Since freshman year, every pre-med student has had it drilled into them: “the MCAT is hard and the MCAT is important.” While that may be true, studying for the Medical College Admissions Test doesn’t have to take over your life. Here are 5 tips for studying for the MCAT at BU without destroying your GPA or social life.
1.) Make a schedule
I added my study hours to my Google Calendar and treated them like another class with mandatory attendance. If you don’t have a set time to study (no matter how brief), your MCAT studying could be just another thing to slip through the cracks. Pick a reasonable amount of hours that you can maintain consistently once your schoolwork picks up.
2.) Find a study location outside of your dorm
Most people seem to agree with this tip when it comes to studying for anything. Leave your home and all of the distractions you have in it. You could go somewhere on campus like the Stuvi study rooms to be around other people or the upper floors of the Mugar Library for silence. You could even get excited to study by studying at a different coffee shop every week.
3.) Tell your friends
If your friends know about your plans, they’ll want to support you. If they have a loose understanding of your schedule, they’ll try not to distract you during your study hours, cheer you on, and can even help keep you accountable if you start to slip. Luckily for me, one of my friends was studying for the MCAT at the same time as me, so we were able to study together, which kept both of us from bailing on our prep hours.
4.) Be flexible
If schoolwork winds up taking more of your time than expected or if you’re just overwhelmed, it’s okay to modify your study plan. Even if you have to cut back on studying, it’s better to have a smaller number of high quality study hours than a ton of “study hours” where you were too stressed to retain any info.
5.) Don’t stop living your life
Life goes on! You only have 4 years at BU and you don’t want to miss them. When you’re not studying for the MCAT, don’t waste your time thinking about the MCAT. Keep up with your friends, clubs, and all of the things that make your BU experience special
As a new semester is getting underway, it’s time to revisit the best study spots on BU campus. BU is well known as a big campus, which can seem intimidating, but with this list, you are sure to find new places to help you crank out that paper that’s especially hard to write or just do some last-minute readings.
In my opinion, the Starbucks located in Questrom is the best Starbucks on campus. The coffee is great, and there’s usually good music playing. The booths are particularly comfortable to sit and camp out in, and it’s even more fun when you’re studying there with friends.
3rd Floor of Mugar Library
The first floor of Mugar is also a great study area but is usually incredibly crowded. The third floor, however, is usually less crowded and is a just as good, if not better, study spot. The rows of desks give you a bit of privacy while also being able to talk to the person next to you if you are with friends. Studying within the bookshelves also, at least for me, makes me feel more studious and gets me in the mood to do work.
1st Floor of CGS
This might seem like a weird spot, but the comfortable couches are too hard to ignore. I also really like the atmosphere; most people are also doing work, and everyone is usually doing something different, so this is a great space if you are working alone on an assignment.
CAS Think Tank
This is for all the people that need a quiet study space. The Think Tank is usually silent, and so this is a great place for people studying alone. There are a lot of outlets to charge any devices you have, and there are different seating arrangements (desks, chairs, couches) so that you can choose the spot that makes you the most comfortable.
Kilachand Common Room
This is not a quiet space, so if you need to be in absolute silence to do work, this is not the place for you. However, it’s always nice to go downstairs (especially if you are living in Kilachand) and study while also getting into conversation with whoever else is in the common room at the time. The close proximity to the kitchen is also really nice for eating snacks while studying.
I hope this list has helped you find new places to study, or even just new places to hang out. Good luck to everyone this semester!
My MCAT was scheduled for August 27th. This date was starred, circled, highlighted and burned into my memory in May as I moved into my sublet for summer 2022, a cozy but small apartment in Fenway. Thinking about it made me cringe and force myself to take a breath. It was going to be a long summer.
My study schedule was personalized for my learning habits and I had planned it out perfectly, but this doesn’t mean looking at a 5 days a week, 8 hour a day summer full of studying was anything to look forward to. I think I may have explored every nook or the GSU and Mugar Library, and by the end of the summer, I could tell you anything about that library (Floor 3 has the comfiest chairs, a women’s restroom and a water bottle refilling station but it often gets cold. Floor 2, however, is much more comfortable but no water bottle refilling station and floor 6 doesn't have large tables to spread out.)
