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The Ultimate GMAT™ Study Plan

Gearing up for a Master of Business Administration program involves a lot of prep, especially when it comes to taking the GMAT™—The Graduate Management Admission Test. It’s a standardized test that assesses potential business school students.

The GMAT was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and is now the most widely used assessment for graduate management admissions.

It’s available in more than 100 countries and taken by more than 200,00 students annually.

The exam is important for prospective MBA students because it may carry a lot of weight in the application, with some experts estimating it accounts for up to 22% of admissions decisions.

Because of this, getting prepared for the GMAT is crucial to getting into an MBA program.

Important Facts About the GMAT

There are four sections in the GMAT: quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. These sections are meant to test a student’s general knowledge—they’re not specific to business knowledge.

The total score a student can receive for this exam will fall somewhere between 200 and 800. This score is a combination of verbal and quantitative questions.

Students will also be given scores for each individual section. The section scores for the verbal and quantitative sections range from zero to 60.

The integrated reasoning score, which ranges from one to eight, requires students to analyze graphs and tables.

The analytical writing section is scored from zero to six and is based on how well students can analyze and write about an argument given in a provided text.

There is no set score that students must achieve to be accepted into a program, but students can figure out an estimate of how well they need to do by researching the average score accepted students got on their GMAT exam.

This can give prospective students a good idea of what score they should aim to receive to be considered for acceptance to a particular program.

Making a Study Plan

Making a GMAT study plan depends on when applications are due, which will differ by school.

It’s recommended that students take the exam at least three to four months before their application deadline.

This will give students enough time to retake the test if necessary. It can be taken up to five times within twelve months, with a lifetime limit of 8 times.

Once students know their application deadline, they can make a plan for when they want to take the exam.

Exams are available year-round, and students can register to take it in person or online at mba.com.

Each student will have to determine how much preparation is right for them, but usually, it’s recommended to spend three to six months preparing for the GMAT.

According to GMAC, the makers of the exam, students who studied 60 hours or more scored 500 or higher .

Studying more isn’t a guarantee of a high score, but it seems to help a majority of students find success. With this information, students can create a study plan that suits them and their timeline best.

Study Tips for the GMAT

With 60 or more hours of preparation recommended, how can students best spend those hours?

Here are some tips on how to study for the GMAT that may help students make the best of their prep time.

Taking Practice Exams

Familiarity with the format of the test means there are few surprises. Students will be familiar with each section of the test, the order of the sections, and how the instructions are worded.

Studying the content is important, but so is knowing what to expect when test day comes.

The most effective way to use practice tests is to take one first and use it as a baseline so it’s easy to see where improvements need to be made and how much progress is being made after each consecutive practice test.

When taking practice tests, students should try to reproduce the test experience as closely as possible, in a similar environment and with the same time constraints that the real test has.

The time allowable depends on whether the test is taken in person or online.

The online exam takes two hours and 45 minutes, whereas the in-person exam takes three hours and seven minutes because it includes the analytical writing assessment.

Taking practice exams is also a good way for students to learn how to pace themselves through each section of the test.

Strategies recommended are keeping a consistent pace throughout the entire exam, keeping in mind how many questions are in each section, and estimating how much time is allotted for each question.

•   The quantitative section includes 37 questions over 75 minutes.
•   The verbal section gives test takers 75 minutes for 41 questions.
•   The 12 integrated reasoning questions average two minutes and 30 seconds each for the section’s time allotment of 30 minutes.

Students may choose to use official GMAT exam prep packages, which vary in cost (one is free).

Hundreds of quantitative and verbal questions, as well as integrated reasoning questions can be accessed through these official packages.

Students can also purchase unofficial GMAT practice tests if they need more resources.

Tutoring and Peer Study Groups

For students who want extra help preparing for the GMAT, getting a private tutor, taking a prep course, or finding a study group may be options to consider.

A benefit to these strategies is the addition of regular feedback and accountability, which can help students stick to their GMAT study plan.

For students with a tighter budget, finding a GMAT support group and free practice exams may be more affordable routes.

Staying Healthy

Performing well during a stressful examination can be made easier by maintaining good physical and mental health.

It’s recommended that students get plenty of rest in the days before the exam, as well as keep up a healthy diet.

