The Struggles Of Being A Medical Student
College Life |  Source: @rjkhemlani

The Struggles Of Being A Medical Student

What they don't tell you about being a med student.

So you want be a med student? That's wonderful. As someone who currently holds the title of "med student", I just want to enlighten you on the amazing things no one ever talks about before you start your journey.

1. Applications will run your life.
You have to apply for practically every program out there. That's right. You have to survive several rounds of elimination from other program wannabes.

After that, you'll sit in front of several people that will question your life skills, fortitude, and personality. It's like the Hunger Games of Health except there is more than one winner and nobody dies...hopefully.

2. Get ready for paperwork.
Let's say you survived the grueling cut. Congratulations! You now have to fill out enough paperwork to make a lawyer cry. I'm not joking.

After all the interviewing there is still a ton they need you to fill out. Everything from patient privacy policies to background checks to parking agreements are all in your future and must be completed immediately. Enjoy your victory with some good, old-fashioned writer's cramp.

3. Drug tests and physicals will test your patience.
So you want to party and have a good time to celebrate your amazing achievement right? Just keep it clean because drug test, physicals, tuberculosis test, bloodwork, and a butt ton of shots are in the not-so-distant future.

If you hate getting poked and prodded like I do, then this is going to make you so happy. Oh, and it has to be done before you can even set foot upon campus. Good times.

4. The textbook prices suck.
I understand that textbook prices in general are terrible, but these med books that no one has a used copy of or can even find are insane.

Odds are you'll knock down over $200 to learn from Power Point slides and lecture notes. Glad I sold my leg for that book; really worth the investment.

5. You shall not sleep.
A lot of people say they have to pull an all-nighter to pass some final for a class they never paid attention in. You don't sleep because you honest to God have no idea what the actual heck is going on in the classes you religiously attend and study for.

This is especially true if you want to maintain some tiny amount of a social life.

6. It is hard.
The classes are long, the teachers are strict, some subjects are impossible, and who can remember the spelling for half this junk? PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS IS A FREAKING WORD PEOPLE. Have fun remembering the spelling on that one.

Even with all this crap that you have to deal with, one thing stays very true...IT IS WORTH EVERY SECOND OF IT!! There really is no better felling than helping those who need it. The patients find a way to tug at your heart through all the chaos of school.

So grab your coffee, bring on the debt, and get ready for the struggles that are headed your way for an amazing career.

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: emojiterra.com

Spring Semester: Nothing To Sneeze At

As told by a student with seasonal allergies.

January
My mind wasn't running as fast as my nose was in my January term class on book publishing and promotion. A January term (or J-term), for those of you who are blessed not to have this option available at your school, is an extra class students take over the course of two weeks. It's optional, but highly recommended. (By professors. Not me, except for the study abroad one I took last year in England.)

I couldn't tell if my sniffles were from a cold or allergies. It was hard to say for certain. My immune system probably took a hit at some point from all the homework I had for this one class. (We're talking about eight hours of homework per night for two weeks.)

One morning I got up and looked into the mirror. "I look like death."

A more accurate depiction would've been: "I look like Rudolph."

At least he looks cute.

February
For my first official class of my final semester, I stuffed a box of tissues into my backpack. Not one of those cute plastic-wrapped purse-sized sets with only seven tissues in them. No, a fucking huge box of Kleenex.

I wish I could've gotten away with telling my classmates and professor I brought them because I was emotional about this being my last semester. But with the petroleum jelly I'd applied around my red, chapped nose, it was pretty clear I was sick or had allergies.

Definitely allergies, given the fact climate change is real and the weather was far too nice for early February. Way too nice.

March
Spring break is here, and somehow I've been stupid enough to not purchase any Claritin. One of the perks of being home over spring break is access to my parents' wallets. Well, not that's open access or anything. But I'll actually be able to afford a month's worth of the stuff with their help.

Claritin isn't the strongest allergy medication out there, but at least it doesn't knock you out like Benadryl does.

Seriously, that stuff is used to tranquilize dogs and cats. No joke. I've learned many things from working at kennels, and that's one of them.

