Am I pretty much going to have to take a year off?

Aug 15, 2009
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So here's the scenario:

I am currently a third year student at the university of virginia (class of 2011). I have not taken the MCAT, and have not even touched studying for it yet.

My plan was to take it in the summer, but people are saying that will be too late. The way I see it, I'd probably take it sometime in august so that I could spend all of the summer studying for it.

I've probably forgotten a lot of physics and chemistry, and orgo wasn't too hot for me so as far as studying for the MCAT, I'd need as much time as I can get. Biology, well, I haven't even taken BIO or Bio lab cause I'm in engineering and my BME department ensured that our physiology classes would suffice. after hearing my friend saying that osu vet school doesn't accept physiology classes as a substitute, I think I want to take bio and biolab just as a safety precaution, and this would happen during the summer. it would also boost my sGPA.

that all being said, I'm worried about applying to start med school in the fall of 2011 since I'd be wanting to take the mcat so late...i'd also be doing summer class (the bio class).

also, I feel like I could have a better GPA for my applications since I am definitely on an upward trend..currently I have a 3.2 or so and if I continue everything as it currently is this semester, I can raise it to a 3.4 or 3.5 by next spring.

so my question is, should I even bother applying this year since I'll be taking the MCAT so late, and my GPA won't be as strong by the end of this school year compared to the end of next year? or should I just take the year off? If I did that, what would I do? I think it'd be nice to get a job related to my major (materials science engineering/biomedical engineering) but I'm iffy about companies hiring me for only 1 year.

any input would be great, thanks
 

Latuza

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You should take bio with lab at all cost b/c maybe med schools in Virginia will accept physiology as a substitute, but almost no med schools outside of Virginia do. Sounds like with your GPA, your best strategy is to apply widely.

Also general bio is not the same as physiology at all. Physiology is more about whole body biology (main systems of the body) and general bio encompasses molecular and cellular bio and also other fields of bio like evolution and ecology. You need to take bio b/c the MCAT covers topics in general bio that physiology would not touch on at all. Like when I took the MCAT (3 times), it covers everything you can think of: ecology, evolution, glycolysis, muscles, etc. Without having taken general bio, you would not be ready for the MCAT.

Your best policy would be to apply next year, given that you need to raise your GPA to 3.5 to be competitive for Viriginia schools (3.5 I think is average). You should take MCAT at the end of summer so you will have taken bio by that time. The upside is bio will be fresh in your mind and all other subjects you've just taken last year. I would strongly advise you take the MCAT at the end of summer after finishing bio.

You should only take the MCAT when you're ready, and a good score trumps an early but low score anytime. If you haven't started studying, and most ppl take 3 months to study for MCAT, I don't see how you can be ready to take the MCAT early in the summer unless you're a very high-caliber student and can study 8 hrs/day for a whole month just for MCAT. but don't take the test unless you're practice/diagnostic MCAT score averages where you want to be.

Applying in Aug means your score comes out in September, so your application will be pretty late. However, if you have a high score and a GPA not far off from 3.5, I think you have a shot at Virginia schools (3.5 and 30 average, 24% acceptance rate). For OOS schools, you won't be competitive esp since you applied that late. So you will have to apply widely if you insist on applying this year, but in a way that's wasting your money. So I think if you do apply, apply only to Virginia schools and a few OOS.

I have no idea what biomedical engineering can do for 1 year, maybe research at your school labs. Other people opt to do EMT, AmeriCorp, Teach for America (2 years), medical assistant, and research. I think you should do research b/c professors love students with both bio and engineering backgrounds (considering most scientific advances these days are made at the interface of diverse fields).
 

jwl7b

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Hey, applying to medical school can be a financial/emotional drag, so IMO I think it'd be best to give yourself the best shot possible the first time around. (Raise GPA, destroy the MCAT, and rock Bio-- btw, summer school class will probably require some sort of daily commitment outside of class, which might take time away from your MCAT studies)

Taking the MCAT in Aug and applying -will- delay your applications, which undoubtedly will diminish the number of interviews available for you.

If you get your stats into the best shape possible for a run at med school, then I think you should be able to get pretty creative with a year off. There are a ton of options out there, and you'll be able to find something to do, even if it's not related to medicine.
 

bravofleet4

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take the year off. you seem unprepared for things to come. MCAT aside, you need to also write your personal statement and get your LOR's in. These are things that shouldn't be done last minute and I'm guessing you haven't started on this as well. furthermore, you don't seem to have a very competitive application based upon the GPA and lack of EC's. your MCAT score could help compensate for that but based upon what you said, but I don't think you're going to score high on it if you take it now.