Both rest and nutrition can impact physical wellbeing. Going into the GMAT in good physical condition can help students reduce stress and build confidence.

During practice tests, students can practice stress management techniques, which may make it easier to use them during the official test.

Test-taking anxiety is a common phenomenon, and each student may want to learn which coping techniques work best for them.

What About Finances?

Students who are considering an MBA program may be shocked when they see the high cost of tuition.

For a few of the most prestigious schools, the cost averages $137,500, a price that may be out of reach for students.

Options for decreasing the cost of earning an MBA may be getting a master’s degree online or getting financial aid to help cover the cost.

There are a few options when it comes to paying for graduate school. As with undergrad, students can start by applying for federal financial aid.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) as a graduate student means the aid is given based on the student’s income, not their parents’. This could help students receive more federal aid than they did as undergraduates.

After submitting the FAFSA, students will receive their Student Aid Report (SAR), which provides information about their federal student aid eligibility.

The schools to which a student has applied and been accepted will send a financial aid package offer letter, and the student can decide whether to accept or decline the offer.

Federal student financial aid can come in the form of work-study, grants, or loans. Grants usually don’t need to be repaid, but loans do. Graduate students are not eligible for subsidized student loans, only unsubsidized, so interest will start accruing as soon as the loan is disbursed.

Another option may be working while getting an MBA, with some employers helping to pay for tuition. There are more part-time and online MBA options than there used to be, making it easier for students to work while finishing school.

Students can also apply for scholarships through the school they are attending, as well as from private or professional organizations. Scholarships usually vary in their eligibility requirements, and it’s recommended that students seek out and apply for all they may be eligible for.

Another option for funding an MBA program may be private student loans. Private student loans do not come with the same benefits and protections that federal loans do, like income-driven repayments and fixed low-interest rates. The interest rates and repayment options vary by lender, so students are encouraged to do their research carefully before considering this option.

The Takeaway

Students who already have student loans from their undergraduate education may want to consider refinancing their student loans, which could mean a lower interest rate or a repayment plan that works better for their particular financial situation. The choice to refinance student loans depends on a lot of factors, like whether those loans are federal or private and whether or not the new loan will be beneficial to the borrower. Figuring out how to prepare for and pay for graduate school can feel overwhelming, but help is available for both.

Learn more about private student loans and student loan refinance options from SoFi.



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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10 Top Career Training Programs

When it comes to getting a secure, well-paying job, it’s not always necessary to get a college degree first.

Some students may choose a career training program to learn the necessary skills for a specific job, often more quickly and for less money than a four-year college degree. These programs may also be referred to as career certificate programs, usually certifying the students to work in a particular role once the course is completed.

These programs can be completed after college, but many are designed to train people who haven’t attended college. Recent high school graduates or those who have attained their GED can often attend career training programs and get started on their careers after receiving their certificate.

Why Do People Choose Career Training Programs?

Two big factors in choosing to go through a career training program before or instead of going to college are time and money.

Career training programs typically can be completed in less time than it generally takes to complete an undergraduate degree. Some programs can be completed in as little as four months, a staggering difference from the four years it might take to earn a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to being shorter term, they’re also less expensive. On average, a career certificate program may cost around $100 per credit. The average cost of in-state tuition at a public two-year institution is $3,412, and at a public four-year institution the in-state tuition averages $9,308.

At Minnesota State University, certificate programs consist of nine to 30 credits, which can be completed in one year or less of full-time study. If these programs cost the average $100 per credit, they would cost between $900 and $3,000. This is fairly affordable compared to the cost of tuition at either a two-year or a four-year institution.

Another reason some people choose a career training program is that they need to, or would like to, start earning money relatively soon after graduating high school.

A career training program could be a more direct route to employment than getting an associate or bachelor’s degree for people who are sure about their career path. This could also be a beneficial route for students who want to save money to attend college later in life.

Choosing a Program

The most important thing to look for when choosing a career training program, whether it’s in-person or an online career training program, is accreditation. Accreditation verifies that an institution is meeting a certain level of quality. Usually, a certificate will need to come from an accredited institution for it to be considered legitimate.

Accreditation is done by private agencies, and most programs or institutions will list accreditations on their website.

