Looking back on med application prep

Last year, this time. I was here in the same study space on the fourth level of the beautiful IKB library, with a heavy MCAT prep book.

The same brilliant sun shines outside the window in front of me now, but this time, I am writing some thank-you cards to those who helped me get into UBC medicine. Profs who supported me in doing wacky things. Volunteer program coordinators who gave me the opportunity to stir around and learn from doing.

Earlier this morning, I ran into a friend who’s got the same Kaplan’s MCAT prep book I used last year. We had a brief chat. She congradulated me on getting in, and gave me a weak smile: “it’s my turn.”

I don’t think she reads my blog, and to shamelessly advertise my blog by inviting her to read the entries about med application seems a bit show-off. But to not tell her about my blog also seems like I don’t want her to know about these tips and musings. Ger…

In any case, now that I got in, seems like my previous entries about MCAT essays and interviews suddenly have a lot more credibility. And they surely are keeping this blog’s traffic above zero (thank you and good luck, pre-meds. I’ve been there, and I felt your pain.)

A thought came to me that’s kinda interesting: if I were to go through last summer again, how would I prepare for the MCAT and med application?

  1. CHECK OUT THE APPLICATION DEADLINE. Don’t assume they are due in October or November like I did. Oh man, I did not know that the deadline for UBC was September 2nd until I ran into a friend on the bus in August. That was quite a scare to say the least, and my application was much more rushed than I’d like.
  2. Write practice exams early and often. I wouldn’t spend as much time on reading the details of the prep book and leaving the practice exams till the end. Instead, I will probably write a practice exam every week starting in June, and redistribute my study efforts according to the results.
  3. Check out what you have to do for the application, and start doing them. Locate your references, draft your personal statement. The earlier you prepare, the less stressed you’ll be when the deadline gets close.
  4. Form study groups for the MCAT writing samples. To discuss what to write about for each topic with friends is a great way to get into the writing mode. And the more topics you cover, the more likely you will hit them on the actual exam.
  5. I will still take sanity breaks like going on overnight camping trips. Taking the entire July off to do Shad Valley was a wonderful idea as well; I got to forget about MCAT entirely, and renewed my relationship with the program director who gave me a wonderful reference letter afterwards. When I came back to studying in August, I was in full thrust.
  6. Don’t spend a disproportionate amount of time on MCAT. There are many importants parts on your application, and MCAT is only one of them. It’s easy to get sucked into exam prep, cuz it’s easy to just keep studying and not worry about reflecting on your past, articulating your character, defining your future. If you have 25 hours to spend on either an extra mark on MCAT or improving your personal statement from an A to an A+, make that decision carefully.