Life, Pre-med

Mom in Grad School

Happy New Year!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year and all the wonderful things that have happened. Going forward, I would like to write more helpful posts pertaining to grad school and not just updating you all on how I’m doing although there will be plenty of that too!

This first post will talk about being a mother in grad school and how I’m trying to make it work. I’ve only been in class for a week but I haven’t felt like I’ve missed out on anything studying while caring for my almost three-year-old twins. It hasn’t been easy, but with some planning, I’ve had a pretty successful week!

To keep myself organized I use a planner. The one I have is from popflexactive.com and it has everything I need; a monthly calendar to put important dates in, like quizzes and exams, a weekly schedule with space for goals, ideas, reminders, projects, and things due, and daily to-do lists, space for water intake, food journal, workout journal, and notes as well as a doodle space. This one is sold out, but I’m sure they’ll have a new one for the next school year.

I’ve used planner since 2016 but I had to force myself to use them. After finding one that was specifically made for school I’ve actually looked forward to writing down everything. It helped so much last semester when I wanted to remember when my biostats assignments were due! So far, this semester it has helped keep me accountable for studying for the MCAT, which is the hardest thing for me to study for (Physics and I don’t get along).

Here is what my last week looked like:

Staying organized.jpg

You do not need to get a fancy planner like this. You can use a notebook and personalize it however you want or use an app on your phone. For me, writing it down and being able to see it without using my phone is more beneficial; I’m more likely to start studying without going through Facebook.

So now that I have a schedule, how do I use? It’s easy to write stuff down, but it gets more difficult to actually follow it. If we’re being honest, I don’t follow this exactly; it just isn’t realistic when you have potty-training toddlers. However, if I have it written down, I know what needs to get done that day and will try to follow it. Certain things I do not move, but they don’t have set times during the day. The best example is my MCAT prep; if the kiddos are napping, mama is studying! The time varies but it’s usually 1-3 PM during weekdays. I’m hoping to put in closer to 3 hours a day during the weekends; I’m making a study group with some friends from school to keep each other accountable. According to my Kaplan course, you’re supposed to take one day off a week, but I schedule it in any way to keep things neat.

Another thing that has helped a lot has been meal prepping. You know, that thing everyone tells you to do and you say you’ll do it but never get around to it? Or is that just me? On Sundays, I take a couple hours to find vegetarian/vegan recipes, prep them, and put them in gallon-sized zip lock bags that go in my freezer. I take whichever one I want to have for dinner out the day of and thaw it a little bit before throwing it in my slow-cooker. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner; it saves me so much time! You can do this with every meal, but so far I’ve only tackled dinner. I might start doing it for my breakfast smoothies as well, so we’ll see how that goes!

As far as my study schedule goes, I try to study while I watch the boys play. I take plenty of breaks to join them in the fun and take them to the potty. Sometimes I put on a movie for them if I need to get something done right away, but I try to avoid this since I don’t want them watching too much TV. This isn’t really the greatest way to study, but it’s more of a quick review to make sure I get it done. That means I do a quick review in the morning and MCAT prep during nap time, so what about the rest of the day?

When they wake up from their nap it’s time for me to spend uninterrupted time with them. We eat together, make silly jokes, and play until our wonderful nanny gets here so I’m able to get to school early. Some self-care takes place on my drive to school; I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter audio-books while I drive. 10/10 recommend the British version; the voice actor is fantastic! If I’m not listening to books, I put on my favorite music and pump myself up for class. Once I’m in school I take the time to preview my lectures and whatever time I have left I use it to finish reviewing previous lectures. I get home around 9:30 PM and this is where my schedule is a bit more flexible and where most of my self-care takes place.

Let’s take a moment to talk about self-care…IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT! If you don’t practice self-care you WILL burn out! My self-care during the day is focused on my kids so I feel like I get a little break throughout the day, but by the time class is over I’m pretty tired. I take this time to do things that make me happy!

