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Cornell University

Bridge Year(s)

Bridge (aka “gap”) years are becoming increasingly common in between the undergraduate years and entering a health profession. Overwhelmingly, most Cornellians take at least one bridge year before medical school. Talk to a Health Careers Advisor about possible timelines that are best for you!

What is a Bridge Year?

Also known as a “gap year” commonly, this term refers to a period of time in between graduating from college and beginning in a health professional graduate program. We prefer the term “bridge year” because sometimes a gap year sounds empty. In fact, individuals engage in personal and professional development during this time that bridges experiences gained during college and professional school!

Why Take a Bridge Year?

There can be many reasons, and this is an individual decision. Check out this fact sheet for a great overview. Some possible factors that influence the decision about whether to take a bridge year:

  • Application timing: It can be very challenging to fit in all of the courses, standardized examinations, and the necessary time to prepare application materials all before the spring of junior year.
  • Opportunities: Many folks are looking to expand their experiences before pursuing a health profession, including gaining work experience, pursuing fellowships, traveling, etc.
  • Enhancing application preparation: Taking a bridge year or more allows for additional time to improve grades and build experiences necessary for a successful application. Those who take a bridge year have grades through the senior year as well as experiences during the summer after junior year reflected in the application, unlike those who apply “straight through.”

What Can I Do During a Bridge Year?

Many things! Meet with a Health Careers Advisor to discuss the possibilities. Some folks pursue a research position, work in a medical field, engage in service learning, teach, travel, and/or find a job to gain professional experience and save up money for health professional education. For additional ideas, visit the Gap or "Bridge" Years webpage.