Everything about the MCAT is stressful, from creating a study plan to fine-tuning your test strategies. And then there’s the day of reckoning when you take the exam. If that’s not enough, perhaps the most stressful day is score report day. After working so hard for so many months towards the exciting and honorable goal of attending medical school, it can be crushing to score lower than expected. If that’s the case, you may be asking yourself: “Is this enough? Should I take it again?”
It’s worth noting that standardized tests are meant to be consistent. Retaking the test does not ensure that you will get a higher score; instead, it may confirm that you are at your less-desired score. Even worse, you could possibly score lower on the next attempt. So before hastily renewing your question bank subscriptions, it is important to step back and reassess the situation.
The MCAT is not as critical as you think. You are more than just your MCAT score. Schools are increasingly shifting their focus from test scores to a holistic evaluation of the applicant, and they love to see that you are involved in more than just studying. Rather than spending hundreds of hours studying for the MCAT again, spend that time making yourself a better applicant in other ways - the following is a list to get you started!
Volunteering is by far the most easily accessible way to boost your application; oftentimes, no prior experience is needed, training is minimal, and there are a variety of opportunities (soup kitchens, Special Olympics, hospitals, nursing homes, etc). Volunteering in a hospital or nursing home can also double as valuable clinical experience, something you can elaborate on during your application or interview.
Research is a bit harder to get involved in, depending on your school’s size and its volume of research opportunities. Although it is a bit late to get involved in a lab as a junior or senior, any involvement and experience will make you a better, more well-rounded applicant! Take the opportunities you come across or email professors to ask if they have any openings. Professors frequently have ongoing projects, and they’re usually more than willing to point you in the right direction to professors with opportunities. Additionally, look into summer research internships. These opportunities are often competitive, but many of these experiences are paid, and they certainly stand out on your medical school app!
3.) Gain clinical experience.
Picking up some hours working in a clinical setting is also a great way to improve your application. Scribing or assisting in a nursing home are two common ways to earn cash and rack up some clinical experience. Although these jobs are hard work, they are worth the pay off in the end, especially if you would have spent that time studying for the MCAT anyway.
Based on my experience on an admissions committee, the MCAT is only a fraction of your application. The admissions committee also considers your GPA, research, volunteer work, student activities, letters of recommendation, and more. The best applicants write extensively about their unique experiences volunteering, doing research, and working! These students are often the ones who get invited for interviews where they have the opportunity to elaborate further on their exciting commitments. So, rather than bearing the financial cost of retaking the MCAT, suffering hundreds of hours studying, and risking a worse score, make yourself a better applicant in other aspects that are sure-fire to make you attractive in the long run.
Anyone can study hard - but the real key to MCAT success is learning to study smart. So, while all forms of MCAT preparation require you to crunch a lot of material, we focus on helping you to make strategic choices about your areas of focus at every step of the game. Each Cambridge Coaching tutor is a highly-skilled manager of your personal study process. He or she will do more than just target your weaknesses - your tutor’s goal is to identify the sections where you have the greatest potential for improvement, and teach you to wring every last point from them by creating the roadmap for your studying, and helping you stick to it. Right from the start, your tutor will create a customized syllabus for you, and will then modify that syllabus as needed.
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