Like any social media platform, Reddit has a dark side, and MCAT Reddit is no different. Between false information, negativity, and the sheer amount of time it takes to participate, it’s often not a premed’s friend. That said, it can be a great place to get started when learning about the MCAT and acquiring initial resources.
We’re breaking down /r/mcat honestly to ensure you don’t get sucked into a black hole of misinformation and can make the most of the useful aspects of the platform. Let’s begin with what to watch out for, followed by the benefits of the platform.
The Dark Side of MCAT Reddit — What to Watch Out For
1 | Stories That Are the Exception to the Rule
Reddit is a place to share your experiences and express how they made you feel. You’ll find countless stories about what worked for other premeds and what didn’t.
But when students feel inspired to share their stories, it’s often because they are the exception to the rule. You’re likely to come across posts that say, “I got into medical school with a 495 MCAT,” or the other way around, “I didn’t get into any medical schools with a 528 MCAT score.”
These claims can lead students to believe that MCAT scores are not as important as they really are to medical school admissions.
These Reddit stories may be exaggerated or they may be completely true, but in either case, these stories are exceptions. They do not follow the overall pattern or the real data that shows how important MCAT scores are to a student’s ability to get into medical school. If you have a high MCAT, objectively, you are more likely to get into medical school than if you have a low MCAT score.
AAMC data shows year after year that high MCAT scores are correlated with higher acceptance rates. Seeing exceptions on Reddit can cloud a premed’s judgment and give them unrealistic hopes about their chances of acceptance.
For the best odds, you must accept the reality of your scores. If you have a high MCAT, objectively, you have a better shot at acceptance, so long as the other aspects of your application follow suit. If you have a lower than average MCAT score, know that the other components of your application need to notably make up for it.
2 | Comparing Yourself to Others
Spending too much time on any social media platform can lead you to make unhealthy comparisons between yourself and other applicants. As much as people go to the platform to share ideas and talk about their failures, they also go there to share their successes.
When you’re in the thick of studying for your MCAT or waiting on your scores, seeing all of these successes can be draining on your confidence and work ethic.
The only comparison you need to make is to the actual facts. Measure yourself against AAMC matriculant data for the schools you hope to gain acceptance to. Comparing yourself to Reddit stories gives you a false sense of reality and will drain your energy at a time when you need all of it focused on the task at hand—succeeding on the MCAT.
Over-comparing wastes your limited time and can derail your confidence and self-esteem when you need it most.
3 | Negativity and Anger
Much of MCAT Reddit can be a negative space, as people use it to vent and complain. Posts are often made anonymously, so people can say whatever they want, whether it’s rude, obnoxious, or outright mean.
Spending too much time in these spaces can hinder your mood and morale. If you are using MCAT Reddit or Premed Reddit, pay careful attention to how you feel both before and after using the platform. If it’s bringing down your mood or wellbeing, limit your use or consider cutting out Reddit entirely.
Online arguments take up time, and they also bring down your mood. Afterward, you’ll feel drained or fired up in all the wrong ways. What are you getting out of the interaction? Is it worth your time?
It’s unlikely you will change anyone’s mind who disagrees with you online. It’s best to ignore anyone who provokes you or to avoid the negativity altogether.
4 | Advice From the Blind
Just as students are quick to share their personal experiences, they’re also quick to pass on advice. But the problem with student advice is that the blind can end up leading the blind.
What worked for one student might not work for you. Study strategies are far more nuanced than that, so be careful not to adopt every “this worked for me” strategy.
Studying for the MCAT is a marathon, and you simply don’t have time to implement every piece of advice. You need to figure out what strategies will make the most impact on your studying and overall score. What are your areas of weakness? What’s holding you back? Do you perform better on one section of the MCAT compared to others? Are you able to retain the information but seize up as soon as you’re faced with the pressure of a real test?
The bottom line here is to be careful about the advice you take from students online. All they have is their own personal experience to speak to, which will be far from your own unique experience. It’s much better to seek advice from physician mentors, people with admissions committee experience, or MCAT tutors with proven success rates.