Maybe I'll go with the steroid shot option. I hate shots, but let me tell you, three years ago I got a steroid shot for my allergies, and within minutes, I immediately felt relief. I could smell again. Maybe not the best thing since I was working at a kennel, but what a relief it was to be able to breathe!

The steroid shot was the best thing that has gone into my ass. And I'm pretty selective about what goes in there.

April
I'm sure everyone's heard of the Bayer aspirin regimen. Well, if I didn't get the steroid shot, I'll be on the Claritin (realistically, Walgreens' creatively named generic brand Wal-Itin) regimen by this point. If I'm not, people will hate me during finals for sniffling in class. Seriously, don't be that person. Fewer things are more annoying during a testing period than a person who's trying to keep snot in their nose.

Bring a box of tissues. Yeah, you'll look ridiculous, but chances are someone else might need them, too. I know I'm not the only person suffering from seasonal allergies.

May
By the time I accept my diploma, my allergies will be at their peak. But at least I'll be able to get away with saying I was crying.

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: @jessvon16

Med School Students Give The DL On Being Pre-Med

Deciding if it's right for you.

Most people, at one time or another, optimistically thought they might be a doctor. Or, at the very least, had a relative tell them that they should consider a career in medicine. During my days at Cornell, it seemed like every year a new freshman class would enter with half of the cohort claiming to be "pre-med".

While many people initially think pre-med is right for them, different options and obstacles (I'm looking at you organic chemistry) may challenge the projected career path. Others, who may be well into college, might start considering medical school and feel trapped; starting late could mean graduating late, taking post-bac classes, or feeling way behind.

With med school as such a popular attraction, it's logical that so much uncertainty surrounds the decision making process.

Jeanie and Alain both graduated from Cornell University in 2015, and are in their first year at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Below they both answer the questions prospective and current pre-meders probably have on the process of pursuing and attending medical school.

What is the best piece of advice you have for taking the MCAT? And for applying to schools?

Alain: Study however works best for you, but make sure to leave enough time for practice tests! When you do the practice exams treat it like the real deal: be diligent about timing, not looking at your notes, keeping your phone out of sight, etc.

My strategy was content review for four weeks with one practice test per week mixed in, followed by two weeks of mostly practice tests with occasional content review mixed in - but again, nothing is set in stone, find your formula.

In applying to schools my best advice is to think a lot about the things that might not seem as important at first glance. Things like location, housing, grading policy, etc. It's easy to pick schools based solely on academic prestige, but at the end of the day, every school teaches the same stuff, and residency programs really don't care all that much (if at all) where you got your MD.

What will vary school-to-school is your quality of life - and this is where the other aspects come in. Will you be close to family/friends? How is the weather? Is there enough outdoor adventure to be had? How about the living, is it shared-room dorms or apartments? Do you want to live on or off-campus? Can you afford to live in this city? Are pre-clinical years pass/fail? How are tests administered? Is the class ranked?

Jeanie: For the MCAT - pace yourself and take breaks. It's less about the hours you study, and more about the productivity you have in those hours. For applying to schools - apply early, and apply far and wide.

As for building your list of schools to apply to, keep that long and broad, as there often seems to be no true rhyme or reason when it comes to medical school admissions. You want to be the one to ultimately narrow down options -- try to avoid making them too narrow to begin with.

2. What is something you wish you knew about med school before applying? Before attending?

Alain: Applying to med school is expensive. Each primary application costs between $70-100, and most schools charge you another $50-100 for secondary applications too. Add to that the cost of traveling to interviews, staying in other cities, and buying yourself some formal clothes, and you could total well into the thousands. All before you even know if you'll get in. If you can, try to save up some money so you won't have to go into debt before you even get to med school.

Jeanie: I wish I knew a bit more about the timeline of the application process - it can last for a year or longer from application preparation, through interviews, to final acceptances. It is helpful to be aware of these expectations so that you can better manage what you will be doing during that year, whether that be working, traveling, or taking classes at school.

Before attending medical school, take some time to get to know your new home. Everybody adjusts to medical school itself in different ways and at different paces, but if you spend some time beforehand to become familiar with your local grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, you'll help to quicken the adjustment to this new phase of your life.