Despite all my doom and gloom in the wake of my MCAT, I was determined to enjoy my summer as a college student in Boston. Twice a week, I worked as a medical scribe at a head and neck oncology clinic, and found so much joy in my work. I fell in love with gossiping at the nurses station, my coffee conversations with my PA and attending, and getting to meet so many patients who never gave up even when they had to undergo another round of chemo. Like many other rising seniors this summer, I got a glimpse of the “after undergrad” life, and it kept me motivated to finish strong, although I was already so eager to contribute everything I had learned to a world outside college.
My best friend, also studying for the MCAT while in her hometown Toronto, helped me make an Instagram account called @MCAT_caffeine where we would explore coffee shops in Boston and Toronto and share them with our followers (my mom and I think 6 other people?). I probably looked like a crazy person when I visited these places, sometimes crouching down to get a good picture of my latte or trying to discreetly snap a photo of the bakery items that day. But I didn’t care. I was finding happiness in the little things the city of Boston gave me that summer.
As I write this, I don’t know what score I received yet on my test. But I know I worked hard and tried my best. BU helped me prepare, and my desire to become a physician pushed me the rest of the way. Not to be dramatic, but there were definitely some low points. Looking back on the summer, however, most of what I can remember is kayaking down the Charles river, trying new coffee every week, going out to bars after I finalllllyyyy turned 21, and just being grateful to have the opportunity to experience Boston in a different light.
*Side note: if any reader has coffee questions, MCAT studying questions, or just any thoughts they want to share with me, I’d love to hear! You can contact me at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Throughout my first year at BU, I have discovered quite a few spots on campus. Since it is such a large university, there are tons of places available for study needs. Whether you need to collaborate, a silent study room, or an area with white noise, there is definitely a spot on campus that will work for you. In this blog post, I’m going to share my favorite spots to study, and give a little reasoning for why they work so well for me.
1. Questrom Starbucks
Questrom! The building itself is a wonder to look at, and there are a multitude of spaces to finally finish that essay you have been putting off for weeks. I am quite literally sitting at a booth inside Questrom as I write this blog post. Some honorable Questrom mentions include the Pardee Library, and the common room found upon the entrance of the building. However, Questrom Starbucks produces productivity out of me which I have never seen before! I somehow manage to complete all of my work in just one sitting at a comfortable corner booth. Perhaps it's the caffeine readily supplied for me from my Grubhub app, but I like to blame it on the atmosphere itself.
2. BU Beach
Okay, so maybe this is a very basic place to put in a top five list, but it's basic for a reason! Everyone loves BU Beach on a warm, sunny Boston day. I like to go here with a few friends, pick up lunch from the George Sherman Union, and catch up on readings at a picnic table. The location is pretty central, so it's easy to stop by in between classes as well. I like to study outside, which I know can be difficult for some, but this is the perfect place for me to be productive while still getting some time outside.
3. Kilachand 9th Floor
As a KHC freshman living in the Kilachand Hall, this is the most accessible study spot on campus for me. The ninth floor in Kilachand Hall contains two rooms of different studying atmospheres. There is a silent room, which is where I go if I have an exam to prepare for, and there are also collaborative spaces that I utilize for group projects with other students. There is a beautiful view of the Boston skyline, which is an immaculate aspect of the location. There is also a common room on the first floor of KIlachand Hall, which is nice for collaborative projects or discussions.
Found in the basement of the George Sherman Union, this one’s hidden! The Center of Gender, Sexuality, and Activism is a great place to take a break from the chaotic city of Boston to get some studying done. It is an inclusive and welcoming space, and perfect for anyone! I like to start on bigger assignments here, as usually there are only a few people, and I can easily focus. The CGSA is also home to many different clubs on campus, and available for students to just take a break during the day, or hang out with some friends!
5. Yawkey Center
The Yawkey Center is my final favorite place to study. It has such an open atmosphere perfect for any type of studying. There are beautiful views of the city, the CAS writing program to assist you in any written work, and the CAS and pre-professional advising offices. In addition to all of these resources, the best dining hall on campus, Marciano Commons, is on the first floor! I like working on all of the floors in the Yawkey Center. However, I definitely favor eating breakfast at Marcianos and doing my work early in the morning to have the whole dining hall to myself and only a few others.
Throughout campus there are tons of spots to study, or just hang out! These are just a few of my favorites, and I think they deserve a bit of hype.
