Hey, future docs!
I am so happy to share some “words of wisdom” with you from my AMAZING tutor I had when I was in college. As a busy pre-med student-athlete with two majors, I often missed lectures, had less time to study, and was always on the go from the gym to lecture halls and back to the gym.
I am so thankful that I found Jane; she became my “academic coach”. Not only is she brilliant, but she’s a great teacher who knows how to simplify challenging content.
She keeps you honest and holds you accountable (as you’ll see below). She doesn’t tutor just any old student, for she knows that it takes a particular student to be successful as a pre-med student and receive that “golden ticket” to medical school.
In this post, Jane shares 4 of her secrets to success! Open those eyes and pay close attention…
~ Dr. Trot
It’s not enough to be “smart” to get into medical school. Pretty much every pre-med student is smart, in terms of high school grades and standardized test scores. If you are serious about a career in the health professions, you cannot rely on your “brains” or your “intuition” to get you through the core science curriculum. You cannot wait until you are in medical school to suddenly turn into a good student: you must develop those study habits now.
Being an “A” student at the medical school level demands a much higher standard than you may be used to; so, as with any muscle, you must exercise your brain regularly over a period of time in order to prepare it for the rigors of that standard.
That being said, many bright students don’t actually know how to study (because they rarely or never had to in high school). They are routinely unpleasantly surprised in college classes and/or on MCAT exams when they find themselves scoring below other seemingly-less bright people. Here is success secret #1 for critically important core classes like organic chemistry:
Success Secret #1: The person who works the hardest, wins.
…And they don’t whine about it either. But even hard work is not enough; some students will labor for many hours, and assume that that automatically buys them an “A” grade. It doesn’t. Other students assume that if they hire a tutor, then that will automatically buy them an “A”. It doesn’t. The reason is success secret #2…
Success Secret #2: What the professor thinks is important is indeed what is important.
Regardless of your opinion of what is important, you are graded by the professor. So their opinion is the only one that counts. Wasting precious study time by drawing up long lists of what you think is important, is NOT what top students do.
Do NOT assume that just because little time was spent on a topic, it is not important. If a professor spends ANY class time on a topic, it IS important…unless s/he specifically states that that topic is not important.
So, what does the top pre-med student actually do?
Here is a list of characteristics that seem to go hand in hand with “A” performances…and, when taken to heart, can result in the least amount of stress possible in these courses. (Wouldn’t you like to minimize stress?)
The top student is organized.
All class papers are hole-punched and kept in a binder, carefully organized with divider tabs. Some of the tabs might include:
Lecture notes ordered by date and organized by unit/exam or chapter
Lab handouts if applicable
Tutor handouts, organized by chapter or unit/exam
Quizzes (practice and real)
Exams (practice and real)
The current chapter(s) of the text (so it can be studied and/or referred to all day long)
If your text is not already loose leaf and hole-punched, and/or available on your laptop as a download, you can often take the book to your local copy/print store and ask them if they will slice off the spine and hole-punch the entire book for you. Most stores will do this for a very low fee. You can then hole-punch them and/or staple them by chapter.
The top student updates his/her binder every day, and never appears with piles of random papers for multiple courses slopping out of a folder.
The top student prepares for class ahead of time.
This requires a skill called “advance planning”. As soon as the syllabus is available (which sometimes is even before the first day of class), the top student sits down with his/her planner and plans backwards from the first exam, noting which chapters/topics will be covered on the exam, and when they will be presented in class.
The top student blocks out study time AHEAD of each and every class in order to do the reading and complete as much assigned work as possible. This enables him/her to get the most out of lectures; actively participate in discussions; and be completely prepared for labs including procedures written out, all pre-lab questions answered, and all calculations set up.
Success Secret #3: If you don’t have a planner, get one ASAP. And use it.
There is no way you will remember every class, assignment and appointment; and cell phones are easily lost, stolen or damaged so the wise student doesn’t rely on them.
The top student attends class.
Doesn’t everybody? You’d be surprised.
The top student brings appropriate materials with him/her at all times..
…even if – oh horrors – it means carrying a heavy backpack. (Do not hand me the line about how you are delicate and have back issues and can’t carry anything; if you’re that infirm, get a rolling bag, or take a taxi everywhere. Believe me, health professions admissions committees are NOT impressed by people who are delicate; they are looking for people who are strong enough to survive the rigors of their programs.)
Appropriate materials might include your binder(s), laptop and charger, textbook(s) and lab manuals, calculator, writing implements (including extra lead, erasers, and spares), and blank paper…lots of blank paper.
It may also include food (non-“A” students often waste ridiculous amounts of time trying to decide what and when to eat). Meals (and sleep) need to be scheduled just like everything else.
If taking a bus or cab, or buying gas, or paying for parking, or buying meals, or paying rent, or tutoring, etc. etc., is on the agenda, then appropriate payment(s) may also need to be included.
The top student plans out each day the night before, being sure to allow enough time for everything.
Admissions committees, and the professors/TA’s/tutors who may someday be writing letters of recommendation for you for those committees, do NOT look kindly on applicants who are chronically tardy.
Success Secret #4: Allow 1 hour every night as “catch-up” time to finish any tasks that didn’t get completed in their allotted time.
Falling behind = risk of flunking out in grad/professional school.
To avoid any possibility of that horrific event, learn now how to organize yourself the way top students do. Enough said.