October 10, 2014

Pre-Health Students Bring Smiles to Guatemala: Bhumika’s Story

Kaplan Test Prep & Smile Train partnered to send pre-health students on a trip to Guatemala. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/embed/jeAzamgyMfE[/embed] When people work together toward a common goal, big smiles emerge. So Kaplan teamed up with Smile Train—an international children’s charity that provides free cleft lip and palate surgeries —and sent four pre-health students on an educational trip to Guatemala. These future doctors, dentists, and healthcare providers not only spent valuable time with the children and their families, but they learned about Smile Train’s sustainability model, which empowers local doctors in 85+ developing countries to provide 100%- free cleft repair surgery in their communities. Over the next few weeks, you can share in these four students’ stories of insight, compassion, growth, and—of course—smiles. Here, Bhumika, a future dentist, writes about her passion for the dental sciences and her experience working with Smile Train in Guatemala.  

Meet Bhumika on her path to becoming a dentist

It is my dream and aspiration to be a successful dentist one day. So far, my climb towards this goal has been slow, but steady. I graduated from the University of California, Riverside, in 2010; finished Dental Assisting School in 2011; and completed a post-baccalaureate program at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in 2012. I recently applied to dental school for Fall 2015 and am eagerly awaiting my results! I currently work with the U.S. Army Family Dental as a treatment coordinator alongside some very talented dentists and allied dental professionals. I get to help patients actively participate in planning their own treatments, showing them how to make informed decisions about their oral and overall health. It’s a great feeling knowing that I can make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis, especially when those people are the brave men and women who serve our country, their children, and the rest of their supportive families.  

Spreading smiles in Guatemala

My experience working with the international charity Smile Train in Guatemala was an inspiring one. I learned about the prevalence of cleft lip and palate among infants at birth, as well as the possible causes, treatment procedures, and post-surgical measures for clefts. Having been brought up in the developing world I have learned to understand the struggles and appreciate the differences of various cultures. I learned about the series of emotions that parents of children born with clefts go through—from the time of their newborn’s birth to the moment they see their baby after surgery. I was moved and motivated by the amount of hard work Smile Train partner surgeons and social workers dedicate to finding and treating clefts in some of the most rural parts of the country and internationally across the globe. I was given the opportunity to learn firsthand about the hardships and joys of both the children with cleft lip and palate and their doctors. My favorite part of the Smile Train experience, in fact, was my interaction with the people of Guatemala: the patients of all ages, their loved ones, the doctors, the social workers, and everyone in between. One of the most inspiring things about being in Guatemala was the breathtaking view at every turn on the curvy, mountainous roads. For me, traveling on those beautiful roads at the end of every day provided a time for reflection upon the stories of patients and their families, the unique perspectives they held, and the light that Smile Train brought into their lives.  

An international perspective on the global health issue of cleft lip and palate

Living in the developed world, we often forget the ease of access we have to balanced and nutritious meals, well-equipped healthcare facilities, transportation to those facilities, and family-planning education centers. The way the parents and children I worked with described their outlooks on life and how optimistic and thankful they were for what they have has helped me appreciate my life in the States even more. In addition, the doctors’ stories helped me remember that you don’t need to have a lot to do a lot and make a lasting difference. My trip to Guatemala with Smile Train deepened my passion for dentistry; it also ignited my long-term interest in pursuing postdoctoral education, where I hope to specialize in either pediatric dentistry or oral and maxillofacial surgery. Although the end-goal is years down the road, I would like to dedicate a part of my career to traveling back to Central America and other parts of the world where I can focus my efforts on corrective cleft treatments. After my experience volunteering for an international charity, I feel more driven toward my chosen career path and clear about the opportunities I will pursue after dental school. It would be an honor to utilize my future clinical training to contribute in any way possible to a nonprofit organization like Smile Train.  

