Learn the pros and cons of using your summer to prep for the MCAT. Decide which timeline is right for you!
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:13] Mastering Your MCAT Prep Schedule
As student, you may have noticed that the MCAT exams take place at the beginning of the year, typically in January, March, and April. However, there are no exam dates available for February. This means that many students tend to study in the fall season to prepare for these exams. But what if you plan to take the MCAT later in the year, say around September or October?
In this case, it’s important to understand how to structure your MCAT prep schedule. Today, we’ll be discussing just that. Before we begin, though, it’s worth noting that Blueprint MCAT offers fantastic free resources, including a half-length diagnostic and a full-length practice exam. Be sure to check them out!
Prepping During the Summer
Now, there are a lot of students who want to prep for the MCAT during the summer. They’re probably home and they’re not taking classes. Maybe they’re doing a little research and some clinical experience with the idea that they’re going to take the MCAT in September or October.
The MCAT is not offered in November or December, or February for some random reason. So they study during the summer, and then they have maybe a late August to September date. Say, you start prepping for the MCAT mid May, June, July, and take it in August. Then you start working on their personal statement and your activity descriptions. You start asking for letters of recommendations and apply this cycle coming up, to start medical school in 2024. If you are a student who is considering this, Nicole says it’s a bad idea.'Rolling admissions is a thing... if you are not taking your MCAT until August-September, you should probably push your application cycle back.'Click To Tweet
Submit Your Application Early!
While it’s true that there are individuals who have taken their MCAT in August and still managed to get into medical school, you don’t want to have to rely on being that one exception. Instead, you want to set yourself up for the highest possible chance of success. This means listening to advice and taking necessary steps. Submit your application early and have your MCAT score ready in time. By doing so, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your goals and securing a spot in medical school.
To give yourself the best chance of success in your medical school applications, it’s ideal to have everything completed by mid-July. This includes having your MCAT score back, your application verified, essays submitted, secondaries in progress, and letters of recommendation submitted. For most students, this means taking the MCAT in March or possibly May before submitting their application. By planning ahead and completing these tasks early, you’ll have a smoother and less stressful application process.
[05:42] The Best Time to Take the MCAT
If you’re planning to apply to medical school in the summer, it’s not advisable to take the MCAT during that same application cycle. While it’s not impossible to do so, most experts recommend against it. This is because, throughout the application cycle, there are fewer available seats and more applicants.
As a result, there are diminishing returns to applying later in the cycle. Additionally, if you plan to take a later MCAT, med schools may delay reviewing your application until they receive your score.
Anecdotally, some individuals have been accepted with a September MCAT score, but this is the exception rather than the norm. Therefore, it’s wise to plan ahead and take the MCAT at an earlier time.
Nicole believes that it’s important to position oneself in the majority when applying to medical school. This is because the process can be lengthy, expensive, and challenging. By giving oneself the best chance possible, applicants can avoid having to apply again.
Ultimately, the goal is to succeed and reach your desired outcome. Therefore, Nicole emphasizes the importance of taking necessary steps to increase one’s chances of success, such as preparing early and submitting materials on time.'Give yourself the best opportunity you can to succeed because you don't want to have to apply another time, if you can avoid it.'Click To Tweet
[07:07] To Prep or Not to Prep for the MCAT During the Summer
Flexibility in MCAT Test Date
One advantage of prepping for the MCAT during the summer is the flexibility it provides in case unexpected events occur.
If an you plan to take the MCAT in October but is not ready, you can push back your test date to January, March, or April and still have plenty of time to submit your application for the next cycle. That way, you can fully understand what the MCAT score means for your application before submitting it.
Limitations of Prepping During Summer
Unfortunately, not everyone can prep for the MCAT during the summer due to other obligations such as summer courses or travel.
This limitation can restrict opportunities to prepare effectively for the exam, which is critical for achieving a high score. Consequently, alternative times may be necessary to provide ample time to prepare.
Optimal Time to Prep for the MCAT
The ideal time to prepare for the MCAT is during the summer between junior and senior year. This period allows for sufficient time to focus exclusively on MCAT preparation without any other academic commitments. However, this assumes you’re planning to take a gap year before applying to medical school.
It’s worth noting that prepping between sophomore and junior year may not be sufficient since not all prerequisites are under your belt yet. This can impact how well one prepares for the exam.
[08:28] Scheduling Strategies and Courses to Self-Study
Benefits of Studying for the MCAT During Summer
According to Nicole, studying for the MCAT during the summer is advantageous if you can manage it. This approach allows you to focus solely on the MCAT without other academic commitments and provides more flexibility in case of unexpected events. That being said, you have to fulfill all prerequisite courses before beginning MCAT prep.
Additionally, it’s crucial to check with your school regarding policy on Advanced Placement (AP) credit and the substitution of upper-level courses. You have to make sure you meet the requirements of medical schools.
Scheduling Strategies and Courses to Self-Study
Studying for the MCAT early is not always feasible due to various challenges. For instance, you may have incomplete prerequisites or may find it challenging to balance MCAT study with other commitments, such as study-abroad programs. To overcome challenges and prepare effectively, you can take strategic approaches such as self-studying psychology, sociology, and physics.
