If you are set on medical school and a female, don't take gap year. Physician training is awfully long. If you have another gap year between college and medical school, you will have hard time to find time to have children. If you are male, the pressure is less. If you are not interested in medicine, there is no point to take gap year, because MIT is every bit as strong as Harvard in biology (half faculty members in MIT biology are NAS members if I tabulated correctly, plus 3 nobels, even Harvard biology does not reach this level of excellence).
Good point on the Female and male issue, although in this day and age more and more women are already delaying marriage and giving birth to kids later in life. Yet I believe that if the OP has already been accepted into Harvard for 2017, then he/she should just wait that extra year and be at one of the best Undergrad schools in the world. Besides, Harvard Undergrad students are the most represented at Harvard Medical School. If he likes he can do some soul searching in that Gap year and maybe even realize he likes another career path better. That would save him money and time.
I would choose MIT. Like riocarmenstar said, there's no point in taking a gap year. I mean yeah you can join the Obama campaign and stuff like that, but it seems kind of like a waste of time. MIT is also an amazing school and if you're interested in CS, it's pretty much the best school there is for that type of science.
Plus, like you said, there is cross-registering, and I'm sure you can take some PoliSci classes at Harvard.
If you want to go into med, you're already going to have to give up about 12 years to college/med school/etc, why prolong it?
You will be an adult for decades and no one gives out medals for having been finished before anyone else. Nearly 30% of people who enter Harvard change their career plans from what they indicated on their applications.
What is the rush? Now if there are financial issues, that is another story entirely and by all means get on to it, but if it just being done for the mere sake of being "done"--What is so great about being done--merely to be done? You will be "done" for a long long time.
It is the journey, not the destination, which counts.
Etondad is right. There is no rush. I know at your age it can feel as if there is a rush, but there isn't. Particularly if you choose the medical route, there is no rush. You will be a student for so long that taking a year off now would only be an advantage.
But, ask yourself this: Do I want to go to Harvard? Or do I want to go to MIT?
These two schools are so different that you must have an answer to that question.
Remove the gap year from the equation and where do you want to go?
@underachiever: Yes, women do have to manage their biological time clocks, but that really should not play a major factor in deciding whether to take a gap year before college. It's <u>one</u> year. For physicians in training, one of the best times to plan a pregnancy is during the fourth year of med school. This presumes that the female med student already has a committed partner/spouse in place. I have lots of female physician friends who took maternity leave at the tail end of their residency. I suppose it bears mentioning that, in the back of their minds, many female med students do take into consideration family planning when it comes to choosing a specialty for residency. The guys...not so much.
Strength of the biology program at MIT really isn't an issue. They do great work over there. It's the appalling dearth of liberal arts courses that would be my concern. The OP would likely graduate with a better liberal arts education from Harvard (if it's important to him/her). That being said, both are great schools.
@SpeakerBoxer: Despite what the "numbers" might say, I don't think the easiest way to get into Harvard Med is to attend Harvard as an undergrad (also termed "Preparation H" by those in the know). Think about it. As an undergrad, you are competing for grades in your science classes with some of the smartest people (at your age) in the country. For example, in my organic chemistry classes (Chem 20/30 sequence), we had the gold medalist and 2 silver medalist winners for the previous year's International Chemistry Olympiad. We also had the guy who had won the previous year's Westinghouse award (everyone wanted to be his lab partner). One of the aforementioned students took it upon himself to hold review sessions before each test...and was doing a better job at teaching the material than our grad student teaching fellows. We had to compete with those guys for grades. They were consistently scoring 2-3 standard deviations above the mean. I was just trying hard not to be curve-fodder (and having a great time stepping up to the challenge). Yes, Harvard University sends a significant number of alumni/-ae to Harvard Med, but those are the highest achievers in an already highly achieving bunch. It's difficult to distinguish oneself in that kind of company.
@etondad: I completely agree with your "what's-the-rush" comments. A gap year spent doing something productive can actually be a positive thing.
You mentioned the possibility of financial issues being a concern. Interestingly, when I was applying to colleges, of all the schools from which I received acceptances (Stanford, CalTech, MIT, Yale, etc.), Harvard offered the most generous financial aid package. Over my 4 years in school there, the grant portion of my aid package increased steadily. Total cost of my college education (parent contribution + my contribution + loans) was less than the cost of my sister's education at a California state school (UC Santa Barbara).