5:40 AM: I wake up. OK, OK: don’t panic reading this -- as hard as it is to believe, this is something I do to myself willingly and for reasons completely unrelated to academics. My favorite hot yoga class is at 6 am on Wednesdays at a yoga studio less than 5 minutes from my dorm. There are other yoga classes at normal times, but I really like this one.
6 AM: Hot Yoga! I started practicing yoga about a month ago to shake up my routine and quickly got addicted. I use it to manage my stress, stay in shape, and as something fun and COVID safe that I can do with friends.
7 AM: I take my time on the walk back to my dorm. I live in a safe area that’s incredibly pretty in the morning and I’m trying to enjoy it more. When I get back to my brownstone, I make some breakfast (I’m currently training in the art of microwave-based cooking) and shower before class.
9 AM: I arrive at the George Sherman Union (GSU), our student center, before my first class and meet up with my friend Sarah. Our Differential Equations lecture is remote learning only this semester, but we meet up to get Starbucks, catch up, and to take the class together in the library attached to the GSU. We claim that we keep each other accountable and focused, but we almost always wind up talking during the slow parts of class.
10 AM: Sarah and I leave the GSU and walk to our next classes together. I have my Cell Biology and Biotechnology lecture, where I run into Natalia, one of my friends from Kilachand. We met during our first semester of freshman year in a Kilachand seminar on Latin American music. I met a lot of engineers in that class since we all took it to fulfill the same HUB units. I still see a lot of them in my engineering classes or around campus!
12 PM: My lecture is over, and I want some lunch. Some days I’ll stay by Agganis Arena, where my lecture was, and eat with my friend Karolyn who lives in West Campus. Other days, I’ll head back eastward and eat with my friends Chloe and Sarah, who are studying at the GSU. No matter where I am, I always try and use meals as a time to see my friends.
1 PM: I head into the BU biomedical engineering research lab that I work in. We study mice to learn more about the neural circuits in the brain responsible for movement. Right now, I’m working with a PhD student on her latest project. Together we’ve been training our 3 mice—Matcha, Mocha, and Macchiato—to perform different behavioral tasks. Once they’re trained, we use electrophysiology probes and optogenetic techniques to record neural activity in different parts of their brains (basically: we stick a sensor into a genetically engineered mouse’s brain and choose what areas of the brain we want to record data from by using a laser to selectively silence groups of brain cells). I ask my grad student a truly annoying number of questions about the research, and she answers every last one because she’s genuinely happy to help me learn.
4 PM: It’s time to log onto Zoom for my HUB co-curricular, a course that I take in tandem with KHC HC 302. We teach Boston high schoolers about public health through a local program called Boston Area Health Education Center. It’s a great way to give back to the local community, learn more about public health and the Boston Public School system, and secure a coveted HUB unit.
6 PM: I log off of Zoom and knock on my roommate Iris’s door. We’re off to go find dinner so we can bring it back home, eat on the couch, and talk about our days. Sometimes we put on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or the Bachelor while we eat
7 PM: I do some homework and answer some emails for my Girls Who Code club.
8 PM: I log onto Zoom office hours for my engineering mechanics class. I work on my homework and private message my friend Jenny, who’s also here because she’s struggling with problem #7 too.
9 PM: My roommate wanders back out to our couch and wants to figure out our weekend plans. We bring our laptops to the couch and work while we talk. Eventually, we either finish or abandon our work and just relax.
10:15 PM: I start getting ready for bed, write in my journal about the day, and look at my color-coded Google Calendar as I write in my planner about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s schedule is incredibly different, but no less exciting!
I graduated high school with both excitement and fear as I knew I was embarking on a completely unknown experience. While I was preoccupied with meeting new people and becoming as involved as I possibly could, I paid little to no attention to my study habits, organization and time-management skills. In my head, I had mastered them in the little time that 4 years really is, so really what was there to worry about? Turns out I just needed a little humbling. Over the last few years, I’ve taken the hardest lessons and turned them into tips I would give to first year students, just like you!
