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Should I Focus on the MCAT and Ignore Extracurriculars?

session 58

Session 58

If you are not a traditional student entering the medical field on your terms, you may have had some hiccups along the way but now you’re ready to change course and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your non-traditional journey to becoming a physician.

In this episode, Ryan takes a question directly from the OldPreMeds.org forums and delivers the answer right here to you. Today’s question comes from a  student looking to figure out if he needs to do some extracurricular activities while studying for the MCAT as well.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

“I’m currently studying for the MCAT. I graduated two years ago in 2015 and after working in the emergency room as a medical scribe this past year, I realized becoming a physician was my calling. I stopped working as a scribe in August 2016 and returned back to school in September 2016, taking a few courses that I thought would help me with the MCAT. I also took the MCAT prep course which began in October and I had hopes of taking the MCAT in January. But unfortunately my scores are not where they need to be. As a result, I pushed my MCAT back to the end of March.

With that being said, I was planning on taking it in January and have other things lined up between now and March, such as a part-time job and volunteer work.

I am concerned about putting more things on my plate while approaching the MCAT and I am wondering what would be the best course of action. I could either continue studying for the MCAT for another two months with little else to show on my resume besides that (i.e. any extracurricular activities for six months and just studying for the MCAT). Or I could take on those extracurricular activities , such as volunteering and the part time job and try to balance it all out while studying for the MCAT. I feel like focusing on the MCAT is the best course of action and not getting bogged down with other activities but I am worried that med schools will look at this six-month time period and wonder — ‘what else were you doing during this time period’?– as if studying for the MCAT was not enough and I should have been doing extracurricular activities as well.

Any advice would be great. Thank you!”

— Jacob

Here are my insights:

(4:10) You shouldn’t worry about what medical schools are going to think.

If you are new to this podcast, I encourage you to go back and look at the forums at OldPreMeds.org. The first person who commented on the forum basically said the same thing; you shouldn’t worry about what medical schools are going to think. However, there is one caveat: med schools will see this break and wonder why there was this break, if you really wanted to become a physician.

I would say, though, that six months is okay only if as soon as you take the MCAT, you pick it right back up so that while there is this break, you are continuing to do it. Don’t drop it completely and then apply and then have this break that ended a year from when you actually submit your applications.

(5:12) Doing some extracurricular activities MAY help your MCAT score.

If you can step away from the books a bit and clear your mind, you give yourself a “brain break”. It will also help during those times when you are bogged down studying for an eight hour practice test, frustrated that you didn’t achieve the score you wanted and you are ready to give up; doing those extracurriculars and being around physicians is going to shine some light on why you are going through the journey in the first place!

Having some variety will be good for you and allow to break the monotony of just studying for the MCAT. You will come back refreshed, ready to learn and perform better.

(6:15) If your practice test grades are not increasing, go check out Next Step Test Prep.

Their job is to figure out why you’re not doing well on the test. Their tutors are not there to help you learn the content; rather, their job is to help you with the test. Kaplan, Princeton Review , etc are great for teaching you content but Next Step Test Prep tutors are there to help you overcome your brain block on doing well when it’s time to take the test.

Links and Other Resources:

http://www.oldpremeds.org

Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at Next Step Test Prep!

Transcript

Introduction

Dr. Ryan Gray: If you’re listening to this, then you’re probably a nontraditional student. Go check out The Premed Years, session number 218 to hear an amazing nontrad premed story. You can hear that at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/218.

This is the Old Premeds Podcast, session number 58.

You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, but now you’re now ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your nontraditional journey to becoming a physician.
Welcome to the Old Premeds Podcast, I am your host, Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you questions from the Old Premeds forums over at www.OldPremeds.org. Today’s question is an interesting one about a student looking to figure out whether or not he or she needs to do some extracurricular activities while he or she is studying for the MCAT as well. I’m going to say ‘he’ because the username on here is Jacob so I’m going to just say ‘he’ to make it easy. I’m not judging if it’s a he or she, I’m just making it easier for me.

Extracurriculars during MCAT Prep

Alright with that said, this poster said, ‘I’m currently studying for the MCAT, I graduated two years ago in 2015, and after working the emergency room as a medical scribe this past year, I realized becoming a physician was my calling.’ I’m going to stop there and interject. If Jacob was working in an emergency room as a scribe, why were they doing that if being a physician wasn’t their calling? So I’m interested to know why they were doing that in the first place. Alright Jacob then says, ‘I stopped working as a scribe in August 2016 and returned back to school in September of 2016 taking a few classes that I thought would help me with the MCAT. I also took an MCAT prep course which began in October, and I had hopes of taking the MCAT in January but unfortunately my scores are not where they need to be.’

