55 if sat before 31st August in the EU
• £80 if sat between 1st September - 6th October
• £115 if sat outside the EU
BMAT - TAKEN IN NOVEMBER
Registration opens 1st September (1 month period for registration: 01/09/2020-01/10/2020). Standard fee of £49 for EU citizens, £83 for outside of EU
• Late registration up to 15th October at 6pm (+£35 late fee)
• Test date – 4th November
• Results day – 27th November
GAMSAT - TAKEN IN MARCH OR SEPTEMBER
Registration details for both test periods can be found here
4. Re-read your personal statement and start working on a new one as soon as possible
You may need to expand and reflect on some parts AND you will need to add any new experiences or insights into Medicine that you have learned. You cannot submit the same personal statement twice, so you need to begin working on this in summer. It is also crucial that you get people to read it and critique it. This could ideally be any medical students you know, doctors or even family and friends. See my blog post on personal statements.
Personal statement drafting (my personal advice)
1st draft – have done by late June/early July
2nd draft - end of July
3rd draft - end of August - start sending this draft off to people to read
4th draft - mid September
5th draft + further changes - end of September
Final draft - have completed the week before UCAS Submission is due (approx. 7 October)
UCAS submission - 15/10/2020 at 6pm
5. Decide what medical school admissions exams you are going to take
UCAT can be booked as early as July and BMAT will need to be taken in November. These are exams that need to be paid for. Therefore, you must decide if you are taking one or both of them and start revising EARLY for them.
6. Interview practice as soon as you start receiving interview offers
I paid for a 1-day MMI course by The Medic Portal but there are now so many free (and cheaper) resources out there to replicate what the interview day will be like. I personally can't even believe I paid £135 -- it helped but at the end of the day, these prices are a extortionate for school students. Practice a range of questions - those regarding your motivation to study medicine, ethical dilemmas/scenarios and 'a situation where... you demonstrated a quality/qualities of a doctor' will most likely come up in every interview you have. I have a blog post of free resources for the interview and what to expect on the interview day.
7. Plan your free time!
Aside from Medicine, what else do you want to achieve in this year? I wanted to learn how to drive and purchase my first car. I also wanted to travel as it was something I never got to do much of during school.
What parts of the year are you going to dedicate to something ASIDE from Medicine? This can also help you save up the necessary funds in order to do the things you like. Most people use the time aside from Medicine to get a job (after all, you need money in order to fund a gap year)! Kill 2 birds with one stone and try and become a healthcare assistant at a hospital or care home facility. You will get a more realistic experience of what it is like to work in healthcare which can bolster your insight and therefore, strengthen your decision to study Medicine. I share more info on my healthcare assistant role and how I got it in my blog post: Working as a healthcare assistant.
This is a timeline of what I did during my gap year.