College was a great time for me. I made friends I’ll keep for a lifetime, learned things I will never forget, and made memories I could have only dreamed of. However, like most college graduates, I do have some regrets, especially with how I did academically.
As a pre-med, college life was often stressful. I think I pulled at least one all-nighter every week. There were times when I prepared for a test as if my life depended on it, only to find out I failed. There were many nights when my friends went out, but I could not. And the MCAT, oh please don’t get me started on the MCAT. I think you get the point. I had a love-hate relationship with college.
I graduated last spring from college and just started medical school this fall. During my summer off, I was able to reminisce on my college days; I thought of some good memories and I thought of some bad memories. However, as I started to reflect on the hard times I had in college, the more and more I realized that it was all preventable. Don’t get me wrong, pre-med life is supposed to be taxing. But I recognize now I made it more demanding than it should have been. I made bad decisions, had poor study habits, and tried too hard to stay in my comfort zone. All these things contributed negatively to my overall college experience.
I came up with a list of five things I wish I knew before college. I think if I knew this back then, college would have been easier. I would have done better academically and would have enjoyed it even more than I did. And although everything worked out for me in the end, I always think of the “what ifs.” Because of that, I made it my own responsibility to help as many of my peers as I can. Not everything on this list will apply to everyone. But it is what would have helped me, and maybe it can help you too. This list has no order.
1. Do not have the mindset that just because your test is ‘later,’ that you can study ‘later.’
This was something I learned in the latter half of my college days. I also think this is something that a lot of students know, but don’t necessarily practice. Make sure not to procrastinate in your studies. You should make every effort to study every day. I found that trying to cram for a test the day before is the least effective method, at least for me. If you know you have 7 days before a test, you need to have studied for the test all seven days. This helps your brain retain information better and keeps you less stressed the day before the test.
2. Please go to office hours.
This was a hard one for me. If I started college over, I do not know if I would be able to follow my own advice on this. This is hard for me because I am an introvert. I do not like asking other people questions because I feel like a nuisance. However, the few times I did go to office hours, I learned so much. Going to office hours helps because it challenges you to think. When you are studying by yourself, you are free to stop, go on facebook, watch videos on youtube, etc. When you are in office hours, you know you have to pay attention and focus because most of the time, your professor’s full attention is on you. Force yourself to go to office hours. You will not regret it.
3. Know how to study for a class.
Every class is different. Every class has a different professor, with a different teaching method, with a different way to test students. My big mistake was thinking that every class required the same approach because that is not true. There are some classes where you can just memorize, and others where you need to apply yourself more. Do not spend your first 6 weeks of classes trying to figure out how to study for the class. Instead, read reviews, ask your peers who have taken the class before. They have great insights on how to succeed with a certain class with a certain professor.
4. Make time for your friends.
As a pre-med, there were many times when I had to reject my friends. I thought it was a natural excuse and that it was a requirement to be a pre-med. Though it is true that you cannot party every day, you have plenty of time to hang out with your friends if you manage your time well. You need your friends’ support as a student, so be diligent with your time. I guarantee you, you will know if you can’t make time for them because of school or because you did not manage your time well a particular week.
5. Remember that school is not everything.
I know, I know, this sounds so cliché, but I got to say it. When I first entered college, I thought if I did not get into medical school, I would amount to nothing in life. This is a horrible perspective. It is only when I realized that life exists outside of being a doctor that I did better in school. Whether you are doing well in school or not, you have to learn to love yourself and love your life. If you convince yourself that the only way you will be happy is if you get into medical school, you are doing yourself a huge disfavor.