Growth years should not be viewed negatively and instead, should be viewed as a chance to focus on building a competitive resume and strengthening skills that will prove useful in the professional world. There are many reasons why a growth year is the right choice for some health and medicine candidates. This time can allow an applicant to participate in medically-related volunteer and lab experiences, strengthen GPA or MCAT scores, pay down debt, work on becoming a stronger candidate, or simply take a break. Depending upon your own circumstances, this growth period may be longer than a year. Note that a growth year is not the same as applying to a professional school and deferring your entry to a program.

When trying to decide what to do during your growth year, the first step is to do an honest self-appraisal of your candidacy. Identify areas of potential weakness and then brainstorm ideas for how to improve your application in those areas. It may be useful to review the Core Competencies for areas of potential improvement. 

Feel free to meet with the Careers in Health and Medicine office to determine if a growth year is right for you and think through ways to maximize your growth year experiences to strengthen your overall application. The options you have during this time are endless!

Growth Year Questions

When do I decide if a growth year is right for me? If you plan to apply and go directly into a professional school program, you will be applying beginning the spring of your junior year (some schools will accept applications through your senior year). We recommend you begin thinking about a growth year early. We encourage you to network and explore opportunities for a growth year, it is best to have a plan.

Do students usually go straight to medical school/graduate school, or do they take growth years? Growth year(s) is(are) becoming more and more common. Medical and other healthcare professional schools appreciate diverse experiences and maturity, and the growth year can provide that for students.

Will a growth year hurt my application chances? While there are never any admission guarantees, for many students, the Growth Year(s) can make you more competitive by diversifying your experiences and perspective.

Growth Year Opportunities

What can I become involved with during my growth year?

  • Research – Working in a lab or volunteering on a part- or full- time basis is an excellent way to explore another facet of health and medicine.
  • Clinical employment or volunteer work – Time spent in a clinical setting will give you more insight into the field of health and medicine that could lead to shadowing opportunities.
  • Classes – Even if you have a strong academic record, consider taking a class or two to stay in the study mode.
  • MPH or other degree program –The reason to pursue such as degree should be career and personal interest.
  • Travel and other interests – Part of the point of taking time off is to enjoy yourself and do a few things that take you beyond the world of academics.