Non-Trad MCAT Motivation: You Can Be Older, Work Full-Time, and Still Do Well!

Hi! My name is James. I am 32 years old, married, active duty Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy stationed in San Diego. The MSHQ MCAT and nontraditional podcasts were very helpful in my MCAT prep, especially early on as I was testing the waters, collecting information, and starting to hash-out a plan. I used the NS MCAT online course and found that immensely helpful too. I heard about NS through the podcast and their MCAT online planner and online resources were very helpful in my MCAT prep. I actually think their review videos of the AAMC Practice Tests were some of the most useful resources because most of the time the AAMC answer explanations are lacking, but NS explained everything very well. Because of that and their emphasis on the lessons learned journal, I think I extracted the most out of my FL exam review, practice passage review, and practice question review.

I LOVED keeping my lessons learned journal, and I got the idea from the podcast and the NS folks. That really helped me identify my weaknesses and attack them! My #1 recommendation to anyone taking the MCAT would be to keep a meticulous LLJ and actually go back through it from time to time. I think because of my LLJ and commitment to really spending time to review FL exams and all AAMC material, I was able to go from an initial NS diagnostic score of 501 at the very beginning of my prep (9 months out) to an official MCAT score of 521 (129/129/132/131) on Test Day.

I extracted so many tidbits of useful information from the podcast and the NS folks, and it really helped that I started listening about one year out from my Test Day. Being a non-trad in the Navy, I knew my road was going to be different from most, so I built a 9-month study schedule, and I left a lot of “white space” to allow for time to catch-up and shift stuff around. I am glad I built flexibility into my prep because some areas ended up taking longer to study than expected, and my work schedule shifted a bit. I started studying in January 2019 while taking second semester organic chemistry, and between January and Test Day, I ended up getting selected for a 3-week Individual Augmentee assignment in Korea and having two grandparents die (had to take leave and go home both times). So, I really think it is important to not jam pack your study schedule, especially for people working full time. Life happens, I have learned that after 8 years as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer, and I am very glad I took time to schedule things like gym time, date-night with my wife, and blocks of time to catch-up or review.

While I had several people tell me not to take the MCAT before completing a biochemistry class, I did it anyway. I took the MCAT without biochemistry because my work schedule, family factors, etc., pretty much demanded that I take the MCAT in August 2019. And I cannot stress enough, that if you have the motivation, allocate extra time for self-study, Khan and AK videos, and you believe in yourself, you can self-study even major content areas of the MCAT and do well! I did not take biochem prior to the MCAT and earned a perfect 132 on Biology/Biochemistry. I talked to a pre-health advisor at my old undergrad, and she told me that especially since I graduated in 2010, I should not take the MCAT until I finished biochemistry. I pretty much had to tell her that in an ideal world I would take biochem first and do a post-bacc, but I am 32, married, active duty, and have to support my family, so I have to take the MCAT without any of that because there are too many other factors determining my test date. Bottom-line: you know yourself better than anyone else, and if you have to take the MCAT without ALL prereqs complete, it can be done. You just have to plan for it and manage your time accordingly!!!

If anyone has questions in general or specific questions, please feel free to hit me up! The podcasts and MSHQ have been great resources, and I am very grateful. If there is anything I can help with or share that I picked up along my journey so far, I am happy to chime in. As always though, you know yourself best. I can tell you what worked for me, but trial-and-error and hard work is going to prove what works best for you! Cheers!


Hey I would love advice on how you’re able to get so much done in such a short amount of time? As a non-trad, I find there just isn’t enough time to get all my work and studying done.