How To Adapt When Your MCAT Plans Suddenly Change

How To Adapt When Your MCAT Plans Suddenly Change


Sometimes life happens and your plans end up changing and this video is really about that because it is inevitable that some sort of change will happen during your MCAT study schedule. 

This can be anything from having a really difficult finals week and missing out on some studying that you were looking to get done, to ending up catching the flu and not being able to study for an entire week, to a national pandemic or a worldwide pandemic where you’re not able to do anything and everything gets canceled and you’re stuck at home!

In this video, we'll talk about some strategies to overcome change while you’re studying for the MCAT so you can go forward and conquer your goals! 

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The Overlooked Premed Benefit Of Being Adaptable To Change

I really believe that change is inevitable when you’re studying and in life in general. For me, I was planning on applying to dental school and I had a great application, did well on the admissions test, had applied, had all my interviews set up, and then I decided I wanted to go to medical school.

I was left scrambling my fall semester of senior year while I canceled interviews for dental school, but I kept one in case I change my mind again. I was also trying to research what I need for medical school and how to switch my application over from dental to medical, and then having to plan on taking the MCAT. 

So in a four to six-month period, I basically restructured my entire life so that I could apply to medical school and ultimately get accepted to medical school!

I think this is just an example of how being adaptable to change can benefit you because, yes, at the time I was frustrated because everything has changed and I could have been preparing for this from day one of college but instead I went down this alternate path and now "I’m stuck back here!"

But so many of my experiences shaped who I am and shaped my application. It ultimately became beneficial and it’s another thing you want to focus on;

You can use change to your advantage if you’re willing to be flexible and figure out how to work around these things. 

The First Step To Take When Facing Unexpected Change

The first thing you have to do anytime there’s any sort of change is you’ve got to take the time to cool down and just take a break.

Maybe you got a score back that you weren’t expecting on the MCAT and you’re really upset about it. Maybe that means you need to take a week or two off before you start scheduling the next test date, instead of getting your score back and jumping on a test date in a month. 

Or maybe you got the news and your test was canceled. That's when you need to just go on a walk, cool down, and think of things. You’ll always want to take time to evaluate any big decision and changes you want to make.

Just like the case earlier when I decided I didn’t want to go to dental school anymore, one of the tactics I took was I kept one interview at my state school, just in case. This became an opportunity to cool down. I made my decision in August and I was able to push my interview back to November.

So for me, I needed those extra months to cool down, re-evaluate, see if am I just making an emotional rash decision to change my mind or do I really want to go a different route.

Having that time really helped "me evaluate me".

What are my goals and what am I looking for? 

That’s also what you want to do. 

Remember, whenever you get in a situation like a retake, or something got canceled, or just life happening like something happened in your own family or friends…

You have to take some time off. 

You’ve got to take time to cool down and get right mentally before you can move on.

What To Do In A Situation Like COVID-19 and There Are MCAT Cancellations

This video is in 2020 where the big thing right now that’s happening is COVID-19 and so a lot of the MCAT test dates have been canceled for basically two months.

Tests are getting pushed back, the entire structure of the test changed, and that is something you have no control over! You just don’t.

And it’s not just a pandemic, it could also be a personal situation.

Maybe you have a loved one who gets diagnosed with a terrible illness; that is something that’s out of your control. There’s nothing you can do about it.

Maybe that means you get the flu for a weekend or you get the flu the day of your test and are just not able to go to your test. Those are situations that are out of your control.

The first thing you want to do is recognize that the situation is out of my control, because any time you spend fighting trying to control it, you’re wasting energy that could be used somewhere else. 

The next thing you need to do is make sure both your mental and physical health are in a good place because any sort of stressful situation, like any of those I just mentioned, can really result in problems of both mental and physical health because you’re just under so much stress. 

So take care of yourself and make sure you’re in a good place. 

How I Used An Unexpected Change In My Life To Get Into Med-School

Lastly, focus on the fact that there are big setbacks and things happen and it causes your plans to change, but ultimately, if you play your cards right and are willing to adapt and be flexible, you CAN come out ahead. 

For me, my big catalyst to going to medical school was I had a family member diagnosed with a terminal illness (my dad) and so then all my plans changed. I had all this other health stuff going with him and there was so much going on, but what I realized was, at the end of it:

1 -  I made a plan and I was able to stick with it by planning buffer days and planning for small things!

2  - It wasn’t easy to just take the test while I had this other stuff going on, but being willing to work around it, I ended up with a very competitive application because I also had these other experiences I could talk about and, frankly, I had a lot of friends who were still thinking about taking the MCAT while I had basically taken it, applied, and been accepted!

If you play your cards right and if you’re willing to be adaptable, and if you don’t get knocked down, or if you get knocked down you’re able to get right back up when any of those said events happen...

You will come out ahead and you’ll be able to do what you want to do.

Ultimately, every situation, whether you can control it or not is going have some sort of outcome and you cannot control the situation. 

You can only control your reactions to that situation. So if you have a situation happen and you’re willing to figure out what you need to do, take the time to do this, and move on, and get things going. You’re going to be in a good place. But if you sit around being upset saying "Why me?",you’re going to struggle. 

Again, this ties back to cooling down. You sometimes need a day or a month or a whole year to just figure things out or be upset or struggle with whatever is going on and that’s OK! Just don’t try and do it all at at the same time because you’re not going to be as effective in achieving your goals if you’re not in a place you need to be in both your physical and mental health. 

You may find, in situations like these, that mindset is everything. You’ve got to focus on yourself and your mindset and that’s the recurring theme of this video.

Sometimes you need someone to talk to, someone who’s been in a similar situation and understands what to do when there’s a lot of change going on and has partnered like dealing with change while also studying and taking the MCAT.

This could also be for anything big picture, to answering questions, to what is your timeline should look like, to "what does my everyday schedule look like", or "I just need accountability because I don’t have that structure right now".

And so if you need somebody like that, know that we are here for you 🙂 We are happy to work one on one with you to answer your questions, and help you figure out what your plan going forward is. Plus help you on that  micro-scale with "what is my study schedule, what is the accountability I need, and how do I achieve my goals going forward".

Lastly, the most important thing, if you only take one thing from this video, is that you have to help yourself first before you can help others. 

And that is true for your career as a physician. They say this all the time on airplanes, when the airplane masks drop down, you should put yours on before you can help others. 

That is true of your career as a physician. You cannot help others if you are not in the place you need to be and you won’t be able to achieve the goals you want to, so make sure you’re right with you and then you can focus on "what are my next steps, what do I need to do going forward to get into medical school and to ultimately be taking care of those patients?"

But that can only happen when you’re right with you and then you can focus on taking care of others!

Rooting for your success, 

Ariana Campbell
Your MCAT Mastery Mentor & Strategy Instructor

About the Author Ariana Campbell

As an MCAT Instructor and Strategy Tutor at MCAT Mastery, Ariana has spent hundreds of hours working one-on-one with students from different backgrounds, helping them increase their MCAT scores. Ariana still remembers feeling like the MCAT was going to be the biggest hurdle standing between her and applying to medical school! Especially since she was also juggling MCAT studying, a full course load, work, extracurricular activities, and other personal challenges. She had to find the best way to manage a schedule while maintaining a positive mindset, so that she could achieve a good score even when she couldn’t commit 8 hours a day! Fast forward to today, Ariana ended up scoring a 515 on the MCAT, has gotten into med-school, and loves sharing what she learned with you to help you raise your score, while still balancing your life :)

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