64: Should I Take the MCAT in the Spring or During the Summer?

Session 64 One of the most perplexing problems that faces premeds is if they should stack the MCAT up in the Spring, or wait until the Summer to take it. We often talk about the recommended "normal" timeframe for prepping for the MCAT which is March or April. But then you're still in the middle of all of your classes. How are you going to prep for all of your classes and prep for the MCAT at the same time? How should you, as a student, think about it? You don't want to be delayed for your applications but you're also still in school and worried about your courses. I and Bryan from Next Step Test Prep share with you our insights. Also, check out our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network including The Premed Years Podcast, The OldPreMeds Podcast, and Specialty Stories. [01:43] Spring or Summer? During this time, you've got all these Spring semester classes that you're taking. The alternative is to wait until the summer (June, July, or August) when you no longer have academic pressure. Although there's no single best answer, it depends on what the demands are for the Spring semester or the demands for the Summer. But should you decide to push it back to July and spend May and June prepping after your semester is over, what is this going to do to your application timeline? [02:28] The "Normal" Timeline The normal timeline is to submit early June. But what a lot of students don't know is that the first wave of applications don't go out to schools until mid to late June. So even if you submit early June, nothing's going to happen for another couple of weeks. So schools won't know that you've applied to their school. You're not going to get any secondaries back for several weeks. This is a good reason to submit early so you have time to write your secondaries before they come out. "The first wave of applications don't go out to schools until mid to late June." But once schools get your applications, secondaries come in, say beginning of July, assuming you're applying early. Then you take two to three weeks to return your secondaries. This would push you back to mid-July to late July. And that's when your application is considered complete. Your primaries are in. Your secondaries are in. Is your MCAT score in? That's the other big factor. Reason we say to take it as early as March, April, or May so your score is already in. That said, your application would be complete. [03:43] What Could Happen When You Take the Test in July? However, if you take the test in July, your score is not going to come back until roughly a month later, which is beginning or late of August. So what happens here is that the schools are going to sit on your application until that MCAT score is in. They can see based on the application that you have the score pending. So they're not going to look at your application until then. So this is the biggest determinant when it comes to applications and how your MCAT timing can affect your application. Because medical school admissions is rolling, the sooner your application is submitted, the sooner you can get secondaries. The sooner you can submit secondaries, the sooner your scores are in. The sooner your application is complete, the sooner it's reviewed. The sooner you're invited for an interview, the sooner you're accepted. And this is why the MCAT timing matters. "You've got to drive home that fact, as early as possible, which is why the MCAT score timing matters." [04:48] Don't Undermine Your Grades or Your Score In terms of the difference in MCAT score it would take for you to say pushing it back was worth it, I talk about how August is delayed. But in the grand scheme of things, August is still early. My point, however, is the fact that they are rolling admissions. So every delay is going to affect you negatively. As to  how much, it's impossible to answer. It comes down to each student. Obviously, grades are still very important. So there's a huge balancing act. "Don't undermine your grades just to take an early MCAT. Don't undermine your MCAT score just to take an earlier MCAT." [06:33] Taking a Gap Year The other thing to keep in mind is if you are delaying the MCAT a little bit, you're prepping for the MCAT but you're also doing the other things for the application. You need to write your essays, your extracurriculars, your secondaries. These can get in the way of your MCAT prep. So there's so many things to juggle. This is another reason a lot of students are taking the gap year so they can take their MCAT during the gap year and they don't have to worry about anything else. Bryan adds a gap year allows you to have the mental breathing space so you can focus on your grades. The GPA is the one big number that competes or beats the MCAT in importance. This gives you time to do more of resume-building even if you're just starting an internship or a job at the beginning of the summer. Then you can put that on the application for instance. "For a lot of students, the gap year starts to sound like it makes a whole heck of a lot of sense." [07:36] Our Verdict... As to whether you should take it during the Spring or the Summer, there is no right answer for every body. You have to look at yourself. Look at your ability to stretch yourself. This could mean going with a little less sleep and sacrifice some nights out with friends and movies, etc. And focus 100% on school and MCAT. Or do you know yourself that you know you're going to get burned out during that time? So it's best to delay for a little bit. This is a very common thing that we talk about in all our other podcasts. So do what works for you. [08:40] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking for MCAT full-length practice exams, Next Step Test Prep has you covered. Currently, they have ten full-length exams. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off. Register for their diagnostic test and you get the first full-length for free. Links: MedEd Media Network The Premed Years Podcast The OldPreMeds Podcast Specialty Stories Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off.)

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