3. What is the biggest misconception you had about med school before actually going?

Alain: I definitely thought that med school was going to be 100 percent work 100 percent of the time. I thought I would be stressed every day of the week. And while it is certainly not easy, you will learn to manage, and believe it or not, to have fun. Like anything new in life, it's a transition. But you can do it and will do it - and there is ton of help out there if ever you are struggling.

Jeanie: I was concerned that I would feel overwhelmingly stressed and that medical school would take over my life - and that is absolutely not the case. While school can certainly be busy and at times stressful, medical school is not the end all be all, and there IS time to explore, have fun, and take advantage of your twenties. Make sure you prioritize that!

4. What is something you love about med school? Something you hate?

Alain: Something I love: the wonderful classmates I have. Everyone is incredibly kind, collaborative, and hard-working, which makes for an awesome learning environment.

Something I hate: LOANS AND DEBT.

Jeanie: I absolutely love the people - both the faculty and medical education, as well as my classmates. Everybody is truly invested in you and your success and the collaborative atmosphere is very refreshing, particularly when coming from a large and relatively intense undergraduate university. I wouldn't say there is anything I "hate" - I will say that it's not the happiest feeling to not have an income, especially if you've taken time to work before medical school and now lack that cushion. That can be stressful on the day-to-day, but ultimately it all works out, and you can work with your medical education team to sort through any issues that may arise.

5. What is the best piece of advice for deciding if med school is right for you?

Alain: You have to love learning. If school is not your thing, maybe consider another career path.

Jeanie: Experience, experience, experience! Shadowing and taking advantage of other related opportunities are the best way to envision the ins and outs of any field. Longer term experiences, on the order of weeks rather than days, will be even more helpful in terms of envisioning whether this is the type of work that would interest you long-term. And don't just shadow physicians! Take the time to explore the broader healthcare field - nursing, hospital administration, research laboratories, etc are all related fields that you may find interest in as well!

6. What is the best piece of advice for surviving med school?

Alain: Balancing schoolwork with personal life in medical school is very different and very challenging at times. Everybody struggles at some point - don't be afraid to ask for help!

Jeanie: I try to avoid the phrase 'surviving' med school, which sounds somewhat ominous. Some of my best memories - both school and non-school related - have happened during my time in medical school so far.

Don't lose the forest for the trees - remember the big picture of why you are in medical school, even when you are neck deep in physiology or biochemistry. It's extremely unique to have four years in which your only responsibility is to learn and take advantage of amazing opportunities. Take time for yourself and remember that being a medical student is an awesome and impressive accomplishment - but it by no means has to define you! Enjoy it!

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: aquevedo

How to Take a Class as a Transient Student

Get educated in the smartest way.

A transient student is a student who is taking only one or two classes at another university. For example, you might want to be a transient student at a local community college over the summer to get some gen-ed's out of the way. Or, you might be able to save some money by taking a few transient classes at a cheaper university in your free time.

The mechanics of transient study can be a little complicated, so here's what you need to keep in mind to make sure your credit transfers!

Check your school's transient student guidelines.

Each college has their own policy about transient study. For my school, you're allowed to take transient classes at any outside college until you reach Junior status. Once that's reached, you can only take transient classes at four year universities, not at community colleges. Also, my last thirty credits need to completed at my college.

This is a pretty standard rule for most colleges, but it's important to check the guidelines so you don't run into any issues. Your advisor or registrar should be able to give you specific information about your school's policy.

Find your courses.

It's all fine and dandy if you decide to take a few classes at another college, but actually finding these classes is harder than you might think. Upper level courses can be harder to find, especially for specific major requirements. First, search nearby universities to see their course openings. If nothing works, check for online classes at other universities.

I'm taking a summer course online through a university all the way in Utah! This ended up being the best fit for the specific upper level class, and it was much more affordable than my private college. Check the guidelines for transient study at your prospective college to make sure you're eligible.

Get approval.

Once you've found your course, it's time to get it approved. My college requires both my advisor and the department head to approve the course before I can get credit for it. Your school registrar can give you specific instructions to get started.

Take your class!

