Need advice on when to test.

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Jun 3, 2021
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Long post warning but I'm so grateful to those who read through + reply!

I am currently about to enter my final year of undergrad and I did not take the MCAT this summer. I am really torn about when I should take the MCAT but want to hammer this down ASAP so I can begin prepping my activities accordingly. The other thing that is making this tough is that I'm not quite sure what to do during my gap year(s) [whether I take 1 or 2 is mostly down to my MCAT date]. I'm leaning towards an MA job or CRC job but TBD.

After thinking a bit about possible scenarios, I came up with the following:

1) Study for the MCAT full-time in the summer immediately after graduation WHILE actively job-searching and hopefully test in early Sept while also landing a job around then. The big pro of this option is that it would be the only situation in which I am studying nearly full-time (not entirely due to the job hunt) in a short period, which has been proven by many of my friends to be the most successful way to break 520 (my goal). Obvious con is that I would be unemployed and there is no guarantee I would get a job by September. (There is a chance I could get an RA position in my lab that I've been working with for years, and due to the rapport I have with them they may allow me to take that summer off before starting work -- however, research is not a weak point in my application and I don't know that it would be the best job choice considering my limited clinical hours.)

2) Study part-time from this December until May of 2024 and test May 2024. I would need to halt a lot of my ECs and I'd be juggling studying for the MCAT with schoolwork (although I would take less units and have part-time student status) as well as research (already committed to 12 hrs/week as part of an honors thesis) and a leadership position I am already committed to. The big con of this is that I would have to stop my hospice + free clinic volunteering (as I mentioned, my clinical hours are already low) and also any non-clinical volunteering I'd be doing (I currently have 0 hours in that realm - I am aware this is a big weakness in my app but I am currently looking into potential opportunities to start that as early as next month). A potential pro is that I could apply in June 2024 assuming I get a good score & take only 1 gap instead of 2... but I don't know that it would be a good look for majority of my non-clinical volunteering to be DURING my gap year. I'd also have to worry about securing a job before I submit the primary so that I can write the gap year essay. It would be a lot of hustle and cramming and stress but there is a chance it could be worth it to avoid an extra year -- ONLY if it doesn't overall hurt my app rather than help it and I am truly prepared enough to apply.

3) Job-hunt in spring for a job immediately after graduation & study part-time over 6-7 months; test in January 2025. I am a bit worried about the longer study period and its lower yield results, and adjusting to a new job schedule takes its toll. Ideally I'd find a part-time job so I can give more time and energy to studying but I am not sure whether there are many part-time job options available for MA or clinical research positions. Furthermore, I want to continue my volunteering throughout my gap years (hospice + non-clinical + monthly free clinic) and shadowing so I would be juggling a lot. The biggest pro of this option is that I would get another year to gain hours and meaningful experiences in these activities which I truly do enjoy. But I am worried about putting too much time between graduating and applying -- I know myself and I know that I could lose momentum if I'm not careful.

I'm having a hard time weighing the pros and cons of each option. Any opinions or thoughts would be welcome. TIA!

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Im just an applicant, but I read your post and was in the same exact position last year so thought I would offer my perspective just in case it helps in any way!

I think it is up to what works for you best. Some people do well in cramming in a short period of time... that did not work for me. Where are your gaps? Work on identifying that first. Do you feel confident in the material or do you feel like you will need to do a lot of foundational review before even beginning to practice? Then respectively decide whether you feel more comfortable with a few months of studying or maybe 6 months of studying. It seems as if based on 2, you feel that it is unfavorable to study in your senior year and that it would halt a lot of your activities so I would go with what you feel comfortable with. In regard to #3, for me personally, a longer period of studying actually led to higher yield results because many of my gaps were more foundational and less on the strategy of test taking. The first time I studied, I studied for 3 months in my senior year and bombed the MCAT. The second time, I studied over a 7-month period while in a full-time job during my first gap year and my score increased exponentially (over 12 points). Also, I wouldn't worry about taking too much time off between graduation and applying. In fact, 1-2 gap years is fairly common and can be looked at favorably even.
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