Friday, October 10, 2014

High School, College/University, Graduate/Professional School, what about it?

Hi everyone!

In my transitions to higher levels of education I felt that I was unprepared in some ways, and I'd like to let you know how it goes and some advice, in case you ever wanted to know, or think about it.
These are just some personal thoughts on levels of education, my experiences in them, and my advice to....anyone out there. =P
By the way, my education was and is in the United States of America. I understand that there are different kinds and levels of education internationally, so if you're not in the US, this may not be that helpful. But if you plan to study in the US or you are in the US already and plan to stay here and study, then maybe this will be better.
Please also keep in mind that I'm not a professor, or a teacher, or someone in some educational board, etc. I am a student with my own field(s) of study and I will give advice based on my personal experiences.

High School
Haha, memories. =P To some people good, others not as much, to me? Meh, I think I should have not been such a perfectionist and relaxed a little.
Overall, compared to college, it's a joke and compared to grad school, it's an embarrassment. XP Really, it's very sad when I think about how little I learned in high school. But I will say, if you are a science/math person, this is the most history and literature you will ever learn in your life!
NEVERTHELESS, I'm not saying neglect high school. Work hard and get those easy A's and build a good work ethic. This will form your foundation for college and higher levels of education, and it will make it easier for you to go to college, and therefore make your life easier and better in the future (do especially well on your APs!). But at the same time, keep life fun and balanced, this is probably the only time you can get your grade up into an A range even when you failed 1 test. Though, hopefully you won't fail at all. =)

I came from one of the most competitive school districts in California, and to us students, failure in a test was a B and failure in a class was a B+ (passing was A-). And this was.....about 10 years are higher, and crazier. I don't know what's the next "A level grade", A+++? XP haha, jk
However, I would really like to thank my parents and my quality of education for giving me such a good background to start off in.

Also, for those of you guys who want to get into medical school or law school right after college, start your work in high school. I'm not kidding. If that's what you're aiming for, then start it ASAP.

Hmm, so I got my B.S. in Human Biology and B.A. in Psychology at UCSD. All I really know about college is science stuff, and mostly biology and psychology (of course). I had a lot of friends who were engineers, computer science, biology, and computer science and engineering majors. So, I can talk from a science perspective but not so much from a humanities/literature/art/history perspective, sorry. =/
College is....challenging, sometimes it felt difficult, but overall, challenging. Compared to graduate/professional school? Haha, it's pre-school stuff. =P

This is the time where you will form yourself as a person and may not change very much after that. Most of your ideals, personality, worth ethic, habits, etc. will develop and mature in your college years, so, go make yourself the best person you can be! (I'm not saying that you are a rock after college and that you will stay the same forever, no, people can change after college, but a lot of your core elements will be formed here)

This is also the game-changing time, where you can change your fate. I'm not kidding, this is real. It's not like you've discovered you're a wizard, but here you have the chance to change your life in the future, as in your socioeconomic status. And I WILL SAY THIS, you can make it better, or you can make it worse. As Gandalf said: do what you can with the time that is given to you. =)

By the way, don't forget, college is a time to explore! Explore what you are interested but also try new things! Learn more about the world and other people and they will do so in return. Besides, there's nothing more boring on a medical/grad/law application that all you did was study in your field and nothing else. =P

Graduate/Professional School
Having recently gotten into graduate school, I may make some assumptions that I may change my mind about or add on, etc. But I'll just say what I feel now. =P
Get your ass ready to work! Grad school is HARD, and I mean really really hard. T_T *crying*
Well no, at least I haven't cried yet, but I've seen people who look like they're going to.
Be prepared to study 6-10hrs/day depending on what level you are (PHD, Masters, MD, OD,, I don't know what you call law people....sorry) You also may have to do other things besides studying, like work on your thesis, do clinical work (free clinic), research, part-time job for those student loans, don't forget to also go to class, eat, sleep, and stay healthy. Bam, yes, a lot of stuff to do and manage.

I'm a pre-med grad student and so I know mostly about medical school related topics. I am currently taking medical school classes with first year medical students. And wow, we learn A LOT. Each month is a block and a block consists of a topic or topics of study.
My first block was MCP (molecular and cellular physiology), and second block was MNE (metabolism, nutrition, and endocrinology). I am currently taking my 3rd and  4th block together which are MIM (microbiology and immunology) and PGA (principles of gross anatomy).
I am so happy that I decided to take Human Biology as my college major, otherwise I would have seriously struggled with a lot of material as some people have.
If you thought that college was fast paced (especially in the 10 week quarter system), then good luck with this, because it will blow your mind! I remember one lecture I had on immunology covered everything that I learned in the first 5 weeks of my immunology course at UCSD. 5 weeks of learning in college, was condensed in 1 day. Scary, yes. Impossible no.

