Future doctors seem to be happy to keep tacking on the years until they can actually practice medicine.
Edward Miller, director of the Health Professions Advisory Program at University Career Services, said taking one or more years off before entering medical school appears to be the trend at Yale, as well as nationwide. University data shows that for the last four years, over 50 percent of all Yalies applying to medical school each year are alumni — 55 percent in 2003 and 2005, 52 percent in 2004 and 51 percent this year.
Miller said these percentages do not take into account that the largest group of Yalies beginning the application process to medical school are in their last year of undergraduate studies.
“Increasingly, students are waiting until senior year to apply, which means they then take one year off before matriculating,” he said. “This appears to be where the largest numbers are at the moment.”
Medical schools are also observing the increasingly diverse applicant pool. Richard Silverman, director of admissions at the Yale School of Medicine, said he is noticing a larger variety of age and experience each year.
“Students seem a little less determined to go to medical school at the youngest possible age, opting instead for other life-enriching experiences,” he said.
He said medical schools emphasize maturity and professionalism in candidates and a commitment to medicine that students can sometimes develop and cultivate with age and experience.
Silverman said out of a total student population of about 500, 55-60 percent of students did not come to medical school directly after college graduation. In the Yale School of Medicine’s 100-member Class of 2010, which enrolled this fall, 34 students graduated from college in 2006, while 66 did at least one year earlier — 29 in 2005, 14 in 2004, 8 in 2003 and 13 between 1994 and 2002.
Miller said UCS neither encourages nor discourages students to wait a year or more before entering medical school but does strive to provide guidance regarding their choice.
“This is a very personal decision and depends upon circumstances, since students consider this option for many different reasons,” he said. “However, for those who choose to do so, we certainly support them in their decision and provide advice about what they might consider doing during their time off.”
Silverman said students who take time off enter medical school with a wide range of experiences — everything from teaching to health care consulting to military service to banking.
Sam Chu ’06, who is currently going through the medical school application process, said he took the year off partially because he did not want to juggle the applications with senior year activities, but also because he wanted to gain work experience in he health care setting.
“The med school application process is like taking another class with a lab or section that meets around the country — it’s a lengthy process that requires travel and time — and I am very glad that I was able to spend my senior year at Yale on campus without applications hanging over my head,” he said.
This year, Chu is working as a clinical research assistant at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and said he is sure he made the correct decision in waiting before entering medical school.
“Medical school requires a lot of hard work and focus, and for me, I think this year is a great way for me to recharge, so to speak, and prepare myself for the upcoming years,” he said.
Jamie Conniff ’06 is going to be two years older than most of his peers when he matriculates because he took a leave of absence to sing with the Whiffenpoofs and take the MCAT before his senior year and is now spending a year working before “entering the never-ending grind of med school.” A history major while at Yale, Conniff said he is going to use the year to get more clinical research experience under his belt, but also to spend time doing things that he will not get much of a chance to do for the next several years.
“Since graduating, I spent the summer working at a small bookstore on the coast of Maine, doing a lot of hiking, boating, and application-writing,” he said. “Now I’m in Seattle and … I’m really enjoying the free time and the experience of living in a new, big, fun city without the heavy pressures of school work.”
Although these experiences can enhance a student’s application, Silverman said he emphasizes that students who want to matriculate the year after they complete their undergraduate education should not be discouraged to do so.
“It is important to note that we continue to see many extraordinary college seniors in our applicant pool, so it would be wrong to say that any one specific route to medical school is right for everyone,” he said. “There are many younger applicants who are outstanding candidates for Yale.”