Bartleby: Having a child at fourth year of medical school is a bad idea. The truly learning time is the first two year of the resident program. I do have a female with newborn rotating in my lab for physician scientist track for PGY1. I can assure you that this is one of most disastrous cases for me in the last twenty years. She simply doesn't have enough stamina to handle the work after all night up baby care. Even though we don't have a rule in considering issue like this, there is a subconscious consideration when a candidate with heavy pregnancy applies for residency training in our program. The best time to start to have children is right after the board (getting pregnant before the end of resident or fellow training), unless you have a house husband. So it is not an easy task.
In terms of your comment on MIT "dearth of liberal arts", I don't think so. But this is not up to me to defend them since I am not connected to MIT in any way. MIT alums should come here to fend for their programs.
Last edited by underarchiever; 05-21-2012 at 02:37 PM.
^ There are no "good" time (you can wait forever for the "perfect time--but something in your or your partner's life will make it less than ideal so give up the "good" time idea)-- but there are worse times (3rd year med school, internship/junior residency) than others.
Things have a way of working out--don't stress particularly before you start college!!
@underachiever: As etondad pointed out, there is never a "good" time to have kids, particularly when one is engaged in demanding training for a hectic career.
Your comments regarding 4th year med school being a poor time for pregnancy/childbirth demonstrate a rather short-sighted view of the accommodations that a physician in training can make. I have personally known several female colleagues who have given birth in this time window. A few of those folks opted to postpone the start of residency for 1-2 years. Most had a great deal of family support nearby (spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, etc.) to help with infant-/childcare. It's really a matter of priorities and figuring out the best use of available resources.
Regarding the MIT liberal arts issue, I'm not sure what evidence you have to support your comments. My comments regarding MIT are based on personal discussions I had with matriculating MIT students (when I was in college). In order to have the opportunity to take certain humanities courses, some MIT students had to cross-register at Wellesley and take the Senate bus between the two campuses. That doesn't paint the picture of a university which offers a compelling liberal arts education.
On a related note, I have yet to encounter an MIT alumnus/a who gushes about the liberal arts opportunities at his/her alma mater. That being said, the science education is top-notch and opportunities for undergraduate research abound.
Wow, taking a gap year between medical school and resident training for maternity? It does not bode well for somebody who wants to be a doc. She likely will struggle to repick up a lot of skills and to adjust work pace.
Cross-registration between Wellesley and MIT does not prove MIT having bad liberal art programs. Some Harvard students cross registering at MIT for social science and music classes does not prove Harvard having poor social science and music programs, either.
@underachiever: Based on your comments, I have to ask: What is your specific role in physician training? Are you an academic physician-scientist who runs a lab and has clinical responsibilities in the typical 80:20 split?
You mentioned the "disastrous" scenario involving the woman with a newborn who is rotating through your lab during PGY1 of a physician-scientist track residency program. With proper organization and judicious scheduling of experiments, lab research can certainly be a 9-to-5 enterprise. If anything, I would think that a lab rotation during PGY1 for someone in her position would allow for ample family time. Many residency programs with physician-scientist tracks set aside "protected" lab time for the residents. If the resident in question is trying to juggle bench research, clinical time on the wards, and overnight call on top of being a new mother...then I would agree that such a schedule might be too demanding for her. She could always transition to a straight clinical track, right? She could always complete a research fellowship upon completion of the clinical residency. In fact, some would argue that such a trajectory is preferrable to the short-tracking that occurs in a physician-scientist track residency program.
People take "gap years" in medical training all the time. M.D./Ph.D. students complete their Ph.D.s in-between the 2nd and 3rd years of med school. Depending on how a student structures his/her fourth year of med school, clinical time with patients in an in-patient setting can be rather light -- a situation comparable to taking a year off prior to an internship/transitional year. I've known colleagues who take a year or two off from the med school-residency trajectory to try out consulting, join a biotech start-up, or start a family. It's not the norm, but it happens. Does it hinder their professional development as physicians? I don't know. I think the biggest travesty in academic medicine is that some people are allowed to run a basic science research lab 11 months out of the year and then play attending physician for a month...then repeat this process year after year. With such a schedule, is it possible to prevent clinical skills from deteriorating and keep up on the changing trends in clinical medicine?
With regard to my comments regarding MIT, please allow me to clarify. The MIT students with whom I spoke felt compelled to cross-register at Wellesley to take core classes in the humanities (music, the arts, literature, history, etc.). Such classes are readily available on-campus at Harvard for Harvard undergrads. It's not fun to have to hop on a bus several times a week to get to class. One-way, the trip on the Exchange bus from Kendall Square to Wellesley takes 50 minutes.
Out of curiosity, have you personally attended any of the schools in our discussion (Harvard, MIT, Wellesley)?