Question: I am planning on taking a year off during or after medical school. I might pursue a church mission, a Master’s degree or something else. I’m just not sure when to take the year off. Should I do it during medical school or after I graduate? Will it affect how I’m viewed as an applicant for residencies?

I didn’t take time off myself, but had several friends who did for various reasons.

I would actually recommend taking your time off before your last year of medical school. I think you’d find it a lot harder to match into a residency if you’d taken time off between medical school and residency. And even if you did match well, coming back into residency will be a lot harder than coming back into your last year of medical school. Generally during your last year of medical school you can customize your schedule. You could start off with easier rotations after your mission, then progress to more difficult ones to get you ready for residency.

Also, if you end up getting a degree during your year off, that could help your application to residency. A church mission could also be a great conversation piece and will count as time doing service. I did a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during college and a lot of medical schools and residency programs looked at that very favorably.

So, I’d say go ahead and take your year off. Do something productive, but I’d do it before you graduate.

Good luck!