The most up-to-date accreditation information can be found in the database of postsecondary institutions and programs compiled by the US Department of Education or with the specific accrediting agency’s website.

Once it’s clear that the potential programs are accredited, students can begin to narrow down which one will be best for them. This will be a highly personal choice, but there are a few factors worthy of attention, including cost, course length, and type of instruction (online vs. in-person).

Job search assistance—which might include resume writing workshops, job fairs, or interview prep—is another element that may help set students up for success.

Top Paying Jobs For Certificate Holders

In addition to career training programs having the potential to save students time and money, people want to know that they’ll be able to make a good living with those jobs.

Right now, these are the highest paying jobs for those opting to go through a career training program:

1. Web Designer

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income for a web designer is $73,760, with the educational requirements ranging from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. This job is growing faster than average, so it has a promising future.

2. Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants make, on average, $51,740 per year. The required education for an entry-level job as a paralegal is a certificate or an associate degree. This job is also growing at a rate much faster than average, showing great potential for a long-term career.

3. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Solar panel installation is a growing field with decent pay and a lot of projected growth for the future. The median annual pay is $44,890, with only a high school degree or a certificate required to begin working.

4. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Training to become a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse typically takes only one year of full-time study, and the median annual salary is $47,480. This job is growing faster than average and is in a field that will certainly always exist. This could be a good choice for someone who wants to be in the medical field without the time and financial commitment it takes to become a doctor.

5. Medical Records Technician

Working as a medical records technician usually only requires a certificate, and sometimes an associate degree. This job has a median annual pay of $42,630 and the potential to work from home.

6. Pharmacy Technician

The median pay for a pharmacy technician is $33,950 per year. This job is growing at an average rate and typically requires on-the-job training or a formal training program, most of which last one year. Some longer pharmacy tech training programs culminate in an associate degree.

7. Computer Support Specialist

The role of a computer support specialist can vary widely, which means the educational requirements may, also. Some jobs in this field may require a bachelor’s degree, but others may only require an associate degree or a certificate. The median annual pay for a computer support specialist is $54,760, and the field is growing faster than average.

8. Phlebotomists

Professional certification, which can be gained after completing a phlebotomy training program, is the credential generally preferred by employers. This job has a median annual pay of $35,510 and it’s growing much faster than average.

9. Medical Assistants

Medical assistants have a median annual pay of $34,800, and the job only requires a certificate or on-the-job training. This job is growing much faster than average.

10. Wind Turbine Technician

The median pay for this job is $52,910 per year and the only education required is a training certificate through a technical program. This job is growing at a rate much faster than average, which could make it a great choice for students who are ready to start their career shortly after graduating high school.

Paying for a Career Training Program

Just because career training programs are typically less expensive than college doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to pay for. Some programs last longer than others and will still end up costing a fair chunk of money.

One way to pay for a career training program is to save the amount of money needed before starting it. If the program is short or has a lower cost per unit, it may be possible to simply save up the necessary amount before beginning the course of study.

The program cost may be available on the school’s website or by calling the school. Paying in full with cash means no debt to worry about.

Another potential way to pay for a career training program is to apply for federal student financial aid, which may be available to students enrolled in eligible degree or certificate programs and who meet other eligibility requirements. Completing the Free Application for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ® is the first step to applying for federal student financial aid. After submitting the FAFSA®, students will find out if they’re eligible for federal student aid, which could include federal student loans and/or work-study.

Students who aren’t eligible for federal financial aid or students who can’t cover tuition costs without financial aid may want to look for scholarships. There may be fewer scholarships available for certificate programs than there are for degree programs, but they’re out there!

The best place to start looking for scholarships is with the school the student is attending. Some schools set up their own scholarships. Alternatively, students can search for scholarships offered by professional organizations in their related fields.

A private student loan may be another option to cover the cost of a career training program. Loan terms will vary from lender to lender, and applicants are encouraged to understand the terms of the loan before accepting one. Students should exhaust all federal student aid options before considering private student loans.

The Takeaway

Students can be under a lot of pressure to go right into a four-year college or university after graduating high school, but career training programs provide an alternative that can also set students up for success, typically in less time and for less money.

