Should I wait another year?

Hi All, I decided to delay med school for a bit because I didn’t really know if it’s truly what I wanted. Through some hard fought introspection, I have decided to pursue medical school. My situation as it stands:

Graduated in 2016 with a BS in Molecular Bio (3.55 GPA with a c in ochem) with a focus on microbio, minors in bio engineering and chemistry and full prereqs. I’ve been working full time for the past year in a clinical diagnostics lab as a tech (rare genetic disorders). I signed up to take the MCAT in May this year, however I’m not sure if I can garner the clinical experience necessary to be a competitive applicant this cycle (applying for 2019). As it stands I have about 35 hours of volunteering in an ER and 8 hrs of shadowing, and some medically related extracurriculars.

I really believe in the next year or so I can get more clincal experience through more shadowing and community outreach programs (clinics, and maybe volunteering at a hospice center) while also working full time. I have four solid months to study for the MCAT and get some more shadowing/volunteer experience, but I’m really confused on whether or not this next year can make me even more of a competitive applicant. I just don’t know if waiting another year will hurt or or help me. The physician I shadowed mentioned that waiting to apply never helps, and that clinical exposure is absolutely key for a strong application (alongside a great MCAT).

I’m really at a crossroads and am heavily considering delaying my MCAT date so I can study more. I really appreciate all the wisdom and advice from these threads, thank you for your time!

Here is my take, as a non-trad (now MS3) who had 40 hours of shadowing and zero volunteering/clinical experience when applying…

All that stuff is good, and it shows a lot of altruism, compassion, etc. What is most important about those experiences, though, is what you get out of it. You could spend 1000 hours doing something, but if you don’t learn anything about yourself or others during it, what good is that experience from the medical school perspective? Reflect on the stuff you’ve done, how it has guided you as a person, what changes have you made in how you think or do things, how do you do working in clinical settings with strangers, how do you cope with the stresses or uncomfortable situations, how have you grown/matured, etc. Being able to explain those types of things make experiences seem much more meaningful and less box-checky. You don’t have to have a career in healthcare in order to get into medical school, especially if you are able to express how the things you have done relate to the core tenants of what AAMC is looking for in students and aspiring physicians.

You’re never going to feel ready for the MCAT. Study your tail off, take practice tests to gain confidence that you have a strong test strategy and can theoretically manage the stress of actually taking the test, then just go do it. If the time comes and you’re still in massive freak-out mode and feel like you don’t have the mental ability to take it, then you may want to hold off instead of having a mental breakdown. You always have the option to void the exam score at the end (though it’s not a great idea). Anecdotally, I have talked to very few people who said they felt comfortable taking any major exam (MCAT, Step 1, Step 2CK), but they have mostly walked away doing much better than they thought they did.

Apply this cycle if you have met all of the written requirements for the schools you’re interested in.

I answered this on the OldPreMeds Podcast - Session 111! (Comes out 1/31/18)