However, it’s crucial to complete biochemistry coursework before beginning MCAT prep since it’s a challenging subject to self-study. Ultimately, you have to plan your schedule strategically to maximize your preparation time and ensure you’re adequately equipped to achieve their desired outcome.'Biochem is one of those subjects that I would not recommend you self-study for. It is really big!'Click To Tweet
[13:07] The Benefits of Strategically Preparing for the MCAT During Summer
Flexibility in Choosing MCAT Test Date
Completing prerequisites provides more flexibility in choosing when to take the MCAT. It’s essential to be strategic in your preparation and find the best time when you have the most time and flexibility.
Strategic preparation and time management are crucial for finding balance when studying for the MCAT. Having enough time in your week to make the math work is essential to avoid burnout and achieve success.
Advantages of Studying for the MCAT During Summer
Studying for the MCAT during summer provides more time, flexibility, and fewer commitments. This approach allows students to focus solely on the MCAT and avoid other responsibilities that might distract them from their studies.
Challenges of Prepping Between Sophomore and Junior Year
Studying for the MCAT between sophomore and junior year can be challenging for some students, depending on their specific situation and institution. There may be incomplete prerequisites or difficulty balancing MCAT study with other commitments.
Studying for the MCAT between junior and senior year is more common and allows for ample time to prepare effectively while still completing all prerequisites. This approach provides more time and flexibility for rest and breaks, making it easier to manage stress.
[14:28] Advantages and Disadvantages of Gap Years
One disadvantage of prepping between junior and senior year is that it requires an automatic gap year. This means that you apply during your senior year instead of your junior year, and it takes a year to complete the application cycle before starting medical school.
While not suitable for everyone, it can be an ideal option for those who need more time to prepare effectively and give themselves the best chance of success. We don’t want to have too much and we don’t want to be slacking off. And so, this requires you to have literally enough hours in your week to make the math work.”
And so, when it comes to the summer, there is less responsibility, which makes it easier to do all of the things necessary to prep for that. Between sophomore and junior year, it’s definitely a lot harder depending on your specific situation and institution. It’s not as common because you just don’t have those prereqs done yet. But between junior and senior year, again, it’s more common. Unfortunately, this gives you an automatic gap year because you’re not going to apply until your senior year instead of applying during your junior year to medical school.'During the application cycle, remember, it takes a year to to apply to medical school.'Click To Tweet
[16:00] Gap Years and Success: Exploring the Trend
In recent years, it has become increasingly common for students to take one or more gap years before continuing their education. According to data, 75% of incoming first-year college students have taken a gap year. While this trend is growing, it’s important to note that it may not be the right choice for everyone.
Consider Your Options
Before deciding whether or not to take a gap year, it’s important to consider your personal situation and goals. Just because the majority of students are taking gap years doesn’t mean it’s the only option or the best option for you. Ultimately, you should choose the path that sets you up for the most success.
The Gift of Flexibility
If you do choose to take a gap year, it can provide a unique opportunity for flexibility and growth. For example, let’s say you take the MCAT in August and receive a lower score than expected.
With a gap year, you have the option to delay your studying until later semesters and take time off to recenter yourself.
Studying During Your Last Year
For students in this situation, taking a break from studying over the summer between their junior and senior year can be beneficial. You have two full semesters to prepare for the MCAT and work on your applications, giving you the freedom to set a timeline that works best for you.
Taking a break can prevent burnout and allow you to approach your studies with renewed energy and focus.
[17:57] Blueprint MCAT’s Summer Immersive Program: What You Need to Know
Blueprint MCAT now offers a one-month immersive program during the summer months that is designed to prepare students for the MCAT exam. While it’s a lot of work and requires a full-time commitment, the immersive program can be an excellent option for students who are looking to jumpstart their studies.
Who is the Immersive Good For?
The immersive program is designed for students who can fully dedicate themselves to studying for the MCAT for a full month.
As such, it’s ideal for students who have taken a gap year and are studying during the summer between their junior and senior year. Because the program is so intense, it’s recommended that students have nothing else going on during that month other than studying for the MCAT.
What to Expect During the Immersive
During the immersive program, students will receive a condensed version of Blueprint MCAT’s live online course, along with additional resources and support.
The program is designed to get students fully ready for the MCAT, and many students choose to take the exam immediately following the program. The immersive includes content sessions, small group work, and one-on-one tutoring options.
Building Community during the Immersive
The immersive program is also an opportunity for students to build community with their peers and instructors. By working closely together for a full month, students can form close bonds and support each other throughout the MCAT preparation process.
Other Immersive Program Offerings
In addition to the summer program, Blueprint MCAT also plans to offer an immersive program during the winter months. This program may be ideal for students who are on a similar timeline and want to take advantage of their winter break to prepare for the MCAT.
To learn more about Blueprint MCAT’s immersive program and other test preparation options, visit their website.