Learn more about private student loans at SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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How to Negotiate Your Signing Bonus

A job interview can be nerve-racking, but once you’ve aced it and gotten the job offer, your excitement may have to be delayed again until you’ve completed the salary negotiations.

There is so much to consider to ensure that the job move is worth your while and that you’ll be compensated fairly. And now, there’s one more thing to think about when negotiating—a signing bonus.

A signing bonus is a payment given to employees when they accept an employment offer. A growing number of employers are using bonuses to attract key talent, according to a 2016 survey by WorldatWork .

Signing bonuses are particularly prevalent in the manufacturing, finance, and insurance industries, according to the study, but are gaining favor in other areas as well. This bonus is usually made as a one-time payment, and yes, you will pay taxes on it. Also, if you voluntarily leave during your first year of employment, many companies will ask you to return the bonus.

While these payments are typically higher for executive and upper-level positions, often ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, they’re becoming more common for clerical or technical positions, where they are typically in the $5,000 range.

While most companies budget for signing bonuses , there’s a good chance the human resources department may hold out on offering one unless a candidate specifically asks. So, even if your initial job offer doesn’t include a signing bonus, it might be worth it to simply ask for one.

How Signing Bonuses Work

Employers aren’t obligated to offer job candidates a sign-on bonus. But they may choose to extend this one-time financial benefit in order to:

•   Attract new talent, especially in a competitive hiring landscape
•   Close the gap between a candidate’s desired pay and what the company is able to offer
•   Compensate for any benefits a new hire might otherwise miss out on by changing jobs or forgoing other job offers

If you’re being considered for a job, the hiring company can include a signing bonus as part of their job offer. You can then decide whether to accept the bonus and the position, attempt to negotiate for a larger sign-on bonus or walk away from the offer altogether.

Should you accept the offer, sign on bonuses can be paid out to you as a lump sum. Or you may be asked if you’d like to accept some or all of the bonus as stock options. Just like any other bonuses, salary or wages you receive, a signing bonus is taxable . So you’ll have to report that money on your tax return when you file.

If the signing bonus is paid with regular pay, it’s taxed as ordinary income. If it isn’t, then the sign-on bonuses are taxed as supplemental wages. For 2020, the supplemental wage tax rate is 22%, which increases to 37% if your bonus exceeds $1 million.

Employers withhold these taxes and pay them to the IRS for you. So when you actually get your bonus, you’re getting the net amount, less taxes withheld. Additionally, bonuses, whether they’re paid when starting a new job or as a year-end bonus, may also be subject to Social Security and Medicare tax as well as state income tax.

Pros & Cons of Signing Bonuses

Receiving a sign on bonus could make a job offer more attractive. But before you sign on the dotted line, it’s helpful to consider the advantages and potential disadvantages of accepting a bonus.

Signing Bonus Pros

It could help make up a salary shortfall. If you went into salary negotiations with one number in mind but the company is offering something different, a sign-on bonus could make the compensation package more attractive. While the bonus won’t carry on past your first year of employment, it could give you a nice initial bump in pay that might persuade you to accept the position.

You may be able to use a bonus as leverage. When you have multiple companies making job offers, you could use a signing bonus as a bargaining chip. For instance, if Company A represents your dream employer but Company B is offering a larger bonus, you might be able to use that to persuade Company A to match or beat their offer.

A bonus could make up for benefits package gaps. Things like sick pay, vacation pay, holiday pay, insurance and a retirement plan can all enhance an employee benefits package. But if the company you’re interviewing with doesn’t offer as many benefits as you’re hoping to get, a large sign on bonus could make those shortcomings easier to bear.

Signing Bonus Cons

You could see a bigger tax bill in the short term. Since sign bonuses are taxable as supplemental wages, you might see a temporary bump in your tax liability for the year. You may want to talk to a tax professional about how you could balance that out with things like 401(k) or IRA contributions, deductions for student loan interest payments and other tax breaks.

Changing jobs might mean having to repay the bonus. Employers can include a clause in your job offer that states if you leave the company within a certain time frame after hiring, say one year, you’d have to pay back any sign on bonus money you received. If you have to pay back a bonus and don’t have cash on hand to do so, that could lead to debt if you have to get a loan to cover the amount owed.

