Pre-Med Myths & Tips: Preparing for the MCAT Begins on Day 1

by Petros Minasi, Jr., Sr. Director, Pre-Health Programs | August 20, 2021

There is no doubt that this fall term is going to carry with it the most unique return to school we will most likely witness in a long while. (Oddly, we were probably saying the exact same thing last year around this time...but let’s hope this is the last time.) Either way, a new cohort of eager pre-med students will be rushing the halls of colleges and universities, full of optimism, but in need of guidance. So often, students do not realize that the valuable skills and content they will be cramming the days and evenings before midterms and finals will be required of them in the not so distant future and throughout their professional careers. So, the sooner we can help students come to that realization, the better.

We will keep this month’s article short, since this is a valuable time, but I will lay out a few myths and tips about how students can get the biggest long term return on the knowledge they are building in their early years.

Myth:  It’s too early to start preparing for the MCAT.

Tip: Preparing for the MCAT is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to start training on Day 1

The prerequisite classes students take during their underclassman years are going to be the basis for the required science knowledge on the MCAT. Students don’t realize this from the onset, and think that once they are done with an exam, the material is ancient history. While studying for the MCAT in earnest won’t actually begin until about 6 months before a student is going to take the test, the more they can practice using the information they are learning now―whether it is in everyday applications, or by reading scholarly articles that is based on the introductory natural sciences―the better they will not only retain the information, but make it second nature. Truly grasping the sciences takes time, and the more a student can connect the dots now, the less work they will have to do later to review and relearn the material when studying for the MCAT.

Myth: Physics, Chemistry, and Biology do not overlap.

Tip: Everything is connected, especially when it comes to the Sciences.

When people say, “Physics, Chemistry, and Biology do not overlap,” nothing can be further from the truth. While these subjects historically are taught independently, there are so many interconnected concepts that students should start as early as possible finding the connections of the sciences. For example, a student taking chemistry as freshman will learn about acids and bases, pH, and eventually buffering agents. When they take biology, and are covering the circulatory system, one of the first topics that will be discussed is the buffering capacity blood has to resist changes in pH. Further, blood is a liquid, traveling through a series of biological hoses at different velocities depending on the cross sectional area of the blood vessel―so, it is really all fluid dynamics, which is a concept they will learn about in physics. 

When it comes to the MCAT, students will be expected to tie all those concepts together, and the earlier they are developing their analytical thinking skills, the stronger their MCAT preparation experience will be.

Myth: There are no good free MCAT resources available.

Tip: Kaplan offers free resources as well as tuition assistance programs.

As the school year starts, I would encourage all pre-med students to reference the free resources we have available. While some of the articles will be more relevant in the years to come, most will help set them on the right early path towards wearing a white coat!

We also have a robust tuition assistance program, which grants up to 60% off the tuition of our courses. So, while not every student can receive a full scholarship, we do want every student who demonstrates need and academic achievement to have the opportunity to excel on their MCAT.

After more than two decades at Kaplan, I am often asked, “What keeps you here?” The answer is simultaneously simple and complex, but for now, I will keep it simple: it’s the people I interact with―advisors, students, and my colleagues, and the opportunities our programs and services open for students. 

See more posts by Petros Minasi, Jr., Sr. Director, Pre-Health Programs