I’m new to this forum, so please excuse me if a question like this has already been asked!
I currently work full time as a research assistant in health policy. The organization I work for fully knows of my plans to apply to medical school in 2010 and has been pretty supportive in allowing me to use some paid and unpaid leave time to study for the MCAT and to finish 2 remaining pre-reqs (physics, bio). However, this means I’m still actually occupied with work 35+ hours/wk. I feel on a personal level that I’m not studying enough for the MCAT, and I’m also seeing a lot of postings (e.g. on student doctor net) that recommend a full 3 months of studying–no part time or full time work, no coursework simultaneously. As such, I’m thinking about quitting my job to study full time…but I know my research job would look favorable to the MD/PhD (epidemiology) programs that I’m interested in.
Here’s where I’d like some feedback: as a ‘non-traditional’ applicant, will they look at my work history (2 years in health policy research, 2 years in health care management) more favorably and give me some slack if I don’t score 36+ on the MCAT? Or will a low MCAT score make schools not even consider me, work history or not? Will an additional year as a research assistant really make that much more of a difference in my application, or as something to talk about in my interview?
My grades are OK (3.7 overall, 3.6 science – I majored in Math, so there’s some of that in there), if that makes a difference!
Thanks for your thoughts!
There’s no one best answer to you question. Schools usually look at the ‘whole package’. My MCAT was less than stellar, I didn’t apply to many schools and I ended up getting in. Some people did awesome on the MCAT but their grades were not too hot and got accepted. But some ‘had everything going for them’ and did not succeed. Thus, my best advice would be to aim for the highest score you can possibly get and hope for the best. Remember that you are going to compete against people who have great scores, grades, research experience + impressive work history…
I don’t think you have to quite jour job and study for the MCAT for 3 months full time. It’s more about quality… If you can do 3 hours per day for 3 months + full practice exams on the weekends you should be OK. If needed take a week before the exam to do some high-yield study involving formulas, structures, etc…
And don’t rush! You only want to take this exam once!
Don’t quit your job. It sounds like you have the perfect setup right now with a supportive employer. I’d argue that the work is supportive of your application particularly if you want to do the epidemiology MDPHD. Put together a study plan that has you taking practice exams every weekend or so, and study almost every night or in the morning and you’ll be fine.
And don’t rush, but don’t take too long. Study hard for a little less time than you’d like to keep the urgency high and the focus on.
I’m not planning on taking the MCATS until 2011 (just finished first semester of pre-reqs), but I was planning on quitting my fulltime job just to devote time to studying for MCATS.
Maybe I will change my mind, but at the moment I work fulltime and take 2 courses a semester with labs and it really stressed me out. I got all A’s but I sure am not looking forward to doing it again…but i must…hehe
If you’re going to quit your full-time job do it in the context of fully engaging in your pre-med activities across the board, not just for the MCAT. The MCAT is hard, but studying for it really isn’t – just follow the formulas of one or a few test prep companies and construct enough time so that you can cover everything but not so much time that your sense of urgency and focus suffers.