You might get stuck in a job you don’t love. If your employer requires you to pay back a signing bonus and six months into the job, you realize you hate it, you could be caught in a tough spot financially. Unless you have money to repay the bonus, you might have to tough it out with your employer a little longer until you can change jobs without any repayment obligation.

Tips on How to Ask for a Signing Bonus

If an employer doesn’t offer a sign on bonus, you don’t have to assume it’s off the table. It’s at least worth it to make the request, since the worst that can happen is they say no.

Here are some tips on how to ask for a signing bonus and what to do with your windfall.

1. Know your value to the company

Before asking for more money, either with a bonus or your regular salary, get clear on what value you can bring to the company. In other words, be prepared to sell the company on why you deserve a signing bonus.

2. Choose a specific amount

Having a set number in mind when asking for a bonus can make negotiating easier. Do some research to learn what competitor companies are offering new hires with your skill set and experience. Then use those numbers to determine what size bonus it makes sense to ask for.

3. Make your case

Signing bonuses are gaining steam in industries such as technology, engineering, and nursing, where there is more competition for the best job candidates. You are also sometimes in a better position to ask for a signing bonus if the company did not meet the salary you asked for when interviewing—a signing bonus is an opportunity to recoup some of that difference. Regardless, it never hurts to consider asking for more money.

Just be sure to do your research first. For instance, perhaps discreetly ask your contacts whether the company might be open to offering a signing bonus and be sure to look at comparable salaries on Glassdoor, Indeed, and Salary.com to see how your job offer stacks up.

4. Split the difference with your salary

One way to potentially have your cake and eat it too when it comes to signing bonuses is to use your salary to offset it. Specifically, instead of asking for a large bonus you could ask for a smaller one while also asking for a bump in pay.

An employer may be more open to the idea of paying you an additional $2,000 a year to keep you on the payroll, for instance, versus handing out a $20,000 bonus upfront when there’s no guarantee you might stick around after the first year.

5. Get it in writing

If a signing bonus wasn’t part of your original job offer, and you’ve negotiated for one, make sure you receive an updated contract with the bonus included.

The agreement should spell out the amount of the bonus, how it will be paid (separate check or part of your regular paycheck), and the terms of the bonus. The contract should note how long you need to stay employed at the company to retain your bonus (typically one year).

How to Maximize Your Signing Bonus

After receiving a sign on bonus, the next question should be: What do I do with the extra money?

There are a variety of ways you can put a signing bonus to work. For example, if you have credit card debt, your best move might be to pay that off. This could be especially helpful if you have credit cards with high interest rates.

You could also use a sign on bonus to eliminate some or all of your remaining student loan debt. But if you’d rather save your bonus, you might refinance your loans instead and use the bonus money to grow your emergency fund. Having

three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved up could be helpfulin case you lose your job or get hit with an unexpected bill.

You might also think about longer term savings goals as well, such as buying a car or putting money down on a home. Keeping your savings in a liquid account that earns a high interest rate can help you grow your money until you’re ready to use it.

Using Your Bonus for Retirement

If you are caught up with your credit card payments and you already have an emergency fund, you might think about investing your bonus.

This could be a great financial move when you consider that a $5,000 signing bonus isn’t as lucrative as negotiating a $2,000 increase in your annual salary. If you can’t negotiate the higher salary, you can at least use your bonus to invest. Investing can be a good way to build wealth over time.

For example, you might use part of the money to open a traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account. This can help you get a head start on saving for retirement and supplement any money you’re already saving in your employer’s 401(k). And you can also enjoy tax advantages by saving your bonus money in these accounts.

Start Putting Your Signing Bonus to Work

Investing a portion of your bonus can allow you to take advantage of compounded interest over time. But it’s okay to start investing without much money. With a SoFi Invest® account, you can start online investing with as little as $1.

Adding bonus money to an investment account can put you one step closer to your financial goals. Whether that’s buying a house, traveling the world, or starting a family, it’s important to make the most of this valuable employee benefit

When you’re offered a new job, consider asking for a signing bonus. You can use a portion of that money to open a SoFi Invest account.



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The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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How to Study for the MCATs

It’s no secret, the MCAT is notoriously difficult. Thankfully, by learning how to study for the MCATs, medical school hopefuls may be able to improve their scores come testing day, which could bring them one step closer to fulfilling their dreams.