A reason to smile

My future plans involve me doing more of what I do today while gaining greater clinical expertise and knowledge of the dental sciences in a DDS/DMD program. I want to further my education in dentistry and attain the skills required to deliver thorough and personalized care to my patients. I am looking forward to my journey of learning and bringing happier and healthier smiles to those around the world who need them most. To those looking into healthcare professions, I recommend traveling to the developing world—whether for leisure or on a medical or dental mission. It’s always illuminating to see how health care is delivered in places with very limited funds, technologies, and providers. It is extraordinary to see how a single doctor in a rural area can achieve the same results with alternative methods as a fully equipped professional team in a developed country. It makes you appreciate your quality of life and your education, and it sparks a keen desire to give back to communities both internationally and right at home. “A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot, and realize how blessed you are with what you have.” Who said that? I did. And I frequently think of this quote as I make my way forward in my own life’s journey of smiles. What have you seen in your pre-health education that has made you smile? Share your experiences in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter. #kaplangoodlife #powerofasmile ...read more
October 9, 2014

Pre-Med Priorities: Tips for Building a Strong Academic Foundation

Through Kaplan’s exclusive, national partnership with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), we will be providing a series of personal stories from AMSA leaders about their pre-medical experience and journey to medical school. Priscila Cevallos: University of Texas at Austin  

The Pre-Med Journey Begins: Freshman Year

The night before my first day as a college freshman, I remember tossing and turning for hours unable to sleep. My mind wandered to thoughts of the future and what the next four years would hold in store for me. More than anything, my dream was to get into medical school, and I wanted to prepare myself as best as possible in order to make that dream a reality. There are many pre-med priorities to consider, and I had procured a checklist of medical school requirements, along with suggestions from my pre-med advisor on how to become a successful medical school applicant. As I thought about how the next four years would launch me on this path, I was excited to get a head start on my journey and determined to make myself stand out among the sea of pre-meds as quickly as possible. As a freshman, it’s difficult to know what to expect as a pre-med and it can be hard to figure out which experiences to focus on and cultivate. I myself was an overeager freshman when I first started undergrad. I ran around campus most days of the week from meeting to meeting. I was trying to do it all: classes, pre-med student organization(s), community service groups, research, etc. I thought that I needed to start working through my pre-med checklist from day one of college in order to ensure my acceptance into medical school. However, it was during this time that I received two pieces of advice that helped me tremendously in thinking about and planning for my future.  

1. Focus on Your GPA

The first piece of advice was to focus on nothing but school and academics during my first semester of undergrad. The change from high school to college is extensive, and while the transition may be easier for some more than for others, it is there nevertheless. Many students are so eager to join as many organizations as possible to try to create those meaningful college experiences right off the bat. However, it is important to remember that developing a solid foundation during your first semester is imperative to successfully easing into a new routine, campus, and friends. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the rigor of pre-medical courses will be much more beneficial to you in the future than overstretching yourself right away. After this foundation is established, it’s much easier to explore your passions while also maintaining focus on your GPA. After my first semester, I slowly began to seek out extracurricular activities that were of interest to me. What I began to realize was that, there is no “one shoe fits all” list of extracurriculars pre-meds should complete. Every student’s passions are unique, and hence every pre-med’s experience is unique. After attending an American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Convention, I fell in love with the organization, staying involved for three years first as a member, then as Secretary, and most recently as President. My scientific curiosity also led me to seek out research experience. I joined a neuropharmacology lab at the end of freshman year, and worked there for three years. My research experience culminated in receiving two Undergraduate Research Fellowships to pursue my own research projects, and I was able to present my work at various conferences. My extensive involvement in both AMSA and in research would not have been possible or as enjoyable, if my academic foundation had not been established first. Doing this allowed me to fully explore and really get involved with the experiences I cared about, without also having to juggle adjusting to the rigor of class every semester.  

2. Incorporate MCAT Prep Into Your Everyday Life

The second piece of advice I received was to begin studying for the MCAT while taking the necessary pre-medical pre-requisites. The MCAT is a cumulative test covering topics learned during introductory biology, intro chemistry, intro organic chemistry, and intro physics. By the time most students come around to studying for the MCAT their junior or senior year, it’s been a while since they have even thought about what they learned during their first two years of college. While studying for my intro classes during the week, I would also have my MCAT book open to the same topic. I would read over the MCAT chapter and answer the follow-up questions. I found this extremely helpful then, and now that I am actually studying for the MCAT, the topics seem much more approachable since I took the time to really understand what I was learning in my introductory classes. It might not be a bad idea to begin browsing through those MCAT books and take the time to really understand what you’re going over in class. You will have to know this information anyway when you take the MCAT! The novelty of college is incredibly exciting and there are so many opportunities out there for students to engage in. As you think about how you want to shape your next years in college, remember to prioritize your academics first. Seeking out those unique experiences will be more seamless after having laid out a firm academic groundwork. And keep in mind that it’s never a bad idea to begin studying for the MCAT! Now that you’ve read about Priscila Cevallos’ journey to unlocking the good life and getting into medical school, we’d like to hear from you!  Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries and read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams.   ...read more
October 8, 2014

Which MCAT Test Date Is Best For You?

