Gap year research or clinical experience for top 20 med schools?

Hi y’all I humbly need some advice on this.

I’m a graduating senior in biochemistry taking two gap years before med school. I have research experience in 2 organic synthesis/drug development labs over the course 2.5 years, yielding ~1200 hours tho with no publications nor thesis work (I forgot to send in my proposal smh rip). However, I have 0 clinical hours which I know is a must for med school.

I quit my job and am about to start working as a medical assistant for two years at a local clinic. I do have some reservations about my decision tho since it is known that the top 20 schools are VERY research orientated. I now also POTENTIALLY have a job line up at Columbia University Medical center for pathological research where I can publish, but both jobs are full-time and require a 2-year commitment. One way or the other, which route should I go?

I have a 3.96 at the University of Michigan and a 522 MCAT with great LORs. Set with ~200 hours in volunteering (will do more) My goal is U of M or Mayo Clinic or case western or Northwestern, somewhere Midwest or maybe Boston areas.

Thanks so much :)))

Would you be able to do any clinical type activities in the pathology lab? Or would it be strictly lab? It seems as you have enough research hours already, but ouch, 1200 hours without any recognition is tough.

You need to demonstrate that you understand the clinical side of medicine, so the medical assistant would do that. Your stats look great.

Why do you need to go to a top 20 medical school?

You already have research on your resume. I think medical assistant would be great.

But really…why top 20?

@WayOutWestMom your thoughts?

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Eh I know, I don’t really care but my parents are very competitive and will pay for the tuition if it is top 20, or else I will be in debt which is not an ideal situation :frowning: Thank you for your input!!

You will need to apply widely. Your stats so far look good…but most medical school applicants apply to more than 20 programs…and are happy to get a few interviews, and one acceptance.

The majority of medical school applicants get no acceptances. And if those who get accepted the majority get one acceptance.

Putting all your eggs in the top 20 med school basket is risky, in my opinion.

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I think it is fine tho haha they don’t trust undergrad or grad students so the lab only has post-docs, staff, and faculty. I’m like the slave to all. And yes, the lab is purely bench research. Thank you for your suggestions!

I totally agree! It is so rare to get even one acceptance these days, and it’s getting harder and harder. I will say I’m aiming for that but will definitely apply to others!


You could be spinning your wheels for years trying to get into one of those schools. Medical school is competitive enough. You have the credentials to get into University of Michigan, and it’s in-state, which would significantly reduce your debt load. If you want to get into medical school, just go and be happy you did.

It does not matter where you go to medical school unless you are looking for an academic over a purely clinical career. Most employers for a clinical position will only care that you are board eligible/certified. There are options for merit scholarships at lower ranked med schools so don’t overlook them. Are you looking for a competitive or non-competitive residency? There may actually be less competition for the more competitive specialties at a less competitive med school were you can stand out more easily. I would definitely take the clinical position unless you have a strong desire for an MD/PHD ( in which cost won’t matter), or are looking to go into academic medicine.

No clinical experience means your application will get immediately rounded filed.

Unless the research position is structured so that you will have copious free time so you can do clinical volunteering, I vote for the MA job.

Also, you don’t mention if you have any non-clinical volunteering with the disadvantaged. That’s a must–especially for top 20 med schools. Most successful top 20 matriculants have hundreds of hours of service with the disadvantaged/disparaged plus hundreds of hours of clinical exposure.

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