Alright break again. So Jacob did a smart thing, he took a prep course and through his practice test realized that the score wasn’t where he wanted it to be. I’d be interested to know where he wants it to be to see if it’s realistic or not, but it’s smart to delay. Go ahead and register for the test because that’s huge and you want to make sure you have a seat, and if your scores aren’t there then you can withdraw from that test.

Alright back to Jacob here. It says, ‘As a result I pushed my MCAT back to the end of March. With that being said, I was planning on taking it in January and have other things lined up between now and March such as a part time job and volunteer work. I am concerned about putting more things on my plate while approaching the MCAT and I am wondering what would be the best course of action. I could either continue studying for the MCAT for another two months with little else to show on my resume besides that. IE not doing any extracurricular activities for six months, just studying for the MCAT. Or I could take on those other extracurriculars such as volunteering and the part time job, and try and balance it all out while studying for the MCAT. I feel like focusing on the MCAT is the best course of action and not getting bogged down by other activities, but I am worried med schools will look at this six month time period and wonder, ‘What else were you doing during this time?’ As if studying for the MCAT was not enough and I should have been doing more extracurricular activities as well. Any advice would be great. Thank you.’

Alright so Jacob, here are my thoughts. First thought, you shouldn’t worry about what medical schools are going to think. That’s number one, with an asterisk. And if you go and look at the forums, again I encourage you if you’re new to this podcast, you haven’t checked out the www.OldPremeds.org forums, go check it out. The first person that left a comment basically said the same thing, ‘Don’t worry about what the med schools say.’ But there is one caveat, med schools will see this break and go, ‘Well if you really want to be a physician, why was there this break?’ I would say though that six months is okay as long as as soon as you take that MCAT you pick it right back up so that there’s this break but you’re continuing to do it. Don’t drop it completely and then apply and have this break that ended a year from when you actually submit your applications. So show that there’s the six month break. They’re smart enough, they’ll see when you took the MCAT, and they’ll hopefully assume that that’s why you had that break. So that’s the first thing.

I would say though that doing some extracurricular activities may help your MCAT score, and that’s because you’re getting out and allowing your brain to think about other things. And getting out of the house, getting your head out of the books will help. It will also help when you’re sitting there studying, and you’re frustrated, and you take that next eight hour practice test, and it’s not the score that you want, and you’re frustrated, and you want to give up; having that break, doing those extracurriculars, and maybe being around patients, and being around physicians is going to shine some light and show you why you’re doing this to yourself. And let’s be honest, you’re doing it to yourself. So we all have been there and have done that.

So I think having some variety will be good for you and will allow you to break the monotony of just studying for the MCAT, and you’ll come back refreshed, and with fresh eyes, and ready to learn, and figure out, and do better. I would also say if your grades, if your practice test scores are not going up, go check out Next Step Test Prep tutoring. Their job is to figure out why you’re not doing well on the test. Their tutors don’t help you learn the content, their job is to help you with the test. Go over to www.NextStepTestPrep.com, us the promo code MSHQ, that’s for Medical School Headquarters, MSHQ will save you some money on tutoring. That is where I would take your next step. Kaplan, and Princeton Review, and all of them are great for teaching you content, but Next Step one-on-one tutors are there to help you overcome your brain block on doing well actually taking the test. So that’s what I would recommend as your next step. So think about that.

Number one, don’t worry about what the schools are thinking because yes the MCAT is important and so you need to maximize that as best you can. Number two, doing those extracurriculars may help you do better on the MCAT because you’re getting out of the house, and you’re clearing your head of the MCAT, you’re hopefully getting less frustrated, and everything else. And number three, if your test scores are not going up, go check out Next Step Test Prep tutoring, MSHQ to save some money.

Final Thoughts

Alright I hope that helped and I hope you will take advantage of some of those things that I talked about, and more importantly I hope you continue to listen here every week at the Old Premeds Podcast. I would love for you to subscribe in iTunes, or if you are on an Android device you can listen as well and subscribe as well. Podcast Addict is one of the free and one of the most highly rated podcast apps for Android. Download it, look for Med Ed Media, you’ll find all four of my podcasts there. As we’re recording this we only have four, hopefully we’ll have more in the future. Go check that out and subscribe so that you get this podcast every week delivered right to your phone. While you’re in there go ahead and leave a rating and review, too.

Alright I hope you have a great week, and please come back next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and the Old Premeds Podcast.

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