[caption id="attachment_1644" align="alignright" width="300"] BREAKING NEWS: AAMC just added an additional MCAT test date on Saturday, December 6, 2014! Find out more at https://services.aamc.org/20/mcat/[/caption] One of the first major hurdles you’ll face on your way to unlocking the good life as a doctor is taking the MCAT. And there are many things you have to consider as you prep, including when you should schedule your MCAT test date to maximize your score. Deciding when to take the exam isn’t always easy, and every student has his or her own unique situation, commitments, and timeline. Read on to find out what Kaplan recommends for you!  

Which MCAT test dates should you avoid?

While the test is administered year-round, there are definitely some MCAT test dates that are advisable to avoid, such as many that fall during your application year. The AMCAS primary application and ACOMAS open up in May and can be submitted beginning in June. These dates are important to keep in mind, since you want to send everything in as soon as possible. As for how this affects your MCAT exam date, taking the test in June and July of the year in which you plan to apply not only means that schools will receive your MCAT score later than those of most applicants, but it also leaves you with no chance for retaking the exam if you don’t do as well as you would have liked the first time around. Do yourself a favor now and cross those dates off your list.  

Should I take the MCAT in April or May?

April and May also make for very popular MCAT test dates, but ones you might want to avoid if you are a traditional university student. Many students decide they want to study through the semester and take the MCAT right after school ends. However, it can be difficult to find the right balance between studying for the MCAT and handling full-time coursework. Finals can also occupy several weeks in April or May, leaving you underprepared for a test date so soon after the semester. Set yourself up for success by taking your MCAT prep into account when planning your spring semester’s coursework.  

What are the best MCAT test dates?

The remaining MCAT test dates can be narrowed down based on your personal circumstances, but January and August dates are rather popular. Why? For most university students, those dates fall right after winter break and summer vacation, meaning there is a ton of class-free study time that can be used to focus solely on the MCAT. As an added bonus, if you don’t get the score you like, both of these test dates provide you the opportunity to take the test again—in September for a previous August administration and in March for a previous January administration. With the Kaplan Higher Score Guarantee, you’re covered if you want to take the test later for any reason!  

What date and time are best for my MCAT score?

While perhaps not as important as the test date itself, the day and time you choose to take the exam can also affect your MCAT score. Being in a good state of mind for the MCAT is imperative. If you’re busy during the week, taking the test on Saturday might be a good idea—sometime you can be well-rested and focused. If you have to travel to another city or state to take the MCAT, it may be prudent to get to the testing location early, spend the night at a hotel, and take the exam the next day, instead of traveling straight to the testing center. As far as test time goes, consider what works with your circadian rhythm. If you’re a morning person, then 8:00 a.m. exams are for you. If not, you might enjoy having some time to wake up, shower, get dressed, and eat something fulfilling before you hit the ground running for the 1:00 p.m. exam. One important tip to keep in mind: take your practice tests at the same time of day you plan to take the actual MCAT.  

One last piece of advice…

Most importantly, you want to take the MCAT when you feel ready for it. Keep a close eye on the gold, silver, and bronze deadlines created by the AAMC Registration Schedule. By taking our full-length practice exams, Kaplan students can get a good idea of whether or not they’re ready to take the MCAT prior to the bronze deadline. Congratulations on the huge step you’re taking toward becoming a doctor! Now you just need to explore the Kaplan resources that are at your disposal. Check out our road maps to the good life to see what the average MCAT score requirements are for your top schools, and, while you’re at it, enter our Good Life Sweepstakes for a chance to win $10K! ...read more
October 7, 2014

Pre-Med Prerequisites for Taking the New MCAT

[caption id="attachment_1639" align="alignright" width="300"] Content areas to study in your pre-med curriculum for the new MCAT[/caption]

New pre-med requirements for passing the MCAT

The upcoming changes to the new MCAT also mean a change to the typical pre-med prerequisite courses we are accustomed to advising students to take. For many years, the "traditional" pre-med prerequisites have been a year of general chemistry, a year of general biology, a year of physics, and a year of that old fan favorite, organic chemistry. But with the new MCAT exam, which will first be administered on April 17, 2015, additional content knowledge in upper-division biochemistry, introductory psychology, and introductory sociology will also need to go on your list of requirements.  

