Graduate in three years or four?

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New Member
10+ Year Member
May 6, 2011
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I am only a 2nd year right now:

Biological Sciences major @ UC Irvine
3.75 cGpa (I think I can raise this to 3.8)
3.6 sGpa
No Mcats yet
In two volunteering programs at two separate hospitals
One year of research so far, working on a poster presentation due in 2 weeks
Leadership positions (Sergeant at arms, pre-health ambassador) for a pre-med fraternity
Leadership position for another club- We are going to set up a clinic in Southern India this coming summer

On top of this, I plan on doing a lot more.

My real question is whether I should graduate in three years or four.
If I take the three year plan, I would hold off on taking my mcat and applying to med schools until my supposed senior year, in which the application process would take another whole year. So basically, I'll have two years off spent studying for the mcat and doing other ec's that I would probably be unable to do if I did a four year plan.

My other option is to take a more traditional route of taking the mcats my third year, applying the third year, and graduating in 3 years and 2 quarters. So basically, I would still get a quarter and summer off before med school which I think is still a sufficient break.

I'm torn between the two choices because I hear from a lot of people that studying the mcat during the school year is a really bad idea.

My thoughts on graduating in three years:
1. I graduate before all my friends
2. Two years off, although studying and doing ec's, is a lot of time
3. I lose a lot of the resources available to me at UC Irvine that I could use as a undergraduate (including ec opportunities)

1. probably a stronger mcat score
2. probably stronger ec's (another research, ec's that take a lot of time that I wouldn't be able to do during school)
3. Saved money

My thoughts on graduating in four:
1. studying the mcat during the school year
2. Less time to get LOR's

1. I get into medical school fast
2. no time wasted

I think at the rate I am going, I can get into some medical school in the U.S. fairly decently. However, my mindset is not about getting into a medical school, but which ones would be best for me. I am obsessed with UCSF, so I get we can use that as a measuring tool in deciding what I should do.

I figure that if I do the four year plan, I can still put out over 32+ mcats, maintain my gpa's, increase my ec's.

However, I feel like if I did the 3 year plan, I would be a much stronger candidate, I'm just really unsure if its worth it to rush college and relax for two years. If I take the three year plan, I will be taking about 18-19 units each quarter which includes 3-4 units of research, which isn't too bad.

Thanks to those who took the time to read and help me out

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Full Member
10+ Year Member
Jun 28, 2010
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Both options I think are fine, but if it were me personally, I would do the 4 year plan. Taking 2 years off just for the MCAT doesn't seem worth it to me. Yes it is hard juggling the MCAT with college courses, but the majority of us get through it. Also don't forget you can get a head start this summer (and holidays) and start studying for the MCAT, (because honestly, the more time you can get for studying the better). Cali schools are highly competitive and so it will be crucial for you to do stellar. It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders though so I wouldn't worry too much about it (as long as you put in the time!).

I know some friends who graduated after 3 years, and while they saved money, have regretted it as they wished they would have stayed for their senior year with their friends (great year btw just finished it!). Also like you said you will still be able to pursue opportunities while in school.

Another trivial thing, which again is just my opinion, is that for me, I don't know how well I'd do taking 2 years off and then going into medical school with a curriculum that many of my friends in med school have said can be very overwhelming at times. Now that I've just finished college I'm still "in the zone" with studying, taking tests, etc... and while it's going to be a drastic transition that I can't even anticipate, it won't be as drastic as taking 2 years off then enrolling.

But at the end of the day it's something you will have to decide for yourself. Like I said I think either option will be fine.

Good luck! :):thumbup:
Sep 4, 2006
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If you are relying on AP credits to graduate early, be aware of how many California medical schools don't accept AP credits, and plan accordingly:

A middle-road plan to consider would be to graduate early, but then remain on campus while building your ECs, perhaps employed, but continuing with research and other EC building (maybe taking a postbac class), since there are more opportunities nearby than if you returned home.