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4 Major Challenges You Face When Working Full-Time And Prepping for the 2018 MCAT

  • by Sam
  • Apr 06, 2018
  • MCAT Blog, Pre-Med Support

Balance Full-Time Work With MCAT Prep

by Clara Gillan

As someone planning to enter the medical profession, you’ve probably heard advice based on the “standard” pre-med timeline: attend an undergrad institution with a science major, take the MCAT in junior or senior year, and then apply to medical school and matriculate the very next fall. However, the truth is that most premeds no longer fit this “standard” timeline. Instead, many students take a gap year – or even multiple years – between undergrad and medical school. Other students prepare to enter medical school after a different career, military service, or time spent starting a family. Non-traditional med school candidates often require non-traditional MCAT  prep.

In many of these cases, students are confronted with a difficult question: how can I study for the MCAT while also working a full-time job?

If this situation applies to you, first note that you are not alone. It’s easy to panic and think that every other MCAT student has plenty of time free of non-MCAT obligations, but this is simply untrue. Most MCAT students prepare for the exam with at least one other major commitment (classes, work, family concerns, etc.). But when that commitment is a full-time job, it can raise certain challenges. At Next Step, we’ve outlined the largest of these challenges, along with our recommendations of how to tackle them and excel on the MCAT.

Challenge #1 – You haven’t seen the course material in years.

Luckily, the MCAT is a very different experience from the average college science course. So, this isn’t as big of a disadvantage as you might think! However, we still recommend leaning toward an extended prep plan (such as 4-5+ months instead of 3) so you can devote the first portion of your prep to content review. During this review, pay close attention to the fundamentals of each science subject, as these are essential to your understanding of more complex content.

Challenge #2 – Your job feels like a waste of valuable MCAT studying time.

This is one major difference between taking classes full-time and working full-time for an MCAT student. College classes, you may think, are at least relevant to the MCAT, whereas your job might not be. But you can still get value out of your work hours! If you work in a lab, pay attention to any techniques you may use that could appear in an MCAT passage, or quiz yourself on the units that you see day-to-day. If you work in a healthcare center, think about the aspects of your job that are relevant to MCAT biochemistry and physiology. And even if your job truly has nothing to do with science, take every opportunity to read critically or problem-solve, as those skills will also help you in your MCAT journey.

Challenge #3 –You are raising a family or caring for family members.

If this applies to you, your biggest priority should be setting time aside specifically for MCAT prep. And plan this time early! It’s much easier to stick to a pre-decided schedule (“Evenings and Sunday afternoons will always be Dad’s MCAT review time”) rather than trying to carve out blocks of time last-minute. But remember, every MCAT student will experience days that don’t go according to plan. If a family emergency cuts into your dedicated MCAT time, try to avoid panicking or feeling guilty. Instead, focus on getting through the situation at hand, then returning to MCAT prep when you are able with a clear head.

Challenge #4 – Financial concerns complicate your studying plans.

As an MCAT student, the last thing you want is to miss out on valuable studying time. However, many students face hard choices between studying and working an extra shift or two. To avoid this, try to size up your situation as early as possible – ideally before you begin prep. If you can work extra hours before starting your prep in exchange for cutting back later, you’ll have extra time when you most need it without taking a financial hit. Of course, if you aren’t able to adjust your work schedule, that’s fine too! But it doesn’t hurt to ask; even adjusting so you work slightly later or earlier in the day, leaving more productive hours for MCAT prep, can be enormously helpful. For example, if you know you’re best at retaining information when you read it in the morning, ask to work later in the day.

Follow this advice, make a plan, and you’ll be well on your way to MCAT success. Next Step provides potential med school candidates with a Free MCAT Practice Bundle. See where you stand in your MCAT prep without sitting for a full day of testing with our half-length diagnostic. Our free bundle also includes a full-length MCAT exam, a sample quiz from our Online QBank, and a sampling of our amazing Content Review videos at no cost to you. 

Good luck!

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