Same ol’ pre-med requirements for med schools

At this point, however, most med schools are not changing their pre-med coursework requirements. In other words, you won't necessarily need to take these classes to apply to medical school, but you will need the content knowledge in these areas to prep for the new MCAT. For that reason, it is advisable to incorporate these courses into your pre-med schedule, as they will help immensely in providing you with in-depth study of the subject matter.  

Specific prerequisites for MCAT 2015

It’s important to note is that not all upper-division biochemistry, intro psychology, or intro sociology classes will qualify as MCAT prerequisites or cover content tested on the new MCAT. Rather, the AAMC has defined very specific content areas and has grouped them into 31 categories, under 10 foundational concepts, for the new exam. So your first step as a pre-med who will be taking the new MCAT is to consult with your pre-med advisor and see which classes at your school cover the new pre-med prerequisite material. You can also do this exercise yourself by consulting the AAMCs guide to the new MCAT.  

Can’t take more prerequisites?

If you don't have the time to take three additional semesters of coursework, like most pre-meds, or if you’ve been out of school and are now planning on going back to medical school, Kaplan has a solution that will fulfill your content needs. We call it MCAT Foundations. Our MCAT Foundations program is a 15-session intensive live online course designed to give you the extra three semesters of content you need to be adequately prepared for the new MCAT. You will receive comprehensive instruction on the precise material that will be tested on the new exam—no more, no less! Regardless of how you acquire the new content knowledge on the exam, keep in mind as you are learning this material (as well as the traditional requirements) that success on the MCAT is not about how much you know. High scores come from applying what you know, developing strong critical thinking skills, mastering the pace of the exam, and building your test day endurance! If you had to take the MCAT right now, how would you score? Find out with a free Kaplan MCAT practice test. You will not only get an idea of how you’d score on the real exam, but you also get a full breakdown of your strongest and weakest content areas. ...read more
October 6, 2014

Fantasy Med School Draft: Finding Your Perfect Medical School

Hello my friendly fall readers! The leaves are changing and we can now expect a weekly dose of fantasy football related Facebook updates. For medical school applicants, however, fall means that you're drafting your perfect list of medical school qualities instead of a great wide receiver. So, today let's talk about which characteristics you should consider when drafting and finding your perfect medical school!  

Size

Size is an important factor to examine when you're picking a medical school. You want to examine not only the size of each class, but also the size of the entire school. Class size is important for access to professors and the camaraderie of your class group. However, there's a big difference between having a medical school in the middle of a bustling, 30,000 strong undergraduate crowd and having a medical school that stands unattached or distantly attached from an undergrad base. Overall university size is a factor that I didn't really consider when I was looking at medical schools, but I've really grown to love the fact the University of Colorado medical school is separated from the undergraduate campus. The advantage to the separation is that I'm not constantly fighting for research spots, shadowing spots or opportunities with any undergraduate students. That means that every lab and physician is more than happy to have a medical student. That said, it also means that overall there are fewer researchers with slightly more limited areas of study because there are fewer students overall. You want to make sure your ideal medical school has the right size-balance for you!  

Location

I cannot stress this piece enough. Every medical school will give you, more or less, the same amount of information in your first two years of medical school. Yes, there are variations on format and other opportunities which we'll cover, but the content is that same. What that means is, one of the major variable factors to your experience is the location of the school. Do you want to live in a major city? Do you want a smaller location in a more rural situation? There are medical schools in a variety of city sizes. What kinds of activities will help you feel satisfied and happy with your med school choice? How close are these activities? For example if you're into skiing, Iowa might not be the right state for you to move to.  Is it important for you to get away from home or be a short flight or car-ride away from your support system? I'm always a little bummed out that I'm out-of-state and away from my family and friends. Fortunately, the flight from Denver to Minneapolis is usually relatively cheap and is less than two hours long. Location is vitally important to your happiness and overall medical school experience, so take time to examine the locations of your potential medical schools.  

Student Body

Again, I'd like to emphasize that the classwork is pretty standard, but the people with whom you share your experience can vary greatly and overall impact your success. Do you want a more collaborative student body? Make sure you ask about whether students study together when you go for your interview day. Are you driven by competition to study hard? Great! Then make sure that competition is highly valued among your potential future classmates. You should also check out the average statistical values for incoming classes. If you’re applying to US allopathic (MD) medical schools, visit the AMCAS website and check out the latest Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) guide. If you’re applying to osteopathic (DO) medical programs, you should visit the AACOM website and check out the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book. Things to look out for would be average class age, different measurements of diversity, whether people commonly took time off, do most students have graduate degrees and whether the majority of students are married. You want to get a feel for the student body and whether it meshes well with your medical school needs.  