This is what my self-care looks like:

If I haven’t worked out, I will do a quick 15-minute workout. I’ve been following the daily workouts from Tone It Up and I love it! It’s simple and it doesn’t take very long, which is exactly what I look for in a workout. I try to do this at least every other day, but I’m going to try to get it in every day since I always feel better afterward.

If I don’t work out that night, I take a 10-minute break before I start reviewing the lectures from the day. I will do this until 10:30 PM, but sometimes I don’t do it at all. At that point, I get ready for bed and try to relax by spending time with the husband, watching TV or makeup videos on YouTube I’m obsessed, and texting family and friends. I like to play video games, but I can’t keep those sessions to 30 minutes so I try to avoid them during the week. I usually save it for the time after an exam when I’m too exhausted to do anything but play Sims 4 mindlessly while the TV is on. I’m trying to find books to read as well, so if you have any suggestions let me know! I’m concentrating on pre-med books right now, but I also love fantasy. I’m still working on the third Eragon book; I keep forgetting I have it on my phone! The boys wake up around 7 AM, so I try to go to sleep by 11:15 PM to get enough sleep. Make sure you get enough sleep! I function best with 9 hours of sleep, but that doesn’t happen unless it’s the weekend, so I aim for 7-8 hours. Residency will change this, but until then I plan on getting plenty of sleep!

The last thing that needs to get done during the week is the cleaning. I take one day a week where I clean EVERYTHING. I did it yesterday by myself, but I usually do it on Saturdays or Sundays so I can get my husband’s help. The only thing I do during the week is wipe down the table and kitchen counters, take care of the dishes, and clean up any food that falls under the table. Sometimes I do laundry if my sons are out of clean underwear, but I try to leave that for the weekend if possible.

That’s it! That’s how I’ve been trying to make it work and I’ve honestly been surprised at how much I’ve been able to get done. I was really nervous about it before classes started, but a bit of planning and some help goes a long way.

I hope this was helpful! If you have any tips and want to share them please leave a comment! 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!

Andrea.

Advertisements
Pre-med

Studying for Organic Chemistry

Hi everyone!

I’ve had a few people ask me how I studied in order to do well in O-Chem. I figured I could write it all down here for any who might find it useful. 🙂

First, a little background on my learning style. I learn best by watching others do whatever it is I’m learning. Once I’ve seen it, I practice a lot. Having visual cues as well as auditory ones are important for me; if I can’t see it, I don’t remember it well. Reading the book helps me a lot, but this won’t work for O-Chem! You HAVE to practice. Practice so much that you dream about O-Chem! This isn’t necessary, this is just what happened to me! It was pretty funny but also scary.

So, with that in mind, this is what I did to do well in O-Chem!

1) Go to class. The best thing you can do is to go to class! This is great because you’ll learn exactly what you’ll need for your quizzes or exams.

2) Go over your notes. I read over my notes and re-wrote my notes at least twice. Most of the time, I would re-write them three times. This helped me remember the theory part of things, which does involve some memorization.

3) Practice questions. We got lucky with this, because our professor would pick book problems that he felt were useful for us to practice. Besides that, he would post old quizzes and exams for us to do to get more practice and get used to his exam style.

4) Watch videos. This probably saved my grade. I watched a lot of youtube videos! The ones that helped me the most were khanacademy, Leah4sci, and theorganicchemistrytutor. Theorganicchemistrytutor has really long videos, but it’s worth it to watch them all the way through. Khanacademy videos are always free; Leah4sci runs a tutoring service, so not all of her things are on youtube; theorganicchemistrytutor has some videos you can pay to watch, but I’ve never watched those.

5) Tutoring. At our school we have something called supplemental instruction. A student who has done well in the class holds sessions 3x a week to go over the material and help you understand it better. I went twice a week, but if my schedule would’ve let me I would’ve gone 3x. They also have one-on-one tutoring, but that doesn’t help me as much as group studying.

6) Study group. My friend and I would meet every Saturday morning to study for our quizzes or exams. This was very useful because if one of us didn’t know something, the other could explain it in terms we could understand. Plus, if you can teach it, you will learn it better.

7) Read the book. This one was my least favorite thing to do, but sometimes it helped me a lot more than asking my professor. It helps if you read before class, but for me, I had to read it after so I understood the material better.