Don't try to see applying this year as just as a test try. if you apply to lots of schools you could end up wasting a couple grand and end up applying next year with the stigma of being a re-applicant as well.
 

Latuza

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Yes reapplicants are branded with a stigma but I think you'll be all right if you reapply b/c you will definitely have improved your application with higher GPA (and maybe MCAT, since you can retake).

But the wise thing to do is to take a year off. I mean, what's a year in terms of your whole medical career (8+ more years of schooling/training). It's good to take a breather, recharge, and explore the world outside of undergrad and medicine.
 

Narmerguy

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I'd take the year off.
 

bravofleet4

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the application process can really take a physical/emotional toll on people. it might not be so bad for you if you knew you chances were slim from the beginning but some people were overly optimistic and it hurt to get rejected and not hear back from any of the schools. i remember seeing one guy close to tears...
 

futureIDdoc

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Taking a bio class during the beginning of the summer helped me do so well on the MCAT in August, I like your idea of doing that.

I would still seriously consider applying this year if you have good EC's...you're at a top tier school doing BME so you should get some leeway with the GPA
 

slowbutsteady

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Take the year off and get every aspect of your app as strong as possible. You will be doing yourself the best favor in the world.
 

Marcus Brody

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I'd say give it a shot, but you're pretty behind in the game and the GPA isn't really going for you.
 

LizzyM

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Your gpa, the late application (to get bio & lab on the application you'l need to delay sending transcripts until after summer grades are posted), the late MCAT all conspire against you.

You'd only be wasting your money and your psychic energy.

You should work on boosting your gpa through this summer and senior year and scoring not less than 30 on the MCAT(putting you at or above the 80th percentile among those who take the MCAT) to have a 50-50 shot at getting admitted.

Take the MCAT only once. Take as many practice tests under standard test conditions as you can afford. If you aren't ready in August, postpone until January or April.
 

VTBuc

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The difference between a 3.2 and a 3.5 is huge. I would take the year off and really get that GPA there. At 3.2 you would be limited to probably only VCOM but with a 3.5 you are in the range of VTC, EVMS, VCOM, and VCU and some low to mid-tier OOS schools.
 
Last edited:
Aug 15, 2009
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okay thanks for all the replies

just as a clarification to myself for the timetable

If I were to take the MCATs in august (just cause I'd rather be studying during the summer vs the school year) or in may of 2011, that would be for my application which i submit near the start of summer 2011, which would mean I'd start (if i got in) in the fall of 2012, correct?
 

LizzyM

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Your scores are good for 3 years. Ideally, if you take the exam in August you should apply 10 months later, to begin classes the year after that (i.e. taking the August exam should mean that you take the exam 24 months before your med school class will begin). Taking the August MCAT the same summer you apply for admission immediately handicaps your application in that it will be one of the last to be complete, among the last to be reviewed, and by the time you join the pool of interview eligible applicants (supplement complete, etc) many of the interview slots will have already been assigned. You might as well poke out an eye and tie one hand behind your back.
 

slowbutsteady

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okay thanks for all the replies

just as a clarification to myself for the timetable

If I were to take the MCATs in august (just cause I'd rather be studying during the summer vs the school year) or in may of 2011, that would be for my application which i submit near the start of summer 2011, which would mean I'd start (if i got in) in the fall of 2012, correct?
Correct, good plan!!
 
Aug 15, 2009
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Alright thanks all for the advice. I still need to talk with my parents as well as my brother (already in residency after graduating from Illinois med) about my plans

But as I see it, I will have to apply next year since I haven't taken the MCATs yet. Also, I will be taking biology this summer.

So I suppose in the mean time, I might try to get a job with my biomedical engineering BS...I was also thinking about just going for a masters and waiting to app to med schools for an extra 2 years rather than 1 from now.

Also..heh..another reason why I should just go ahead and wait..the prehealth board writes their rec letters based on an interview..and I havent set up an interview and that time has passed (I never really utilized the prehealth offices since they seem to be really mean if you dont have a 3.6 or better or something, plus I have a professor I talk with about this stuff as well as my older brother..plus SDN :laugh: ).

Thanks for the responses.
 

ahowardmd

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I did the same thing, taking the MCAT in August after studying for it all summer, but that's what I planned to do all along. Make sure you're prepared for what lies ahead.