Opportunities

Yes, you'll spend a lot of time during medical school in class, but don't forget about other opportunities! If working abroad is important to you, make sure that you ask about established study abroad programs at your school. Can you do any rotations or projects abroad? If you're into volunteering or extracurriculars, make sure to ask how easy it is to get involved and talk to current students about their lives outside of school. Opportunities also include topics like scholarships, foci or areas of emphasis for students, potential for getting a dual degree like an MD/MPH or MD/MBA, and where students from the school are commonly matched for residency. It may seem right now that getting into any medical school that will take you is your priority and trust me, I get that. You do want to spend some time thinking about how a particular medical school will suit you. Choosing the right medical school goes far beyond the rankings. You're going to spend a fair amount of money investing into your education and working in pursuit of your “good life,” so make sure to think about how you're drafting your fantasy medical school (at least for as long as you think about your fantasy football team each week)! Happy studying!   Want to browse through different careers in your area of interest, see what test scores will get you into the top schools, and read interviews from people like you who have succeeded in pursuing their dreams? All this and more is available at kaptest.com/unlock. Just by visiting and filling out your info, you’ll be entered to win $10,000. The good life is closer than you think. ...read more
October 2, 2014

Becoming a Well-Rounded PreMedical Student

Through Kaplan’s exclusive, national partnership with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), we will be providing a series of personal stories from AMSA leaders about their pre-medical experience and journey to medical school. Jai Kumar Mediratta: University of Nebraska-Lincoln   [caption id="attachment_1632" align="alignright" width="278"] Jai getting involved at Camp Kesem (http://campkesem.org)[/caption] “GET INVOLVED!” said every pre-health advisor ever. I would be willing to wager that there is a brightly decorated bulletin board in your career center that is dedicated to this very theme. Today, more often than not, “getting involved” is associated with being “well-rounded,” and as a premedical student, you are familiar with the concept of a “well-rounded” individual. It is a common theme that has been championed by medical school admission committees. The Association of American Medical Colleges even makes this point on their medical school admission requirements page by saying that: “A well-rounded sampling of extracurricular activities or work experiences, both related and unrelated to medicine, will help broaden an applicant's knowledge and development.“ However, what is the “well-rounded individual” and why is it important to be one? I argue that the well-rounded individual is simply someone who pursues his or her natural curiosity. This is not only important for medical school admissions, but also for your long-term success. Here’s why:   1. You are truly motivated when you follow your passions At times, you may feel like the famous titan Atlas, bearing the brunt of the world on your shoulders and it’s easy to become jaded when harboring these feelings. With the pressures of classes, MCAT studying, maintaining your health, and balancing your social life, you do not want your extracurricular to become a burden or a responsibility. The old adage goes “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” As a future physician, this quote is incredibly relevant to your profession but it also applies to your current premedical experience and extracurricular activities. When you follow your interests, you are motivated to actively involve yourself.   2. Natural motivation allows you to excel in your organization Along with the natural motivation comes a more active involvement and enthusiasm, both of which are necessary to excel in your position. Medical schools are aware of the sophomoric numbers game that some applications play: it’s not about quantity of organizations you are involved with; it’s about your level of involvement. Tangential to this is your progression of your involvement and this is where leadership positions come into play. I would like to quote the famous rapper Drake: “Started from the bottom, now I’m here” This not only applies to his personal struggles, but also to your experience with an organization or extracurricular activity.   3. An increased level of involvement allows for a diversity of experiences and this benefits medical school admissions. As you pursue your interests, and become more involved with the select few organizations you are truly passionate about, you will realize that discussing your involvement becomes second nature. This alleviates a major part of the stress associated with medical school interviews because a great interview is nothing more than a great conversation.   4. The experiences you gather from your deep involvement also benefit you in the long run. Your college experience does not have to be dominated or defined by your premedical experience. In other words, just as the AAMC suggested, it’s highly encouraged that you follow your curiosities, even if they lie outside the realm of medicine. If you decide to deeply involve yourself in a non-medical extracurricular, you are not only benefiting your medical school application, but also yourself in the long run. In our society today where medicine is becoming increasingly integrated with the fields of research, business, and public policy, a diverse set of skills is highly valued. This is evident by the increasing demand for dual degree programs such as MD/PhD, MD/MBA, or MD/MPHs. The premedical experience is overwhelmingly stressful. As you power through the rigorous weed out science classes, the late night study sessions, the MCAT preparation, you will find that your extracurricular activities will act as a reprieves. They will be activities you look forward to doing every week and following your interests and passions will only enhance this experience. It really is that easy, folks. Just do what you love and you too can be “well-rounded”   Now that you’ve read about Jai Kumar Mediratta’s journey to unlocking the good life and getting into medical school, we’d like to hear from you!  Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries and read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams. ...read more
October 1, 2014

