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How to Stay Motivated During MCAT Prep

Here’s the scenario: your MCAT test date is coming up fast. Glancing at the dates, your Google calendar, and our guide on what’s on the MCAT can leave even the most organized and motivated students feeling overwhelmed. And, as you’ve heard, the MCAT is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’ve run a marathon, or started any long-term project for that matter, you know how important it is to maintain a positive mindset as you tackle the challenges ahead. With that in mind, it’s time for some MCAT motivation.

Goldilocks Rule for MCAT Motivation

Getting started can be the most difficult part for some. If this is the case, remember Newton’s First Law: objects in motion will stay in motion. The same is true for studying, you have to get over that activation energy-like barrier to entry, and the rest will follow! Easier said than done, right? Pushing yourself into the study zone can be done more easily if you start at the finish line. Look at different medical schools you want to go to, watch their welcome videos and research their statistics using tools like the MSAR or the Choose DO Explorer. Settle on a goal MCAT score range and a goal score range for each section. You now have a sense of urgency and personal responsibility that will drive you to begin your MCAT prep journey. 

Remember, the key to maintaining your studying motivation for the MCAT is to keep your studying in the optimal zone of difficulty.

The Goldilocks Rule explains that we get our most motivation when we are working on a task that is in between what we are and are not capable of. All in all, this means we as humans love attainable challenges.

Get Organized to Keep MCAT Studying Motivation

From here, it’s important to take the time to get organized. Using tools like the Blueprint MCAT Study Schedule, you can look at what the next few months entail. Laying it all out with an interactive tool helps to track your progress, record your successes, and makes the intangible concept of prepping for the MCAT something you can visualize. There’s nothing more satisfying than crossing something off your to-do list, and your MCAT study plan gives you that little dopamine rush that helps you stick to good habits and feel accomplished with every module you complete.

Practice Good MCAT Studying Habits

Now that the beginning parts of your MCAT prep journey are taken care of, it’s time to talk about how to maintain that MCAT motivation over the three, six, or even more months of studying. As mentioned earlier, establishing good study habits is the most important skill you can hone. Be honest with yourself about how much time you can devote to studying each week, and make sure you use that time effectively. Create a reward system with common distractions, like Netflix and social media. It might be impractical to completely cut them out of your prep journey, so use them as break time after you’ve gotten through the material assigned for the day. Keep your study time distraction-free and focused. Another way to stay accountable is to bring in other people. Set up time to review flashcards with your parents or roommate. Find a friend who is on a similar study schedule as you, and set up study dates and review sessions for particularly tricky subjects and passages. Bringing in someone who can motivate you makes it so you are not carrying the [burden of the] MCAT alone, and you have others supporting you along the way. 

Reward Yourself When Necessary

And, as it is a journey, there are going to be hard hills along with the easy trails. Make sure you take time to appreciate the view from the tops of those peaks. Reward yourself with an extra day off or your favorite Grubhub meal after you push through and finally understand glycolysis regulation, or make it through all of your physics equations flashcards without having to look anything up. The little wins along the way translate into that big accomplishment at the end, so celebrating these achievements is important and absolutely worth it! Along the same lines, make sure you have a big reward to look forward to after the test. Regardless of how you do, after you sit for those 8 hours, you’ve completed it. You’ve worked incredibly hard, and now you get to relax! If it’s safe, plan an outing with friends, or a fancy date with your significant other. 

Remember Your “Why”

Finally, when it comes down to those days when you’re knee-deep in fluid dynamics and up to your elbows in kidney diagrams, remember what you’re doing this for. I encourage you to think about your mentors, your “ah-ha!” moment, and your “why medicine” anecdote. Write down the goals the MCAT will allow you to accomplish. You’re learning all of this material and practicing all of these problems to become a doctor. What does that mean to you? When you have that answer written down and tucked away to pull out on the tough days, I promise it makes the MCAT worth it. You are doing this because you want to make an impact on the world, and that is reason enough to get back to your desk, crack your laptop open, and get to work!

We hope this has provided you enough MCAT motivation to get you through your next lesson! If you want more help in your MCAT prep, schedule a free consultation with our MCAT advisors to see how we can help you reach your goal score!

Good luck!

Written by Rachel Lorenc, Blueprint MCAT Tutor

MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which is not affiliated with Blueprint.