1. Find a system that works for YOU (aka what works for others might not work for you and that’s ok)
If you’re anything like me and love learning how others organize their work, you know that it’s easy to want to do the same for yourself, but that doesn’t always work. Some people can simply write down what they need to do on a sticky note, others can set reminders on their phones or even rely on their own memory. For me, unfortunately, that’s not the case. I personally heavily rely on my good old paper agenda for school work aka any assignments, projects, exams, etc. as well as any tasks I might have for my job as a resident assistant. In addition to my paper agenda, I use google calendar as my “master calendar”. I have essentially everything I do in this calendar: school, work, meetings, advising, clubs, etc. As overwhelming as it might sound, it has helped me remain organized and on top of what I need to do. However, this is what works for ME and I encourage you to try out different systems and truly understand what works best for you. Do your own research, watch youtube videos (highly recommend checking out my friend’s YT channel: Mira Dhakal) and try different combinations of different resources. It’s ok if things don’t work out the first, second, third, fourth time. I’ll talk about why you shouldn’t worry about this soon. Hold on tight for me.
2. Attend workshops offered around campus on time-management and organization
Boston University has a Center for Career Development that offers a variety of really useful and informative workshops on a myriad of topics. They often host workshops on time-management skills, studying strategies, organization, etc. I would highly recommend attending these as they are a great resource on campus! Additionally, you can always feel free to ask advisors for more information on this.
3. Have a designated work/study space
Something that I find is JUST as important as having a good organizational system is having a designated work/study space. I’ve found (especially during this pandemic) that it can get really tricky and overwhelming quite quickly to get work done when you mix your social or “me” space with your study space, like studying in your room. While that might work for some people, I think it is highly beneficial to separate your rest space from the space where you spend time working hard on assignments and studying for exams. It doesn’t matter what that looks like, it could be a library, a coffee shop, a study space on or off campus, just make sure you find a space that best fits your needs and goals!
4. Most importantly, be willing to fail
Something that I wish I would’ve understood my first year is how important it is to be willing to fail. I wish I would’ve understood that failure is your friend rather than your enemy. I think it’s important to know that finding what best works for you and what will yield you the best results (academically and personally) will take a while, and even when you DO find that works best for you, you might still have to change it! My willingness to try out different ways to stay organized has led me to where I am now, where I feel like I have a good system but I’m still happy and excited to see how this will change to make me a better student.
I hope this was in some way helpful. Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help and use the resource you have available to you. Good luck!
Although BU students have varying preferences when it comes to study spots, these are just a few of my favorites! I hope that this list will be helpful in finding your own favorite places to sit down and have a productive study session, whether when studying with friends or by yourself! They have been numbered in no particular order (although perhaps it is no coincidence that the 9th floor of Kilachand ended up as #1).
1. 9th floor of Kilachand Hall
Ever since living in Kilachand Hall for my first two years at BU, this has been one of my favorite places to study (at any hour, because it is open 24/7)! The 9th floor is divided into two major sections: a quiet study lounge (perfect for getting in the right headspace for exams) and a spacious common area with additional couches (great for hanging out with friends in study groups). It has stunning panoramic views that include the Boston skyline and the Charles River! The photo on the right is the view from the 9th floor of a gorgeous sunset sky, snapped during my first semester.
2. BU School of Law Café
The BU School of Law Complex is beautiful in its entirety (photo on left), with tons of study nooks on its multiple floors. I especially love the spacious and bright School of Law Café on the second floor (middle and right photos), which feels like a breath of fresh air. The floor-to-ceiling windows let in tons of natural light!
3. Kilachand Common Room
When walking into Kilachand Hall, you are greeted by the beautiful Common Room, a warm and inviting space with a piano and tons of comfortable seating. It feels like a huge living room, and this is where students often mingle, study, or attend Kilachand’s co-curricular events. I took the middle photo while taking a study break to watch a Super Smash Bros. match happening in the background, which just goes to show how versatile and well-loved this room is!
4. Yawkey Center for Student Services
This building offers amazingly bright views and is part of a building complex that includes the Educational Resource Center and Marciano Commons Dining Hall (both of which are great things to have nearby when studying)!
5. Mugar Memorial Library
This is one of the largest libraries on campus, so not only does it include lots of resources for doing research, writing papers, and finding books, but every floor has a different noise level, which means that you can choose to work anywhere from the bustling first floor to the silent upper floors! Work areas range from individual cubicles to common tables and lounge chairs. Most BU students would attest to Mugar being a place of intense productivity that has seen us through countless projects, papers, and exams.
Again, this list only scratches the surface of all the great BU study spots. Given this starting point, some additional places to explore include the new Howard Thurman Center, the tiny Pickering Educational Resources Library tucked in the basement of Wheelock College, and the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) Think Tank!