6 Better Than Coffee Study Drinks

By Megan Weyrauch on September 5, 2013 This is brought to you by Uloop & Kaplan. Search Uloop for student housing, roommates, college jobs, internships, scholarships, and college news.

“I want a large Americano with two extra shots of espresso.”

I stare listlessly back at this customer, letting him know he just requested for his drink to contain twice the normal contained amount of espresso. “Oh,” he adds, “better make it three extra shots then.” As a barista, I encounter students from early morning until midnight who need some form of caffeine to help them get through just a few more hours of studying. I am not kidding when I say I have people order extra shots of espresso or larger sizes for that extra kick. The customer I described above wanted his large Americano to have three extra shots of espresso, making the drink contain not the normal four shots, but seven. This type of caffeine consumption cannot be good for you. But I see it all the time. I, too, am guilty. I drink coffee like it’s my job (see what I did there?) because it gives me that jolt of energy I need to stay up until 2:30 a.m. and get up at 6 a.m. for class. I love the sound of coffee brewing in the morning and the way the delectable aroma creeps through my apartment, filling my nostrils with hints of hazelnut and cinnamon. Coffee is by far one of my favorite beverages and my go-to study drink for those long night study sessions and paper-writing sessions. However, coffee lover as I profess to be, I also have to admit to the negative effects of coffee drinks. While consuming a small amount of caffeine daily is not too harmful, drinking a ton of it, like our seven-shots-of-espresso friend, can prove dangerous. Drinking four or more cups of coffee a day can lead to a physical dependence on the stuff, as caffeine is highly addictive. In addition, while caffeine may provide that quick boost of energy you need, it may keep you awake longer than you intended, leading to fatigue for the next day. The slight mood elevation you receive from caffeine eventually fades when you crash and feel just as tired as before, causing you to drink more caffeine. Sound like a vicious cycle? Here are six healthier study drink options. Avoid possible health risks and stay energized longer with the following drinks. 1. Good, old-fashioned water. Students normally grab coffee in order to stay awake longer, battling their droopy eyelids to finish assignments. However, because being dehydrated leads to fatigue, water is one of the best beverages to consume while studying. It is also the healthiest way to go in terms of what to drink. According to this article from the website webmd.com, there are at least six benefits to water. Water:
  • Helps maintain your balance of bodily fluids
  • Can help control calories
  • Energizes your muscles
  • Helps your skin to look good
  • Keeps your kidneys healthy
  • Helps you maintain normal bowel function
Water is a great choice for studying; you will feel not only hydrated but will avoid the caffeine crash that comes along with drinking too much coffee. Battle fatigue with water and you’ll have enough energy to finish your studying and go to sleep when you need to—no more caffeine keeping you up when you’re ready to hit the hay. 2. Milk Your brain uses three basic neurotransmitters to help supply it with the right chemicals to keep it going: acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin. According to this article, milk is rich in acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that excites your neurons and helps to improve your memory. Reaching for a glass of milk will also provide you with the following health benefits:
  • Calcium, which protects the body from major chronic ailments
  • Healthy bones and teeth
  • Skin care
  • Vitamins A and B
  • Potassium, magnesium and protein and
  • Carbohydrates for energy
  • Rehydration
Drink milk while studying instead of coffee and you’ll start reaping the benefits of a beverage that does a lot for your body. You can get more energy calories from whole milk, but choose low-fat milk for a healthier option. 3. Fruit and vegetable juices In addition to milk, fruit juice can help your memory and give you some energy for studying. Fruit juice “can boost your energy quickly because it is high-glycemic, which means that its carbohydrates enter your bloodstream shortly after you drink it.” Fruit and vegetable juices can give you the nutrients and antioxidants your brain needs to function properly. Not only will you get the benefits of these nutrients but you are ensuring your daily intake of fruits and vegetables by drinking these juices. However, I am not talking about the super sugary fruit or vegetable juices you find in the supermarket today. Check your nutrition labels to watch out for juices that are very high in sugar content such as drinks that contain high fructose corn syrup; look for natural juices or juices made with 100 percent fruit juice to get natural energy or these juices prove no better than coffee. In addition, these juices will keep you hydrated to beat that fatigue problem. 4. Smoothies Smoothies can be a healthier study drink option as well. Be warned however–similar to fruit juices rich with sugars, smoothies can also easily become unhealthy if you aren’t careful. Make your own smoothies at home to ensure you know what ingredients you are putting into your body. Making fruit smoothies with real fruits will give you natural energy. According to this article, adding berries, bananas or peaches can increase your energy, dietary fiber and potassium. A little bit of peanut butter can give you some energy due to its dietary fiber, fat and protein. You will get the nutrients and antioxidants from the fruits or vegetables you add to your smoothie, and can get some protein and carbs (energy!) by adding milk or yogurt. Be wary of smoothie vendors and ask about the ingredients in their smoothies before you agree to purchasing one; you could be ingesting a ton of sugar or calories if you aren’t careful! 5. Green tea There is a great debate about whether coffee or tea is better for you. According to wisegeek.org, though tea also contains some caffeine, it has nutritional benefits that coffee lacks. Different types of tea come with different health benefits. Green tea is considered the healthiest variety, according to wisegeek.org. Research indicates that this tea:
  • can help prevent cancer
  • fight plaque on teeth
  • lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure
In addition, tea has a smaller amount of caffeine than coffee. With coffee, your body absorbs and processes the large amount of caffeine quickly, resulting in the famous “crash.” However, because tea has lower amounts of caffeine, this “crash” is prevented when the small amount caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower pace. 6. Egg yolk and carrot juice*, and honey and bee pollen drink If you’re looking for something more interesting, I read on one webpage that beating an egg yolk into a glass of carrot juice is a great way to get some energy. You’ll receive the nourishing and cleansing benefits to carrot juice as well as an energy boost. The yolk of an egg will stimulate your adrenal glands when you’re exhausted, according to this same site.  This same website also suggests a honey and bee pollen drink—mix bee pollen powder and honey into some warm water for a natural energy boost. The honey gives the natural energy boost and also aids in digestion. Next time you decide to pull an all-nighter, reach for one of these healthier alternatives to coffee; you will feel energized longer, reap the benefits of nutrients and antioxidants and avoid the caffeine crash that causes even more fatigue. *If anyone tries this, please let me know. I would love to hear about the reactions of fellow students to you cracking open an egg in the library and sipping it down with some carrot juice.  

