It takes the better part of a year to apply to medical school. First there is the primary application in June, then secondary applications all summer. Fall begins the interview season, which can go as late as March. And finally decision time; May 15th after which a prospective student can only hold a single acceptance. Of course for any prospectives on the wait list, the game continues almost until the matriculation in the fall.

For “traditional” students, this year is also their fourth year of undergrad. They’ve taken all or most of the prerequisites during their first three years, and the MCAT some time during their third year. For postbacs, though, this is completely impractical. We cannot even dream of taking the MCAT until we’ve finished with the program, and by the fall, when medical schools would be deciding who to interview, a postbac would have only taken a single pre-requisite. Not really much for the medical school to make a judgement about.

Thus the glide year. Also known as a gap year, this amazingly awkward time in our lives is the in-between stage where postbacs (or undergraduates who don’t necessarily want to juggle interviews and their final year of college) hold temporary jobs and spend their last penny traveling from one end of the country to the other.

Some postbac programs, including the one I went to, also offered linkages. A linkage is a relationship between a postbac institution and a specific medical school that allows a student to skip the gap year. If the postbac program has a linkage with Brown, for example, and a student really wants to go to Brown more than any other school, that student can apply for the linkage. The understanding Brown has is that if the student has made it to a certain point with a good GPA, they trust that said student will keep up their grades and do well enough on the MCAT to be worthy of acceptance. Thus the postbac student is accepted before they have even finished the program and matriculates the next fall.

The trouble with linkages is that you can only apply to one, and if you are accepted you must attend that school. There is no chance to play the financial aid game, or decide another school might be the right one. Plus they often have cutoff MCAT scores (pretty high ones too) so if you don’t make the cut, they rescind your acceptance when the scores come out. Ouch.

I’ve already waxed poetic on the troubles I had finding a glide year job. Ideally one works in a research position or something similarly temporary and well-paying. Failing to do that, I have ended up with three jobs. One is as a tutor in biology for the current postbac class, one is teaching anatomy and physiology to massage students, and the third is actually performing massage at a spa in town. I’m also keeping up with my volunteer work at Planned Parenthood as much as possible.

Thus far my glide year has been a lot less of a glide and a bit more of a slog. For all that I don’t regret skipping the linkage track, I rather resent this dead time as I wait to start school again. I feel like a car at the starting gate, revving my engine and moving nowhere. Still, progress has been made, and each new interview only serves to whet my appetite for the future. So bring it on, glide year…you’ll only be a blip of my journey in the end.

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