Traditionally, the term “Glide Year” refers to the year you spend after finishing a post-bacc program applying to and interviewing for medical school. For the purposes of this post, I will also use the “Glide Year” to refer to any time–more than one year, if necessary–between finishing up one’s pre-requisites for medical school that is spent actually applying to and interviewing for medical school.
Obviously, if you’re able to apply to medical school without having to complete any pre-requisites or if you participate in a linkage program, this post is not for you. But for those finding themselves with some time on your hands between post-bacc and medical school, it may be tough to figure out what to do with a sudden block of free time.
This can be a tricky time–odds are you’re fully committed to the med school track but not quite sure where you’re going to medical school yet, so you can’t exactly put down roots. Unfortunately, you’ve got to pay the bills, too. Maybe you have a partner who isn’t exactly ready to quit their job at a moment’s notice. Maybe the kids are still in school. Whatever your situation, there are definitely some things that should happen while you’re off.
Be smart about relocation. If there’s any uncertainty at all about where you’re going to be going to medical school, don’t try to put down roots anywhere just yet. If you can afford to stay where you did your post-bacc, then that’s great. If it makes sense to move back near family to save some money while you’re on the interview trail, that’s not a bad idea, either. Let finances and the needs of your family guide you for now…even if you’re reasonably confident of your chances at getting accepted in a certain city, nothing about this process is ever 100%.
Apply to medical school. This may seem obvious, but if you’re fresh out of a post-bacc or spring semester, application season is NOW. If you haven’t figured out where you’d like to apply, do this ASAP. Polish your resume. Secure letters of recommendation. Get your AMCAS and/or TMDSAS started ASAP–submitting as soon as possible to when these open (usually beginning of May) ensures that yours will be among the first wave of applications that go out to participating schools.
Take or retake the MCAT. If you haven’t already, take the MCAT ASAP. If you’ve already taken it and were unhappy with your score–and are eligible to retake it–then you can consider doing so. However, understand that you may have to delay submitting your applications…this is NOT the end of the world by any means, just as long as you get everything in by the the proper deadlines. I recommend discussing whether or not you should retake the exam with your post-bacc or pre-med advisor if you have one, and I discuss test scores further in other posts.
Keep in touch with your post-bacc program. More formal post-bacc programs generally offer a lot of support to their recent graduates during the Glide Year. At the vry least, they should offer help with medical school applications–they’ll help with resume writing, mock interviews, and may even put together a committee letter you can add to your file. You can also tap professors and mentors for leetters of recommendation. Depending on the institution, there may also be opportunities for work in research or other areas. For instance, at Goucher, there’s a paid TA position available for the Glide Year. Which brings me to my next point…
Get a job. Unless your partner is able to support you 100% or you’re moving back in with your parents (no judgement here), it’s probably a good idea to find a steady source of income. If you took any loans to cover your post-bacc, you’ll have to start paying them back 6 months after your graduation date–yes, you can defer them again as soon as you matriculate into medical school, but for now you’re responsible.
If you’re able to find work in a clinical setting, all the better–not just because it’s topical, but because it’s something to talk up during interviews! If not, look for work wherever you feel comfortable. As I mentioned above, your post-bacc or undergrad institution may have some recommendations or even some work available internally. Absolutely hit up your LinkedIn network and let your friends and family know where you are and that you’re looking. Think of this in the same way you thought of summer jobs in high school and college–it’s not forever and doesn’t need to be the “perfect” job, just one that helps pay the bills and fits your life. Keep in mind that you’ll only need work until you start med school, which for most people is only a year, maybe two. Also remember that you’ll need at least some flexibility when it comes time to travel for medical school interviews (see below). For this reason, it’s definitely worth considering shift work that can be scheduled around you or anything that allows for remote work. Seasonal or temp work also lends itself well to both your potentially unpredictable schedule and the short term nature of the Glide Year. On the other hand, if you’re done interviewing early because you got an early acceptance, then jobs with more structured hours are much easier to accommodate.
Interview. Medical schools receive and review applications on a rolling basis, and interview invitations likewise come over the course of several months. If you’re shooting for an early decision program, then obviously your interview season may be abbreviated. Otherwise, expect to be on the interview trail roughly between the months of September and April, with acceptance letters coming in through the late winter and spring. You usually don’t have to commit to anyone until May, so even if you get accepted somewhere, you should keep interviewing if you really have your heart set on somewhere else. A major consideration to make regarding interviews during your Glide Year is that, depending on the geographical span of your applications, you may need to make sure you have enough flexibility to travel up to a few times a month.
Research. Don’t worry if you don’t have a solidified research interest at this stage…there’s plenty of time for that later. But if you do, now is a great time to talk with faculty at your post-bacc institution to see if there are any projects you can hop on or if there is even anyone willing to mentor you and help get something started on your own. It’s even worth checking with local universities to see if there are any departments looking for research assistants full or part time. If you’re considering a really competitive specialty, it’s never too early to get started on projects in that field, and if you can get yourself published it’s even better.
Volunteer. Taking a few hours a week to volunteer in your community–especially in a healthcare setting–both reinforces your passion for medicine to the programs you’re applying to and keeps you engaged in a clinical setting. (It should go without saying, but volunteering also just feels pretty great and does a lot of good for your community). If you’re totally swamped with work and the application process, then you shouldn’t feel too much pressure to add more to your plate (medical school will do that for you in due time), but there are always tons of opportunities to volunteer at local hospitals, clinics, or outreach organizations wherever you are. If there are organizations that you’ve worked with in the past, this is a great time to reconnect. During my year off after my post-bacc and before I started at GW, I worked at the cancer center at my local hospital every Thursday morning for a couple of hours–it was an incredibly rewarding experience and reinforced everything I loved about medicine and was excited to do once I got to school the next year. I also did some work with Team Rubicon during this time and have stayed engaged with them even through medical school.
Enjoy yourself. Post-bacc is really hard, but medical school is harder. Residency is a bear all of its own. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the application process during your Glide Year and keep your focus firmly on admission to medical school and everything that comes after. And, to be fair, you need to do that to some extent to be successful. However, you have the rest of your career to bust your ass in medicine. Enjoy this last year of relative freedom and spend time with family and friends, get outdoors, travel, and sleep in when you can. You’ll never regret relaxing and doing the things you love while you had the chance!
Don’t try to study. You took all your pre-reqs. You took the MCAT. You’re done learning for a little while. Believe it or not, the larger concepts and “big picture” stuff will stick with you even if you don’t think it does. Besides, medical school curriculums–varied as they may be–will teach you all you need to know from the very beginning in a way that they want you to learn it. You’ll be fine. See my last point, focus on getting into school and taking care of yourself.