Here are a few ways in which prospective medical school students can study for the MCATs and go the distance with their goals.

What Are the MCATs?

MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) . The test, which the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) creates and administers every year, is multiple-choice and standardized. Medical schools have been utilizing it for more than 90 years to determine which students should gain admission.

Most medical schools in the United States and some in Canada will require that students take the MCATs. Every year, more than 85,000 prospective medical school students take it.

There are four sections to the MCATs, including critical analysis and reasoning skills, biological and biochemical functions of living systems, chemical and physical foundations of biological systems, and psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior.

Students will receive five scores: one for each section, and then one total score. In each section, they can get a score ranging from 118 to 132, and the total score ranges from 472 to 528. Generally, a competitive MCAT score is a total of 509 or above, which would place a student in the 80th percentile.

The average MCAT score for all medical school applicants is between a 500 and 508. Usually, students will receive scores 30 to 35 days after they take the exam.

Keep in mind that MCAT scores, while important, are just one part of a medical school application. Medical schools often review other factors, including things like a student’s:

•  GPA
•  Undergraduate coursework
•  Experience related to the medical field, including research and volunteer work
•  Letters of recommendation
•  Extracurricular activities
•  Personal statement

If a student has a high GPA from a competitive undergraduate school, for instance, and they don’t score very high on the MCATs, they may still have a chance of getting into a medical school.

Getting a competitive score on the MCAT can give applicants an edge, especially when applying to ultra-competitive medical schools. One way students can help improve their chances of getting a desirable score on the MCAT is to learn how to study for the unique demands of the test.

Studying for the MCAT

One of the first things a student can do when determining how to study for the MCAT is to create a study plan. A well-crafted study plan will review what materials the student should review in order to prepare for the exam.

The AAMC Website

One jumping off point – review the material covered on the MCAT. The AAMC provides an in-depth outline on their website . Obviously, the same questions students will see on the actual exam won’t be listed, but sample questions that are similar to the real questions are.

The website allows students to download the entire exam content in a PDF and watch tutorial videos. For instance, according to the AAMC’s guide , the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT “tests processes that are unique to living organisms, such as growing and reproducing, maintaining a constant internal environment, acquiring materials and energy, sensing and responding to environmental changes, and adapting.”

The section has 59 questions, and students get 95 minutes to complete them.

Online Resources

There are a variety of other online resources students can explore to help them review. For example, the AAMC currently recommends students take a look at Khan Academy’s MCAT Video Collection , where there are more than 900 videos and 3,000 questions that students can use to review. This content will be available for students to access until September 2021.

There are also MCAT study apps like MCAT Prep from Varsity Tutors LLC and MCAT Prep by Magoosh that students can download and use to study.

Books, Textbooks, and Class Resources

It may also help to buy or borrow books from the library that go into detail on the MCAT. Students should just make sure that the books they’re reading are up to date.

It can also be helpful to review class notes and study guides from courses you’ve taken that are related to MCAT materials. Some schools have study groups and other academic support resources for students who are studying for the MCAT. If you’re currently enrolled in classes, take a look to see what might be offered at your campus.

Practice Tests

AAMC offers official sample MCAT practice exams online , and they cost $35 each. Taking practice tests can help students familiarize themselves with the exam. Taking practice tests can also be important in helping students understand the timing of each section.

Study Groups and Tutors

Getting an MCAT tutor who has taken the test could also be helpful. A tutor will generally be able to provide guidance on what kind of questions a student can expect and effective methods and tips for studying. Additionally, a tutor could help a student stay motivated and hold them accountable.

Students can find tutors by asking friends and family members who have taken the MCATs recently for recommendations. There are also test preparation companies that provide resources for students to find tutors online or in person.

A search on an independent website like Google or Yelp can help students be sure that the test prep company they are looking into is legitimate.

Study groups can also be a tool to help students who are preparing for the MCAT. Students can find others who are on the same trajectory and plan to take the test and go to medical school around the same time as them. If possible, find a group where each student has a different strength and weakness, this way each student can learn from one another.

