It is CRITICAL to be as SURE as you can at this point in your life that you want to pursue your intended profession. You need to feel ready AND be competitive. Both are essential.

You also need to double check prerequisites for schools in which you are interested. These can change!

Dr. Laurence Savett, physician, author, retired Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and health professions advisor, has written extensively on various topics relating to preparing for a career in medicine and applying to medical school that are relevant for ALL the health professions. He has graciously given permission to share this information with our students. Click on the links below.

If you have any doubts, it is best to take time off to think about it! There are many edifying things to do during a “gap year”, including taking advantage of personal or professional once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You need not worry. At Juniata College we support you indefinitely beyond graduation if you decide to delay your application. Feel free to meet with the Health Professions director if you need a listening ear to help sort things out. 

The possibilities of what you could do during a gap year depend on why you are taking time off:

  • If you need to improve your credentials you could take one or more courses or do a formal post-baccalaureate enhancement program. The Master of Laboratory Animal Science Program at Drexel is a good option for pre-veterinary students.
  • If your credentials are fine you can do ANYthing you wish during your gap year(s). Some health-related examples include earning a Masters or Certificate in Health Care Ethics, serving as a Research Associate in a hospital, serving as a pharmaceutical salesperson, or working as a phlebotomist or medical scribe. Some non-health-related possibilities are teaching English abroad, joining the Peace Corps, backpacking across Europe, etc. It would be an added benefit to continue shadowing and doing community service during this time if this is feasible.

If you feel ready to apply, carefully consider your GPA, admission exam score, shadowing experiences, extracurricular activities, and any school-specific requirements (ex. number or type of shadowing hours and prerequisite courses). Refer to our GPA + Exam Guidelines information, as well as information from admission guides, school websites, and websites of the relevant professional associations listed for your specific career track on our website. If your credentials are not yet solid, see the Heatlh Professions director to discuss your next step.

If you are an international student there are additional barriers. Some schools do not accept international students under any circumstances, and for those that do, financial aid is the primary problem. You either must pay in cash, sometimes up front for the entire duration of your education, or secure an American co-signor for a loan. Check the websites of professional associations and specific schools for details.

If you are a premedical international student, the AAMC has a helpful fact sheet. And if you are sincerely interested in research and competitive for a combined M.D./Ph.D. program, some schools accept international students and cover the costs of the education.

If “all systems are go”, check your information on the health professions database to ensure that that you have signed the release of information and that everything is current and correct. If you make any changes after your initial upload, please inform Juniata Health Professions at

Regardless of your credentials, seriously consider a back-up plan. There are many factors in the application process and it is important to have an idea of what you will do in the event that you are not accepted during this cycle.

Continue to When to Apply