If you’ve not taken my advice and pushed your MCAT back until June or July, you may be in for a rude awakening when you see your score. What should you do?
A brief story, the MCAT scores were released at the end of this month (July) and two students I’m working with specifically got scores that aren’t what they wanted,not what they expected it to be.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out all our other amazing episodes on MedEd Media as you walk through this journey towards medical school and beyond.
[02:10] Applying to Only One School
This a strategy several students do, for which I was used to be against this. But now, I’m starting to come around to it a bit. I can understand from the perspective of students the safety it gives you. That said, I’m not 100% sold on it.
I’m talking about only applying to one school when you submit your application because you don’t have your MCAT score back yet.
Now, if you’ve followed my advice from the beginning, you would have taken the MCAT at the latest, March or April of the year you’re applying. That means you would have your score back by the time you submit your application. You would know your score and hopefully, have the confidence to apply to more than one school.
But if you’re not taking the MCAT until you submit your application, then you’re lacking confidence in your score. But you know you have to apply early. So you end up only applying to only one school.
Talking with this student, she got a 495 and her highest score on the practice test was 500 and the other AAMC full-length exams were 494s. So it was the score she was supposed to be.
[04:40] Practice Tests: How Far Are They From Your Real MCAT Score?
I always talk about how practice tests being the best way to practice for the MCAT. And what you’re scoring on the practice test should be about equivalent to what you will score on the real thing. But they don’t take into account the obvious fact that stress happens. Real test day jitters get to you.
Walking into the library to simulate an MCAT test don’t affect you the same way that the real MCAT will. Hence, it’s not unusual to score lower on the real MCAT than you did in your practice test. So don’t be surprised and think it’s a glitch in the system. It just happens. Sometimes, some students score much better on the real test. But then again, you can’t expect for a miracle on the test day.
[06:35] Using the URM Card
So this student had a mediocre undergrad GPA with great extracurricular activities, great background, great story. She’s a URM (underrepresented in medicine) and that adds to it. So what do you do with a 495? Do you apply and hope there’s something in your application medical schools will like? Are you a URM? Do you play that card?
Data shows, unfortunately, that because of the biases built into our system, that African Americans were significantly less or lower on the MCAT than Caucasians and Asians. But this doesn’t mean they should be punished for it. That’s why when you look at acceptance rates, MCAT score-wise they’re lower. As to why, there a lot of reasons for that.
So what do you do then?
[08:40] Option #1: Apply.
One thing I always tell students along this process and in the Medical School Hangout Group is to ask the admission committees of the schools you’re interested in applying to and lay out your cards. Tell them your story and that you’re an URM. Ask whether they have minimum cutoffs for URM students. They may take a 495 and they’ll look at you. Or they may say no.
Ask the school what to do next and where do you go from here. They may tell you to apply, or not. Or they may tell you to apply and retake the MCAT. Hence, the first option is to apply. Spray and pray.
[10:55] Option #2: Retake the MCAT
Since you’ve already applied and pushed forward, the other option is to retake the MCAT. This depends on when you took the MCAT, when you got your score back, and when you can retake the MCAT. Hopefully, you get to practice to raise your score otherwise if you get the same score in your practice test, there’s no point in retaking the MCAT.
If you’re scoring higher in your practice test and then you took the MCAT and got lower, then something went wrong on test day. Go and take the test as soon as possible. Refresh your memory if it’s been a month since you’ve taken it. Go take some more practice tests. Take the test as soon as you can. Keep your applications going as well as your secondaries. Go and do the best you can do on the MCAT.
[12:00] Option #3: Withdraw Your Applications
The third option is to call it quits for this cycle. And it’s just this cycle so it’s not a failed attempt. This doesn’t mean your dream of becoming a physician is over. It just means it’s going to be delayed for another year. And that’s okay. This may give you time to save up some money for the next application cycle and for some MCAT tutoring.You can save up some money so you could reduce your work hours so you can focus on the MCAT and do more volunteer activities, more shadowing, and more clinical experience. You have more time to focus to bolster your application.
But since you’re looking at your MCAT score and thinking it’s not what you wanted to be, then obviously, focus on the MCAT. Don’t distract yourself with thinking you’re taking a year off to study for the MCAT, might as well do a Master’s. You’re supposed to be studying for the MCAT. That is your kryptonite, at least right now. So go study for the MCAT.
[13:41] Be Self-Aware and Get a Tutor
If studying on your own has proven that it didn’t work for you then get a tutor. Have a tutor look at you, at your studying, your techniques, your test-taking abilities and have them offer you advice on how to move forward.
You can check out Next Step Test Prep and get a tutor. Use the promo code MSHQ to save some money. Ask them to help you figure out where you did wrong with your practice tests. Not all of you are going to need a tutor to go all over the content or the practice tests. While some of you need that, others don’t.
So if you think you’ve got the content under control, maybe it’s worth a phone call to Next Step. Tell them you need a tutor to go over a practice test or two with you to figure out where you’re going wrong and help you break down the questions and see where your thought process is leading you astray. Otherwise, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot and end up in the same place as you are right now, scratching your head wondering why and if this is meant for you.
[17:00] In Prep for the Boards
Keep in mind that once you’re in medical school and you’re taking the boards, there’s no retaking it unless you fail. You get the score you get. So you need to start practicing to do really well in these kinds of tests. You need to figure out how to do well in large standardized tests and that starts today.
So as you move forward and you’re already in the middle of the application and you’ve submitted your applications, there are several things to do.
[17:50] Why It’s Great to Delay It to the Next Year
If you only applied to one school then maybe that’s great, because when you apply to schools next year, you’re not a reapplicant to them and they haven’t seen your personal statement so you don’t have to change that much. If you’re prewritten your secondaries while waiting for the MCAT score, all that stuff is already done so great! You’ve already asked for letters of recommendation. So you’re stress-free. If you’re going to reapply next year, most of your work is done. You’d only have to focus on the MCAT.
But then again, you have to know why you failed in the first place. Do not go running to forums and strangers. They can tell you to go apply to a Caribbean school or a DO school. Anybody who doesn’t have a say in the medical school admissions world, you should not be asking questions to.
Lastly, if you’re taking some time off, continue to be consistent with your shadowing and with your extracurricular activities and all of that. Because since you’re applying in a year, you still need to do all those stuff and you need to be consistent with it.
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