If you had to put down the coffee and take the MCAT right now, how would you score? Find out for free! With a free Kaplan MCAT practice test, you not only get an idea of how you’d score on the real exam, but you also get a full breakdown of which areas are your strongest and weakest. 

For more college news, and to search for student housing, roommates, college jobs, and internships, go to ULoop.com. ...read more
September 30, 2014

Which MCAT Am I Prepared to Take?

In order to unlock your good life, you need a great score. One of the biggest questions facing premed students is “which MCAT am I prepared to take in order to get my best score?"

The MCAT is Changing

If medical school is in your near future, you probably know that, the new MCAT will launch in the Spring of 2015. The major changes to new MCAT are:

1. More Tested Topics

2. Almost Double the Length

3. Different Scoring Scale

4. New Question Types and Skills

5. A More Medical Approach

Which MCAT Am I Prepared to Take?

One of the big factors to consider when deciding on a version of the test is the list of required prerequisites. The August episode of The Pulse, Kaplan’s monthly online series for pre-meds, was titled “The Last Chance for the Current MCAT!” In this video clip from that episode, Amit Raghavan, MPH, full-time Kaplan MCAT Instructor, discusses the new pre-requisites and how you can evaluate your preparedness for each exam. [embed]http://youtu.be/zvMKMWa4jBk[/embed]
View more videos on the Kaplan MCAT YouTube Channel.
  The key takeaway is that if you haven’t completed the prerequisites for a particular exam, you should not be taking that test.