That’s it! I hope those will help you! If you can’t really sit for long while studying and need to be constantly moving, I heard that recording lectures and listening to them while doing another activity can help. One of my psych professors told us of a girl that would record lectures and listen to them while running. Apparently, this helped her learn and do well in her class!

Good luck with O-Chem!

Andrea.

Pre-med

Updates

Hi everyone,

I have some awesome news to share. I got an A- on my O-Chem exam! I followed the plan I outline in my last post and it helped so much! I’m really excited. My grade in class has gone up from a D+ to a C+, which is not a great grade but it’s something I can definitely improve on, especially because my professor drops our lowest exam score. Once he does at the end of the semester, my grade will be much better, since my lowest score so far was a 61. I’m going to continue studying so I can make sure my grade remains high.

Now comes the interesting part. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m signed up to take the MCAT on May 19th. I signed up two days ago for a prep course through Altius Test Prep. I’ve been reviewing content on my own since August on and off, but I knew I would need something more structure to prepare at some point. Finances are tricky though, so it took me longer to sign up than I was expecting.

I was excited and ready, until I looked at their introduction. I knew the course would be difficult, and I knew it would take time, but what scared me was how advanced their other students are compared to me. I’ll start a little over a month AFTER their short track students. Surprisingly, they say that they won’t accept students later than the beginning of February, but I was still allowed to join a group. I’m worried that I won’t be ready by May, and I thought about pushing back the MCAT for another month to have more time to prepare.

I kept reading what they gave me. The time commitment, the things that need to get done… and honestly, I panicked a little. I don’t think I can finish all of that in under three months. I’m seriously considering pushing the MCAT until next April. I won’t be taking classes so I would be able to concentrate on studying for it. However, that means I’ll have to postpone applying to medical school yet another year.

Honestly, postponing it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I could ensure I’m more competitive by having a strong MCAT. However, I would have to contact everyone that wrote my letters of recommendation and asking them to change the date on them, again. It’s been difficult to do that already, since some people are more cooperative than others. I’m still waiting on one for this year, and another one that should’ve been written by now but hasn’t. It’s discouraging. Additionally, I’ll lose a lot of volunteering, shadowing, and patient exposure hours. What I mean by this is that my advisor let me know that only extracurricular activities from the last four years will count. Since I’ve been pre-med for such a long time, a bulk of my hours came from 2013, which won’t count if I apply in 2017. I’ve been looking for info about this from the actual AAMC website but I couldn’t find anything about it, so it’s difficult for me to make a decision.

I’m going to wait a few days and think it over. I’ll wait until my tutor contacts me and I get a better idea of what this program will require. If I feel like it can be done, I’ll stick with it. Otherwise, I will get a refund and start the program in the Fall.

I’ll keep you guys posted. If anyone knows anything about the four year extracurricular cap I mentioned, please let me know! It would help me out a lot!

I do have another update that I’m afraid is the worst of them all. The hospice patient I’ve been visiting for the past year and a half passed away on Wednesday. I’m usually sad when my patients pass away, but I cried over this loss. He had become a good friend and I learned so much from him. He was an amazing person who will be sorely missed; he wrote a book about his life, which was really interesting, just so he could donate all the profits to charity.

RIP Walter. We will all miss you; from the happy “Hellooooo” you gave when you answered the phone and the “wunderbar” answer you gave when asked how you were doing. I will always remember you and the lessons you taught me about life. Thank you for everything.

Andrea.

Life, Pre-med

MCAT Study Schedule

Hi everyone,

I started studying for the MCAT today. Since I don’t have a ton of time, I’ve decided to study one hour a day during the summer. During the weekends I will probably increase it to two hours a day. It’s not a lot but since I’m about a year away from taking it, I figured this is a good way to start.

Wish me luck!

Andrea.

PS: This is the only way I’m allowed to study. Better than not getting anything done, right? This little one is Syrus, the oldest. Sirius is sleeping peacefully on his crib. The dog in the background is Harry; he thinks he’s their babysitter.

image