During my first semester of Foundations in Biology, Professor Elmendorf said: “everyone should go skydiving the day before [their MCAT] so that they realize that the MCAT is by far not the scariest thing they will face in their lives.” As a freshman, the MCAT was the last thing on my mind, but I remembered Professor Elmendorf’s words during the spring of my junior year when the prep books began arriving at my house, and the stress of the MCAT began to sneak its way into my life.
What Professor Elmendorf said was absolutely true. Georgetown kids love talking about how stressed out they are but the MCAT is definitely not the hardest thing you will ever face. You might not believe me, but the MCAT is not that bad. The worst thing about studying for the MCAT is figuring out how to stat. My advice: lock yourself up in the library and take a timed practice exam before anything else. Figure out what your weaknesses are and start there! Trust that the rigorous semesters here at Georgetown have prepared you for this exam.
I took a preparatory course for the MCAT. Although my tutor helped guide my studying, the only really helpful part of the course was that the provided 10 full-length practice exams with detailed answer keys. My salvation for the MCAT was Khan Academy, which has an entire comprehensive section dedicated to the MCAT. Khan Academy is definitely helpful for visual learners, and provides the (low) level of detail that you need to know for the MCAT.
Practice, practice, practice. Before taking the MCAT I would recommend taking at least 8 full-length, timed practice exams. When test day comes, you will already be acquainted with every question form and you will have the endurance to sit for a 7.5 hour exam.
Breathe. If you’re anything like me, you like to study until the last minute before you take an exam. The MCAT isn’t like your Orgo exam or your Physics midterm; you will never know everything that can pop up on the MCAT. So relax. Put the books away, and give yourself the physical and mental rest you deserve before test day.
2. Where do I apply?
At this point you’ve probably meet with an advisor and constructed a list of schools based off your MCAT score, GPA, and resume. Now just try to consider where you will be happy. Do your research! There are no perfect medical schools and there are no bad medical schools. Try to look past ranking and look at schools that suit your learning style. Do you want to attend a school that is pass/fail? Do you want to be in a class of 64 or 180? What’s the price difference between a private school and your state school?
Honestly, most schools will be pretty similar, so keep an open mind and try to find the little details that will make a difference for your experience.
3. The Application
Medical schools don’t want to hear about how much you want to help people. With few exceptions, everyone wants to help others, and every career provides a way in which you can accomplish this. Medical schools won’t be impressed with pretentious language. Really think about why you want to be a physician. Be honest and be original! Everyone applying to medical school is passionate about promoting the health of others, but why do you want to sacrifice your time, energy, and money for the sake of attending medical school? What experiences have brought you here? Do some soul searching and write something thoughtful! Proofread it, get someone else to read it, and proofread it again. You will probably end up with a completely different personal statement than the one you started with. Let your writing evolve and be open to criticism, that’s what brings out memorable writing!
Going into the process of applying to medical school I knew the MCAT would be challenging and that I would have to commit a lot of time to writing essays. However, I was shocked by the cost of simply applying to medical school. You have to pay between $300-$400 just to take the MCAT. Then you can pay upwards of $600 to submit your primary applications, and between $40-$150 for each secondary application (yes, every school will send you one and every school will charge a fee). Just when you think the spending is over, interview invitations start rolling in. You then have to pay to travel to each medical school.
Good news: if you qualify, you can get need-based fee waivers through AMCAS.
Be prepared. Prepare your family and your bank account for the costs that you are anticipating, and put a limit on the number of schools you apply to!
Plan smart. Chances are you will be applying to several schools within the same states/cities. Schedule interviews such that you minimize the amount of times you have to travel to the same area.
The medical school application process is long and can be stressful. Take deep breaths and let the process take course. You’ve worked hard and done your best; now let the schools do their thing and evaluate all of your incredible achievements! It’s cliché, but it’s true: everything will work out. You’ve come this far, and the most important thing is to keep in mind why you started this insane process in the first place. Think of the colleagues you will meet, the things you will learn, and the patients you will treat; let that motivate you.
Best of luck to all!