5 | Wasted Time and Energy
Social media is designed to take up as much of your time as possible. People behind the scenes work tirelessly to come up with new tricks to keep your attention.
Be wary of how much time you’re spending on Reddit vs. what you’re actually getting out of it.
Sure, it’s a community of like-minded people who are also studying for the MCAT, but how does it compare to the boost of endorphins you get from building and maintaining real relationships? Could you be spending more time with your friends, family, or other people who make you happy?
Pay attention to how you feel after being on the platform. Did you come away with new ideas? Are you inspired and motivated by your interactions? Or do you feel tired and drained?
Time is a commodity for premeds and medical students. While studying for the MCAT, you’ll learn key time management skills that will aid you throughout medical school, clinical rotations, and residency.
If you choose to use MCAT Reddit (or any other social platform), ensure you set time limits for yourself and stick to them. If you struggle to stick to your own limits, consider using a website blocker or whether or not you should be using the addictive platform at all.
6 | Hidden Agendas
Reddit has its own moderating process that helps weed out advertisements and direct business promotions. That said, the moderators, as well as the people posting, can have agendas of their own, depending on the companies they work for.
You have no way of knowing if posts are coming directly from an individual student, a business pretending to be a student, or a student being paid to express a specific opinion. The tools and resources being shared may be coming from a self-interested company or entrepreneur, despite the moderator’s best efforts.
Additionally, there’s also no way of knowing what preferences and biases (conscious or not) the /r/mcat moderators hold themselves. There are, of course, plenty of MCAT Reddit users who are authentic and honest, but it’s something you have to watch out for on every online message board.
How You Can Make the Most of MCAT Reddit
1 | Orient Yourself With the Basics
While there’s plenty to watch out for on Reddit, it can be an invaluable resource for those beginning their premed journey. MCAT Reddit can help you early on in your MCAT process as you familiarize yourself and prepare a study schedule.
It’s an ideal place to get your bearings and learn the basics of the MCAT process. You’ll find great information there about MCAT basics and the tools and resources that premeds have long sworn by. It’s ideal for getting from 0-30-50%, but you’ll never get to 100% of the knowledge and familiarity you need from Reddit alone.
2 | Contribute Positively to the Community
Remember all of that negativity and anger we talked about? Don’t go on MCAT Reddit just to vent, complain, or troll other people. It’s a waste of your time and energy, and really, what’s the point? What good does it do you to bring other people down? You’ll only reinforce how bad you feel while also making the experience worse for others.
If you really need to vent and complain, take it to your journal first. Sort through your thoughts there, and if you find you do have something useful to say that could help other premeds, craft a thoughtful message after your initial emotional reaction has subsided.
3 | Set Time Limits
Effective time management is a skill every doctor needs to hone long before they ever become a doctor—or even get accepted to medical school. When creating your dedicated MCAT study schedule, be intentional about building time for wellness and relaxation—and we don’t just mean time for social media.
If you determine that Reddit or other online premed message boards are a positive influence for you, set specific, limited time aside for it. Remember, these networks are designed to keep you on there as long as possible.
Be reasonable with the time you allocate for social media. It’s only one small aspect of taking a break. You also need time for errands, cooking, cleaning, sleep, socializing in real life, physical activity, and whatever other hobbies make you feel fulfilled.
4 | Use Judgment and Common Sense
As a student, you know how to find reliable research and references, so apply those same skills to how you approach message boards. Use deductive reasoning skills. If it sounds fishy or too good to be true, it probably is.
Enter MCAT Reddit with an open mind, but know that anyone can post what they want on Reddit without it being fact-checked.
Succeeding on the MCAT and Beyond
Success on the MCAT is determined by the quality of your resources, your study strategies, and your lifestyle, not how smart you are or how long you studied. This can be tough for students to wrap their heads around because for much of school leading up to now, studying more equated to better results.
Med School Insiders is passionate about sharing strategies that look at the complete picture, including how you study and lifestyle choices like time management, sleep, exercise, and work-life balance.
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