Question of the Week: Full-Time MCAT Study

Friday, May 17, 2019

Q: I was planning to study full-time all summer but a friend of mine told me it would look bad to have no other activities. What do you think?

A: This sounds a little excessive, and it could easily lead to burnout or studying inefficiently. As a Princeton student, you've probably noticed that you need to be a certain amount of busy to use your time productively. As a Princeton student, your academic preparation for MCAT is also already much more comprehensive than it is for many other premeds given the rigor of our courses. On average nationally, students study for about 12 weeks for about 20 hours per week. There are 15 weeks between the end of finals and the first week of classes. Of course, you should give yourself permission to take some time to relax and be unproductive so that you can come back refreshed for next year, but you could definitely layer in other summer activities. 

Think about activities that may keep you energized during your study time and/or think about areas of your candidacy that you might want to enhance before you apply. For many premeds, community service is something that brings them satisfaction, which will also demonstrate service orientation and commitment to others to medical schools. Consider hospital volunteering, service projects with a population that you're interested in serving ... maybe free tutoring for students from under-served backgrounds, which will help others and could help you reinforce MCAT content. Shadowing also requires a relatively low time commitment (much of the work is in locating individuals to shadow and setting it up), plus seeing doctors at work can help you keep the whole reason you're taking the MCAT in mind. Tips and a handout about shadowing are available on our website.