Learn how to deal with the stress and pressure, because you'll be feeling it. You might feel overwhelmed with all the information you have to stuff in your head and you just want to give up. But I'm here telling you, it's possible to do well. It's definitely possible to get average and above average. To get an A, takes that special effort and luck though. My basic advice is just don't fall behind in your studies and learn how to take medical school exams, because they are nothing like what you took in college. Each test is 3 hours long which was equivalent to a final when I was in college. You have to learn how to pace your self, how to not burn out in the test, and USE YOUR BRAIN. Med school, will make you think until your brain fries! When I think about the exams in college, I felt that half of them were useless, memorizing information without the need to understand it and just barfing it all out on an exam. Med school exams here are all done on computers/laptops and are all multiple choice. (I hope that in this day and age, I don't have to explain why multiple choice is much harder than written exams, if you don't think so, let me know and I'll tell you). I'm sorry if you went to MIT or something and had full written exams, because this is a very different way to think and test your knowledge and understanding of the material.
For instance I have had questions like:
- what is the most true answer?
- what is the most false answer?
- complete the false statement
-etc. very interesting right? they make you THINK! XP

In it's own way, graduate/professional school is fun and amazing. It's amazing what you learn and understand and how much you learn. It's also fun to be able to talk to and be with fellow students with the same goals as you and the same love for what you do, what you want to do in the future, and what you want to be. =D These guys will probably be your friends, co-workers, and maybe future spouse for the rest of your life. That's right, not college, graduate/professional school is where you will have most of your lifelong friends and acquaintances. Not saying you're college friendships will fall in the dust, but when you get busy in your field and specialty in graduate/professional school, honestly you might not have that much time with college buddies, and maybe no longer studying in the same place as they are. (like meeee)

A day of school for me is usually class from 9am-12pm.
About 1-2 times a week we also have anatomy lab from like 1-4pm, but that varies depending on the subject, so it could last for 2 hours instead of 4 hours. Those labs include, virtual labs, cadaver labs, and radiology labs.
We also have small group, which are discussion groups that we are randomly paired to learn and discussion about clinical relations to what we learned or further in depth study on what we learned in class. Those are 1-2 times a month, or more, depending on the length and complexity of subject of study.
We have integrated case studies and regular lectures. So lectures are like textbook stuff while case studies are real examples of clinical cases, or giving us clinical scenarios.
We also have patient and physician panels 1-2 times a month, very fun, we ask questions and talk to patients and physicians.
After all of my classes I stay in the library until 8 or 9pm. It starts nearing 10pm near when it is near the exam. On the weekends I study from 9am till 8 or 9pm. Yeah, I know, it sounds very painful and sad, but in reality I don't find it that bad. Besides, I think if you focus on how miserable you are, then not only do you not get as much work done, but you also don't feel happy. So if you're going to study, just DO IT. XP
Usually after an exam, I'll give myself a break by eating a nice meal with friends! And maybe that weekend I'll go to my favorite French cafe for a brunch, do some window shopping, walk around, etc. Something relaxing, I don't have to go out and drink and party, nor do I have to go on some vacation to New York or something. I'm pretty satisfied with simple things. Or maybe I'm just a boring person. =P

UPDATE 1/04/14:
I have finished my 1st semester and halfway done with one of my most challenging courses, Cardio-Pulmonary/Cardio-Pulm/CP. It's the one course that if med students fail they cannot make up and well, it's the largest credit value course, 5 credits, so pretty important. I did decently well, a decent amount above average, but that doesn't mean I'll get an A yet. I still have a practical to take (cadaver exam) and a 2nd exam in 2 weeks!
Overall, I think, and I say, I think, that I've gotten more used to studying and how to study for exams and preparing my material. That doesn't make me relaxed, rather, it makes me more hard on myself in terms of doing well and getting A's =P.
But I've gotten into a good routine of studying, daily exercise, making myself eat a salad everyday, etc. things like that. So, things are pretty okay. =)
Do I still feel stressed, yes, all the time. I'm always thinking about school, but not in such a scary or painful way anymore, it's just something that I make sure to keep up with, my mind on my work, and it helps keep me going, a motivating factor more than a fear factor (but the fear factor is still there, it will probably always be there haha)
So far, I am glad that I am here, that I am working hard, and not only learning and suffering with everyone, but also enjoying my time here. I love my med school and would love to attend it as a med student! =D *crosses fingers for application*

Other Suggestions:

Don't be a gunner unless you really have to. Be nice =) and make friends! Socializing is just as important as studying and getting the A grade because in the real world you will work with other people. People are human and have a good memory for certain events, usually a bias towards events that they feel they were looked down up, wronged, snitched, felt offended, etc. Don't do that, you never know who you will talk to and meet and if that person will affect your future in some way. Especially in higher levels of educations, those professors are smart and they can see everything and they're very good at figuring out who you really are. ;)

Do I "have a life"? Do you "have a life"? Well, that depends on whatever you think "having a life" is. Think about the costs and benefits of your decisions and about what you want in your life and what you need to do to get there. Dreams are goals without plans. Do what you think will work out best for you and trust me, you will "have a life" and an enjoyable and fulfilling one at that!

Anyway, I know this was long, but hopefully it was informative. =) Thanks for keeping up with me till the end, I hope it interesting in some way, haha.

See you later!

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