It may help to use a shared calendar or another tool to make sure everyone is on the same page for dates, times, and locations for when the study group will meet. Students can find MCAT study groups by looking on Google and/or signing up for virtual groups on Facebook.

Important Dates to Keep in Mind

Students can take the MCATs several times throughout the year, from late January through September. There are hundreds of test locations around the U.S. and Canada as well as select locations around the globe.

If a student’s preferred MCAT test date or location is not available, they can sign up for email notifications to see if it becomes available down the line.

If students are ready to take the test in 2021, they can see the full schedule of testing dates on the AAMC’s website. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAMC has released protocols for in-person testing in the coming year. While they currently plan to offer in-person testing, they acknowledge that this may change. Learn more about the AAMC’s approach here .

Paying for the MCATs and Medical School

The registration fee for the MCAT exam is $320, and that includes distribution of scores. There may be additional fees for changes to a registration, a late registration, and for taking the test at international sites.

The AAMC does offer a Fee Assistance Program to students who are struggling to pay for the test and/or medical school applications. To be eligible for the Fee Assistance Program, students must meet the following eligibility requirements:

•   Be a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident of the US.
•   Must have a total family income that is 400% or less than the 2019 national poverty level for their family size.

Note that the Fee Assistance Program will review financial information of the student and the student’s parents, even if the student is considered independent.

Keep in mind that along with the MCAT fee, applying to medical school can be quite expensive. Most medical schools in the US utilize the AAMC’s American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®). To apply to schools in 2021, students will generally pay a first-time application fee of $170, as well as $41 for each additional school.

Some medical schools may require a secondary application, and those fees range depending on the school. Students may also need additional money to travel to and tour schools.

The application process is just one portion of the cost of med school. After being accepted, there’s the cost of tuition, books, and more. The average cost of the first year of medical school at a public school with in-state tuition is $37,556, which includes tuition, fees, and health insurance.

The average cost for the first-year at a private medical school is $60,665. According to the AAMC, the median debt for medical school graduates is $200,000.

Paying for School with the Help of SoFi

Paying for the MCATs and medical school can be a challenge. SoFi understands this, which is why they offer students no-fee private student loans and the opportunity to refinance their current student loans.

Note that refinancing federal student loans eliminates them from any borrower protections like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, income-driven repayment, and deferment options, so it may not be the right choice for everyone.

Applications for a private student loan or refinancing loan with SoFi can be completed entirely online. SoFi members gain access to career coaching, special events, and more.

Worried about the cost of medical school? Learn more about options available with SoFi, like private student loans to help pay for medical school or refinancing existing student loans—either of which could help you make your med school dreams a reality.



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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A Guide to Remote Internships

Much of the world essentially transitioned to remote work in 2020, but students may be wondering if there’s a place for them in internships. The short answer is yes.

Many employers turned their in-person internships to online ones.

Students who doubt the benefit of a remote internship may want to reconsider. A virtual college internship can provide valuable experience.

When remote work gained steam nationwide, many employers said they were preparing to make remote work a more permanent piece of their business.

Read on to learn how to find and get the most out of remote internships.

Finding Remote Internships

Colleges usually have information about internships. Students can check in with their school’s career center and see what intel it has on remote internships.

Students who are looking for remote internships can also get in touch with those in the alumni organization, ask around in their personal networks, and see if their schools will be hosting any job fairs during the upcoming semester.

Then there’s the Virtual Student Federal Service, which matches students with projects at more than 40 federal agencies. This program is virtual, students can be in charge of their timetable, and the commitment is 10 hours a week. The application period for the program is July 1-31 every year on usajobs.gov.

For students who would rather tackle their remote internship over the summer, there are usually summer internships available.

Creating a Home Office to Support Success

Working from home is a new experience for some people, so creating an environment that helps to maintain focus and health is key to success.

As with any office building, there are a few things that can be done to make the space healthier.

Those who will be spending most of the day in their home office may want to consider opening the windows, keeping the space clean, and investing in an air purifier.

A key piece of staying productive and reducing stress is having an organized space. When working from home, it helps to have a desk free of clutter.

Research has shown that maintaining an organized space helps with cognition, emotional health, and behavior. All of these factors contribute to how people perform at work.

Succeeding at an internship as well as at school could be challenging for students.