Preparing for MCAT Success

No matter which test you decide to take, Kaplan will have the appropriate resources available to help you succeed on test day. Remember, twice as many doctors took a Kaplan course to prepare for the MCAT compared to all other courses combined.* Get started on your journey to the good life with Kaplan. Use our decision tree on www.mcat2015.com to decide which MCAT you are prepared to take. Then check out our road maps to the good life at kaptest.com/unlock to see what the average score requirements are for your top schools. Just by visiting the site and filling out your info, you’ll be entered for a chance to win $10,000.  
*Doctors refers to US MDs who were licensed between 2001-2010 and used a fee-based course to prepare for the MCAT. The AlphaDetail, Inc. online study for Kaplan was conducted between Nov. 10 - Dec. 9, 2010 among 763 US licensed MDs, of whom 462 took the MCAT and used a fee-based course to prepare for it.
...read more
September 29, 2014

4 Reasons Why You Should Take a Kaplan MCAT Class

Hello my excited readers! Today I'd like to answer a question that I get a lot from interested students:

Why should I take a Kaplan MCAT class?

I've been teaching for 6+ years at this point, so clearly I believe in the benefits of the Kaplan MCAT program. I took a Kaplan MCAT class in 2006 and did well enough on the actual test to score-qualify to teach the class. If you aren't sold by that fact alone though, I have some four great reasons for you!

1. Flexibility

One of the best features of the Kaplan MCAT program is the class schedule flexibility. You can take an On-Site class with an in-person teacher that runs 1, 2 or 3 times per week. If you live farther from a big city, have a different work schedule or learn best online, there are two online class options: Classroom Anywhere (live, online classes with varying scedules) and On Demand (self-study via previously recorded lessons and 24/7 access to an online syllabus). One of the advantages of the Classroom Anywhere online option is the ability to learn in your bed with your PJs, while still receiving the same high-quality instruction you would in a traditional On-Site class! Finally, if you learn best in a one-on-one, face-to-face setting, Private Tutoring allows you to set your own schedule. All of our live options (On Site, Classroom Anywhere, and Private Tutoring) also include access to Live Flex Sessions: these optional, online sessions cover key science topics that appear frequently on the MCAT and they run on weekends, weeknights and at varying times throughout the day. My students are frequently blown away by how often they can log-on to their syllabi, hop into a live flex session, and work on some content with a Kaplan teacher. Speaking of teachers, that brings me to reason number 2!

2. Dedicated Teachers

I have had the opportunity to work with and mentor hundreds of Kaplan instructors. I honestly have never met a Kaplan teacher that I didn't like. Every instructor is a top performer on the exam (90th percentile or higher), undergoes a rigorous training program, and is constantly evaluated by students to ensure that you have a truly exceptional experience. They tend to be a great combination of smart, engaging and committed to student success. In fact, we had a panel discussion a few weeks ago in which brand new teachers could ask veteran teachers their questions. I was blown away by how thoughtful the questions were and how concerned the entire group was with making each class session successful and making sure each student gets the help they need to reach their best score.

3. Tailored for your needs

I've already touched on the flexibility of the schedule, but there are other aspects that ensure you get an experience that's tailored to your individual study needs. One of the best aspects to Kaplan's technology is the Smart Reports that are generated after each practice test you take. They help you focus your studying on specific content areas, question types and passage types. That way you can study smarter, not harder. There are also different aspects of your syllabus that allow you to practice timing, content, strategy, or full-length exams. Basically, I'm getting at my next reason- the abundance of resources!

4. Tons of resources

We have the most available official AAMC practice, including the newly released Self-Assessment Package as well as all eight officially released full-length exams. From AAMC and Kaplan full-length practice MCATs (19 full-length exams in total) to 11,000+ practice questions, in addition to MCAT Qbank custom quizzes, the resources in your Kaplan syllabus are set up to help you increase your score and destroy the MCAT on Test Day! The Topical Tests will help you battle through tough content. Section tests make practicing your timing a breeze. Beyond your online syllabus, you also get a Review Notes book for each content area: Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Physics and Verbal Reasoning. These books are also available on your online syllabus if you don't want to haul around actual books. The Review Notes are essential because they are a focused review of MCAT-pertinent material. Each section is rated based on the difficulty of the content and the frequency it appears on the actual MCAT. That way you don't spend too much time stressing about an infrequently tested, hard to understand topic!   So, what are you waiting for? There are so many great reasons to sign up for a Kaplan MCAT class today! I'd love to hear why you chose Kaplan in the comments. Let me know! Happy studying, Emily ...read more

About Kaplan Test Prep

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