Should I Focus on my GPA or Getting a Good MCAT Score?

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ADG 124: Should I Focus on my GPA or Getting a Good MCAT Score?

Session 124

You are starting MCAT prep to take in the spring, but you have many classes and other responsibilities. Should you focus on your classes or squeeze in the MCAT?

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

By the way, the episodes in this podcast are recordings of our Facebook Live that we do at 3pm Eastern on most weekdays. Check out our Facebook page and like the page to be notified. Also, listen to our other podcasts on MedEd Media. If you have any questions, call me at 617-410-6747.

[00:21] Question of the Day

“I’m not sure when to take my MCAT. I’m a fourth year student. I’m on track to apply this cycle. I was planning to take it in April. I was given advice through my prehealth advisor who said to take it in April just in case I get a bad score so that I can retake it in May as a last resort. 

But the way my semester is looking class wise, I’m in four upper division science classes. I’m just not sure that I’ll be ready by then. My weakest point in my application is definitely my GPA. It took me a while to get my footing, I do have the upward trend. There is one little dip one summer, but that was circumstantial. I’m not that concerned about it because I know I can explain if I need to. 

That being said, my GPA is my weakest part so I know how important it is to end the semester strong. With the four science classes and studying for the MCAT- the closer it’s getting the less less sure I am if I can do that realistically. 

I’m not sure if I should stick with the plan of trying to do it in April and maybe risking a not so great score, or taking it after I apply. I’m ready to apply once applications open. I’m just terrified of getting a bad score and it gets sent out to those schools that I apply to.”

[02:04] Keep the Upward Trend

A: I think the more important question you’re not asking is, if you take it in April, what happens if your grades drop because you’re spending time away from your classes to study for the MCAT?

I’m not worried about your MCAT score, because that’s easy to fix. My biggest concern is your grades especially if you are trying to overcome some earlier struggles. You have a nice upward trend so try to keep that.

The fact that you’re concerned about it is good because a lot of students will just charge straight ahead. That kind of logic to me is already flawed because most students are going to get their score back in May.

How are you going to turn around and take the MCAT again that same month? You’re going to have to fix whatever was wrong the first time to study.

There are a few questions here. The first question is, if you put off the MCAT, until after your classes, when do you think the first time that you can take the MCAT would be?

Our student says her classes end on May 5th. Let’s say you study for a month straight out for the MCAT and you take the MCAT mid June. You do well on the MCAT and you get your score back mid July. At that point, your application isn’t delayed at all because of your MCAT.

Mid-July is when schools are starting to rub their eyes to get over the last application cycle. They start opening up their email and databases. And they look at all the secondary essays that are coming in. So you’re not really delayed from taking the MCAT mid June.

[04:30] Submit Your Application Early

Probably the caveat to that is, I would still want you to submit your application as soon as you can. So you’re submitting your application blind, meaning you don’t have your MCAT score. Something that students do to protect against that, is they just apply to one school. That way you’re not spending a lot of money adding all the schools to your list and being a “reapplicant” at all of these schools. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter, but students don’t like that label.

Obviously, the cost is a big thing. Can you finish your classes strong come May when applications open up? Fill out all of your application stuff, your personal saving, your extracurriculars, etc. right now. Get all that into the applications so that come June 1st for AMCAS, at least you can submit your application and all of that time, you’re focused on MCAT prepand taking the MCAT.

We have this ideal situation that we tell students to follow. Take the MCAT in March or April and that will allow you to get your score back so that you have your score when you apply.

“But the ideal situation doesn't work for everyone, especially for someone like you who has back-loaded and hard classes that you're finishing up and you need to do well on them.”Click To Tweet

[6:38] When Do Applications Get Approved?

Q: “How long does it usually take for applications to be approved?”

A: Here’s the thing that students don’t really think about. This doesn’t count for TMDSAS because they don’t have a verification process that they do immediately.

As soon as the applications open up at the beginning of May, you submit your application, fill in all the information, click submit that same day and the schools get that application immediately.

TMDSAS does the verification process on the back end while schools are looking at your application. AMCAS and AACOMAS verify before sending to the schools.

“If you apply early, the first wave of applications don't go out until mid-June for AACOMAS.”Click To Tweet

Historically, mid June is when DO schools start to see who’s applying to schools. AMCAS through the AAMC, doesn’t submit their first wave of applications until the third week of June. It opens up at the beginning of May but you can’t submit until June 1st.

There’s this three-week lag period between when students can submit and when schools start to get that first wave of applications. So that first wave of applications goes out and then there’s this delay period between secondary essays. You probably take two weeks to turn around that secondary essay.

Now you’re looking at the first week of July and getting your MCAT score back a week later doesn’t hurt you at all. 

You’re getting everything done, getting verified, submitting your application, doing your secondaries. By the time your MCAT score hits, the schools are just ramping up to start the process for the next year.

“It's not just the timeline that is an issue. It's time requirements and other responsibilities that you have.”Click To Tweet

Typically, what happens is students get so sucked into the MCAT prep that everything else gets pushed to the side. All of a sudden, they’re not submitting their application. 

Most students who take the MCAT mid June won’t submit their application until after they take the MCAT. They’re just sitting on their application mid June and they’re not submitting their application until late June to early July. And there’s a month backlog to get verified and all this other stuff.  So it’s a bottleneck of a process.

[10:29] Dispelling the Bad Rap About Reapplicants

Q:The one school that I apply to, would that be a throwaway school, just in case?”

A: I wouldn’t make it a throwaway school because that’s just throwing away money. Apply to a school that you want to go to and if you need to be reapplicant at that school, it’s really not a big deal.

Our student feels like there’s a bad rep for reapplicants which doesn’t make sense. There is a bad rep for reapplicants which is actually a myth. It’s a misinterpretation of the data. The AAMC does put out data on reapplicants. It shows that reapplicants have a much harder time getting into medical school compared to a first time applicant. 

So students look at that data and think that being a reapplicant is bad. But the data didn’t say that at all. Instead, the data just said reapplicants don’t get into medical school.

“A reapplicant is someone who didn't get into medical school the first time. They probably had a crappy application the first time.”Click To Tweet

We don’t know who those students are and what’s wrong with their applications. There’s likely something very glaringly wrong with their applications and they don’t know better. They just continue to reapply with the same crappy application and get rejected again. So it looks like being a reapplicant is bad but we can’t make that linkage just staring at the data. We’re supposed to be evidence-based and research-oriented.

“Premeds think reapplicants are bad but that's not what the data says at all.”Click To Tweet

[13:08] MCAT Prep

Our student says she has already started preparing for the MCAT because she had the April date in mind. She’s been using the Kaplan books and Anki flashcards, as well as Ryan’s book for the personal statement.

The one extra thing I would add on to that is Blueprint Prep full-length exams. I would say Kaplan has one of the worst reputations for full-length exams. The AAMC has amazing full-length exams and they offer five at this point, four scored and one unscored.

If you go on Reddit, there’s a spreadsheet on students ranking their favorite full-length exams and Blueprint exams are the second best right behind the AAMC in terms of accuracy of how hard the blanks are as well as score prediction.

The Blueprint exams have a ton of data behind the scores that they are giving you, which is really what makes a score relevant and what makes those full links relevant. Blueprint offers up to ten exams that you can buy.

We’ve covered the MCAT podcast, we’re covering full-length one right now, question by question on YouTube so you can follow along. After you take it, you can go back and see what you got wrong and why you got it wrong, etc. So go check it out, you can get 4, 6 or 10 exams and you get the first one as well as a half-length diagnostic through





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