The MCAT (Medical Colleges Admission Test) is the main entryway into all medical schools accredited by the AMA (American Medical Association) across the United States. It is a standardized, computer-based exam made up of multiple-choice questions, and is considered one of the toughest in the world. Most medical schools demand a score of 506 and above (out of a possible 528), even from applicants with undergraduate GPAs higher than 3.79.
The MCAT is quite stressful and competitive, even for traditional students. Thus, if you’re a non-traditional, full-time employed medical school hopeful, you’ll find yourself facing even more hurdles on your path to success. That said, remember that choosing to take the test while working demonstrates endurance and determination, both traits that will serve the taker well in medical school and a career as a doctor.
Be Aware of 2021 Rules
The AAMC responded to the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 with adjustments to the MCAT rules and regulations. With much of the uncertainty created by the pandemic still affecting testing in 2021, many of these newer protocols are still in effect, such as:
- The MCAT rescheduling and cancellation fees are waived. This can be hugely beneficial for you, as a working professional, with unpredictable routines and the chance of work emergencies.
- Social distancing, thermal screening, use of disposable masks and gloves, and all sorts of other COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place in the exam centers.
- The AAMC will provide 10 days of advance notice in case of emergency exam cancellations. They will also work with test-takers to provide a new date for testing.
Take Advantage of Resources For Non-Traditional Students
If you are working full-time and not currently in school while applying for medical school, you are possibly a non-traditional applicant. Most medical school hopefuls will apply to programs during undergraduate programs in pre-med or take a gap year to focus solely on applications. Non-traditional students can face additional challenges in their medical school applications since they have to juggle their work-life, personal life, and academic life.
However, the good news is that there are many study groups and online forums specifically designed to assist non-traditional students on their MCAT journeys. You can opt for online prep courses with flexible course content that you can practice at your convenience.
Some medical school programs provide scholarships for non-traditional students to encourage them to follow their passion. You can look into these programs online and contact the respective institutions for more detail to see if any of them align with your goals and ambitions.
Start Studying Early
The MCAT is highly competitive, and students begin preparing for it far in advance, some right from their freshman year in college. Non-traditional students are often at a disadvantage since they have lost academic momentum.
Working professionals often have trouble building study plans due to unpredictable schedules. However, you can mitigate this disadvantage to a large extent by beginning to prepare for the exam as early as possible.
This will help to counteract the inevitable disruptions to your preparations due to your work and personal life. While you’re studying, be sure you’re using quality resources, including the best MCAT prep books, courses, and study materials.
Balancing your work and personal life while also keeping your academic goals on track can be a significant challenge. The unpredictability of a work routine, now compounded by the pandemic, is quite a hindrance to full-time professionals preparing for one of the most competitive exams in the world. Here are some additional tips you should keep in mind:
- Try to create a routine that keeps your studies on track but is flexible enough to allow for the unexpected.
- Allow yourself to have sufficient leisure time.
- Discuss your ambitions with your family and loved ones to create a supportive environment.
- Find and make use of local educational communities that cater specifically to working students.
- Take mock examinations and analyze your performance to identify lapses in your preparations and ways to rectify them.
Determination, Diligence, and Desire
Medicine is not a career for the faint-hearted. The process of preparing for and taking the MCAT measures the qualities of a medical practitioner in prospective medical school applicants. You might feel that being a non-traditional student, you face an insurmountable challenge. However, although the exam might be a little difficult, you will be able to leverage your knowledge and experience and forge your path to success.