The Pickens Playbook Part 3: 2nd Year at Tennessee State University and MCAT Preparation


The previous two versions of the “Pickens Playbook” 7 College Readiness Moves to Make for Student Success and Year One at Tennessee State University (TSU) covered the journey of George Pickens during his last year at Miami Northwestern Senior High School and first year at Tennessee State University (TSU). Pickens is now in his third year at the institution and is on a pace to finish his undergraduate studies at the conclusion of the Spring 2024 semester. During his second year, he faced the task of taking higher-level courses in his major during his second year at TSU. He found himself fully immersed in subjects like physics and organic chemistry. Dr. Marcus A. BrightDr. Marcus A. Bright

During the Fall of 2022, he embraced the challenge head-on, immersing himself in these complex subjects. However, as the Spring semester arrived, he encountered an unexpected hurdle. He found himself enrolled in a difficult course that was taught by a professor with a strong accent that made it difficult for him to understand the lectures.

Now, Pickens had a choice: he could have chosen to complain about the professor’s teaching style, hoping for change. But he made a calculated decision – he realized that engaging in a battle of that nature against a long-standing professor would not yield fruitful results.

Instead, George chose a different path. He decided to take matters into his own hands and get ahead of the challenges. He committed himself to teaching himself the lessons and sought external resources for further instruction. By doing this, he stayed multiple classes ahead of where the professor was. In essence, the class became a review for him, reinforcing concepts he had already mastered.

George’s refusal to let this class impede his progress became his driving force. He understood that there would be other classes in the future where independent learning and supplementing class instruction would be necessary for mastery. George’s success is a testament to the power of self-study and the determination to go above and beyond what is expected.

It is important to note that George’s success did not come without hard work and dedication. He put in extra hours, pouring his energy into understanding the material deeply. He knew that in order to conquer the challenges ahead, he had to go above and beyond.

In addition to excelling in his coursework, George also put a strategic system of preparation in place for the upcoming MCAT. His preparation process consisted of three distinct phases:

1st Phase – A review of content that consisted of him recalling everything that he had learned and learning additional information that he needed to learn.

2nd Phase – Practicing problems online and through third parties and reviewing those that he got wrong and those that he got right by guessing on.

3rd Phase – To test his knowledge and build up his stamina, George regularly took practice exams that simulated the conditions of the actual MCAT. This phase helped him identify areas of weakness and further refine his test-taking strategies.

George’s dedication to MCAT preparation was evident through his study schedule. During the Spring semester, he studied 2 to 3 hours a night, utilizing prep books, flashcards, and practice problems. Throughout the summer, George increased his study time to 10 to 12 hours a day, including attending prep classes. Devoting around 2 hours to each topic, George covered multiple subjects daily, focusing on both content review and effective test-taking strategies.

George’s remarkable efforts were supported by Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College, who provided a system of preparation and support to nurture aspiring medical students. These institutions recognized the importance of guiding and preparing students like George for success in medical school.

George Pickens’ journey towards conquering the MCAT showcases the power of determination, self-study, and strategic preparation. Facing challenges head-on and taking responsibility for his own learning, George exemplifies the resilience necessary for success in the medical field. With the support of Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College, George is well-equipped to pursue his dreams of becoming a medical professional. 

Dr. Marcus Bright is the author of Brighter Ways Forward: Reflections on Sports, Tech, and Socioeconomic Mobility





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