6 Reasons to Take the MCAT During a Gap Year
Choosing the right time to take the MCAT is extremely important to achieving your MCAT score goal, and setting yourself up for success in the medical school application process. In this blog post, I discuss the reasons why you might want to delay taking the MCAT until during a gap year.
1) You Already Intend to Take Two Gap Years Before Medical School
Many prospective medical students choose to take two gap years after college graduation before applying to medical school. Taking two gap years gives students the time to broaden their life experiences, seek out employment and volunteer opportunities, boost their GPA, and potentially take the MCAT. Taking two gap years also ensures that the work done during the first gap year will be captured on the AMCAS application, which is especially important for students who are trying to rectify a deficiency somewhere in their application. If you already know that you are going to take two gap years, it may be easier to proactively plan time to take the MCAT during the first gap year than to try to squeeze it in along with your undergraduate coursework. In a gap year, it may be easier to find time to focus on the MCAT, instead of trying to juggle other coursework and activities like you may in undergrad. Many students find this necessary in achieving a higher MCAT score goal.
2) You Haven’t Learned all the Key MCAT Materials Yet
If you are changing careers or are taking a post-baccalaureate program to finish completing medical school prerequisites, it may be beneficial to take the MCAT after you’ve taken key pre-requisite courses. Furthermore, if most of your undergraduate coursework was in a non-STEM discipline, taking the MCAT during a gap year before medical school can ensure that you have the content foundation to excel on the examination. In particular, general biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and general chemistry feature prominently on the MCAT; an introductory psychology course may also help with the psychology/sociology section of the MCAT. Taking the MCAT after this information is fresh in your mind will allow you to maximize the benefit from MCAT resources and create a study schedule that will set you up for success in boosting your MCAT score.
3) You Want to Retake the MCAT to Achieve a Higher MCAT Score
Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned- if you’ve already taken the MCAT and performed below your MCAT score goal, it’s very important that you make major improvements before retaking the exam. You will want to give yourself plenty of time to study for the exam, and you will need to make use of the best MCAT resources and potentially consider MCAT tutoring. It is generally very difficult to retake the MCAT during undergraduate and give the exam the time and attention it needs. Most students who need to retake the MCAT will benefit from deferring the exam into a gap year before medical school in order to maximize their score improvement.
4) You Are Too Busy to Achieve Your MCAT Score Goal
It is extremely difficult to successfully study for the MCAT alongside a very demanding course load. For some students, especially those pursuing a professional baccalaureate degree, such as a degree in engineering, studying for the MCAT alongside their coursework will not be feasible. Furthermore, many students in intensive programs rely on summers to attain volunteer and work experience that is essential for success in the medical school admissions process, leaving no good time to take the MCAT. In this case, taking the MCAT during a gap year can relieve the intense academic pressure and help to ensure that you will succeed in your MCAT studying.
5) You Are Struggling to Maintain Your GPA in Your Undergraduate Coursework
While the MCAT is a critical factor for success in the medical school admissions process, it’s also important to maintain a good GPA. Many students who attempt to juggle MCAT studying and undergraduate coursework end up sacrificing one or the other, which is very counterproductive. If you are worried about balancing your academic obligations and have previously struggled to do so, it might be a good idea to defer taking the MCAT until a gap year, when you likely won’t have as many academic obligations to manage.
6) You Need to Raise Money to Support the Cost of Taking the MCAT Exam
Unfortunately, taking the MCAT is an expensive process. The exam itself not only costs several hundred dollars, but test prep resources can also be very pricey, and taking shortcuts on exam preparation can sadly undermine your ambitions for a high MCAT score. Many students who don’t have independent financial support rely on the income from gap year employment to fund the medical school application process, and the MCAT is one of the most expensive parts of that process.