Setting boundaries for their work may help with prioritizing and prevent students from losing valuable study time.

Having set work hours can make it easier for students to turn “off” work mode and transition into study or relaxation mode.

Need some extra help paying
for school? SoFi is here for you.


Paying Attention to Health

Students should also be aware of the impact that working from home can have on their physical health.

Long hours on a computer, both writing papers and doing work for their internship, can take a toll.

To prevent eye strain, students can adopt the 20-20-20 rule. It goes like this: Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

In addition to preventing eye strain, students may want to pay attention to their posture throughout the day.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends working in a neutral position that won’t strain joints and tendons, and changing positions, stretching, and walking throughout the day, as well as performing some tasks while standing.

Physical health isn’t the only kind that can be affected by spending long periods of time at home.

Some people have reported that working from home caused them to feel more stress, whereas others said it reduced stress. Since this varies, students will have to keep an eye out for mental well-being during a remote internship.

To take care of their mental health, students can implement routines like walking, meditating, and calling friends.

Finding Value in Virtual Networking

Video calls are a great way to connect and network with others virtually.

Emails and phone calls are still important pieces of remote work, but with video calls, it’s easier to connect with remote co-workers and better understand them during meetings.

Nonverbal communication skills are essential to good communication.

This means that networking virtually is possible. Networking during an internship is important because internships have the potential to turn into full-time positions.

Asking colleagues to get together for a video chat to ask questions or better understand their position could improve the chance of being offered a job at the end of the internship.

Networking virtually takes planning and intentional communication, because co-workers can’t bond over lunch or chat at the water cooler.

Setting up a virtual chat to get to know colleagues better can demonstrate the ability to take initiative and how serious the intern is taking the position.

Starting Off on the Right Foot

A virtual internship is going to work a bit differently from an in-person internship, which means students should be ready to ask a lot of questions.

Before beginning the internship, prepare a list of questions to ask the employer via email or video chat.

Asking questions can help students develop important leadership skills, so it’s a good habit to develop during an internship.

Starting an internship off right also involves setting up regular check-ins with a manager. They may do this already, but if not, it’s OK to ask for it to be implemented.

Receiving regular feedback can improve performance, and therefore help students get the most out of their internships.

Juggling studies and a remote internship may be intense, so part of being prepared is getting a calendar to track important dates and internship tasks.

Blocking off time in a calendar to focus on the internship tasks could prevent moments of burnout and overwhelm.

Brushing Up On the Tech

Before beginning a virtual internship, it could help students to get familiar with the common platforms that are used in remote work for communication, task management, file sharing, and online calendars.

Each workplace is going to use different programs; some may prefer Asana over Trello when it comes to task management, and some may prefer Slack over Basecamp for communication within the team.

There are tons of programs out there to make virtual work easier. Interns won’t be able to learn them all, but brushing up on what’s popular may ease anxiety and increase feelings of preparedness.

Documenting Your Success

It can be really easy to forget all that has been accomplished during an internship.

Most internships last a whole semester, and if students aren’t tracking what their tasks and accomplishments are, they may forget them.

This is important information for students to keep for both themselves and their managers.

Keeping things documented can help students easily add their accomplishments and new skills to their resume.

It will also make it easier for managers to write a letter of recommendation at the end of the internship.

With luck, the manager will remember the best of the accomplishments, but if they’re managing a large team it could be difficult for them to write a letter without reference points.

A letter of recommendation can help students once they enter the workforce and begin applying for jobs.

Keeping the Financial Support Flowing

What do student loans have to do with remote internships? Well, most students trying to get internships must address the costs of higher education—which usually go well beyond tuition.

The college experience can be funded with federal aid, scholarships, and private student loans.

It’s generally recommended that students exhaust all options of federal aid before moving on to private loans.

Federal loans come with benefits that students may not find elsewhere, such as interest rates, and students who are eligible for federal aid could be offered grants. Students can also look into scholarships.

Sometimes costs exceed what’s at hand, and families or individuals turn to private student loans.

It’s best to research the options, as eligibility requirements and repayment plans differ.

SoFi offers private student loans with attractive rates, no fees, and flexible repayment options.

If you’re ready to tackle that internship and college costs, learn more about SoFi private student loans.



SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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