There are a lot of benefits of transient study! You save money by taking classes at a less expensive university and you get a challenging class out the way! Rock your class and forward your completed transcript to your home school and watch your credits rise!

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: melaniekim

Four Struggles of Being a First Generation College Student

It's tough when you can't come to your parents for help.

Being a first generation college student comes with extensive barriers. It's a struggle just to make it to college. But navigating the college experience itself is a bigger wake-up call. Some people approach college thinking it will be the best experience of their young adult life, but that wasn't my way of thinking when I started. Let me share with you some of my struggles.

Feeling unsure about how to start my college journey.

For the record, I went to a high school that offered a dual learning program. I took high school and college courses simultaneously, allowing me to earn college credits earlier than the average high school student. But after I graduated from high school, I realized I was less prepared for continuing my college experience than I had thought.

This realization mainly occurred in connection with my new financial responsibilities. The hardest part about transitioning was working to secure financial aid through FAFSA. Navigating this process was a big test of my financial literacy, which was a first for my immediate family.

Dealing with the pressure of higher expectations.

I am the first to graduate from a community college of my family. As a result, I feel more pressure to lead the way academically and be successful at it. I sort of feel like I have to work harder to make a good impression with my knowledge and experience of the world. The more I progress with college, it seems the more people expect me to get advanced degrees, which I'm still debating doing.

Not having anyone in my immediate household to relate to.

As a university student now, I feel like even more distance has been created between me and my immediate family. None of them can relate to the university lifestyle. I can't really effectively ask them for help with college assignments or for specific advice about how to do well at this point of my life. Asking about the best courses to take for completing my bachelor's degree is pretty useless. They can't really help me figure out how to utilize campus resources since they're very unfamiliar with them, leaving me to fend for myself. This brings me to my next point.

Feeling out of place on campus.

Being a first-generation college student has conditioned me to approach campus life with a more reserved approach. When I first started, I wasn't sure about where I would fit in. I'm sure this is easier to figure out for someone whose parents or siblings have graduated from college before him or her. I wasn't as comfortable talking to professors outside of class often or taking advantage of student organizations or enjoying campus activities.

If I could go back in time and give myself college advice, I would tell myself to maintain self-confidence and use the resources around me as much as I can. I would tell myself to not be afraid of making mistakes and to practice more gratitude toward supportive people in my life. Also, I would tell myself to have more fun!

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: Kaboompics.com

Joining Student Groups 101

Follow your passions, but don't stretch yourself too thin.

Whether you're a freshman or a senior, you probably get requests all the time to join a new student group. Maybe you get an email from your college's super special Honor Society. If your college is like mine, then all of the student groups will congregate somewhere and try to get everyone to join.

Some of these groups sound really good, and you might find yourself wanting to join quite a few. Debate Club would look great on your resume, and you'll have a ton of fun in the Yo-Yo League. Right?

The catch is that most clubs and groups are a huge time suck. For some groups, that's definitely worth it, but for others, not so much. Here's a short guide on how to choose the right groups for you (and avoid the bad ones).

Think about the long term.
Joining the improv comedy troupe may sound like a hoot, but if you're pursuing a career as, say, a lawyer, than law club is probably a better investment of your time. Think about which clubs will benefit you in the long run. Essentially, each club you join will expand your network and give you new opportunities. When used this way, clubs are great tools for gaining a career advantage.

Balance your interests and career aspirations.
While you want to consider your career, don't neglect your interests. There's room for both fun and professional clubs in your life. Choose carefully, but not too carefully. In other words, don't let the decision stress you out. Think about it for a while, weigh the pros and cons, and decide what's right for you.

Plan for leadership.
If you join a club, you should strongly consider running for a position of leadership, whether that's the President, Treasurer, or something else. These positions usually don't require much of you (in fact, you might end up doing less work than ordinary members) and add a nice touch of prestige to your resume (or Twitter profile).

Don't stretch yourself too thin.
All of this said, you should definitely join the clubs and organizations you want to, but don't join so many that you have no time left over. Figure out which clubs will benefit you the most, see how much of your time they require, and make your decision from there.

It's also perfectly fine to never join a single campus club or organization. If none are relevant to you (or if you're just not interested), don't feel pressure to join.