Studying for Organic Chemistry

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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. ūüôā

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.

To Gap or Not to Gap…

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Hi everyone,

I have some cool updates for you guys. I managed to get an A- and a B- on my last two O-Chem exams, so I’m well on my way to get a B in the class. If my professor drops out lowest test score, which depends on our next exam’s average, I could possibly end up with a B+! However, the lab is killing me; the lab questions aren’t very clear to me, but we’re not allowed to ask questions. This means I’m averaging a C+ on my lab reports. I’m really disappointed, but¬†I’m going to work hard to bring that up to a B by doing well in the rest of the pre-labs, labs, and lab final. The lab is considered a separate class, so I really need to do well! As for Physics, I have an A in the lab and a B in the class; I’m really happy, because this is all counted as part of the class, so my final grade should be at least a B if I continue to do well.

That’s it for classes updates.¬†Now, to talk about the title of this post… I’ve put off the MCAT yet again. I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to study for it the way the program I signed up for wanted, 30+ hours a week, while still doing well in my classes. I want to make sure I do well so I can’t afford to slack off. That being said, I will be signing up for a prep course in September and taking it in April or May. That means I’ll be applying to medical school next year and hopefully starting in 2019. It feels so far away, but I need to be able to do things well from now on.

So, to take a gap year or to not take a gap year? Right now, I’m leaning towards taking a gap year. I don’t have to take any other classes except¬†maybe two suggested ones; I haven’t decided if I’ll be back next semester to take Genetics, but that’s probably the only class I would take. However… I dunno if I’ll be here next semester. I might move out of state! Why?

I applied to post-bacc programs! It’s only a few, and I’ll be learning about one¬†that is brand new in my home state so I can apply there as well. I have submitted everything, and I’m just waiting for my professor to send in my letters of recommendation. I will be emailing my professor this weekend to ask if they’ve been sent out yet; one of the schools has a three-week deadline from the time you submit your application! That one is my top choice so I will be annoying my professor until he sends them.

I’m so excited and so nervous! I’m trying to be optimistic but honestly, I’m scared I won’t get in anywhere because I applied later than I wanted to. Just thinking about how great it will be for my medical school application makes me want it even more; I can improve my GPA significantly if I do well, which I know I¬†can do. Honestly, I like school so much, that I think a gap year will bore me. I don’t take classes during the summer, and I get bored with nothing to do and no stress. I know how that sounds… I just like school. Last summer I did MCAT prep on my own and it was heaven.¬†I felt so accomplished at the end of the day; study, work out, spend time with kids. It was perfect.

Anyway, I’m getting off track. So the plan is to take a gap year if I don’t get accepted into a post-bacc program. I really hope I do, because I don’t want to take a gap year, but I’ll make the best of whichever situation I’m in.

It’s times like this that I have to remind myself why I’m doing this.¬†It feels like I keep putting it off, but I know I have good reasons and I’m still trying to improve while enjoying the stage I’m in. The path to medical school is anything but linear, at least for me. It might take me longer, but I will get there.

Fingers crossed!

Andrea.

Updates

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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.

Semester Struggles

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Hi everyone,

Instead of sleeping I’m up writing this post. I’ve been struggling this semester, and it doesn’t feel good. I have a B- in Physics II, which is okay because my near perfect score in the lab should bring up my grade to a B. I know I can do better, so I will keep working hard and hopefully bring that up to a B+ by the end of the semester.

O-Chem II is a different story. I dunno what happened to me this semester, but I’m struggling. I keep changing my studying strategies to see if it helps, but I keep making silly mistakes because I don’t myself anymore. I have a D+ in the class and a B- in the lab, but for some reason they are separate classes so it will not improve my grade. I can’t afford a bad grade since my GPA isn’t great and I’m on my post-bacc years.

So I’ve been pretty down, trying to figure out if I should withdraw and postpone medical school for another year. Since I would get a W if I withdrew today or March 28th, I figured I should wait and try to improve before the deadline before making a decision. If I’m able to get near¬†perfect scores from now on, I could pull off at least a B, so it’s not impossible.

I’m trying to believe in my abilities but honestly I’ve been pretty down. It seems like such a trivial thing to be upset about, but I take pride in knowing I can do well in difficult classes. I didn’t use to be this way; growing up I didn’t care about school and didn’t do well. It took me moving to the state to learn about well, learning. So when I don’t do well it takes me back to those years, and my self-esteem plummets.

That being said, even though I’ve been feeling down, I will continue to keep going. I’m not a quitter, and I know I’ll regret not trying more than failing. So here’s to keeping on, even when we feel like we won’t make it, because quitting is never an option.

So here’s one new thing I’m doing starting tomorrow (today?) I’m volunteering at the hospital I delivered my boys at! I’ll be helping out in the Cardio-thoracic unit by keeping patients company. I’m a little nervous since it’s my first day, but I’m excited to be doing something in a hospital setting! Wish me luck, I hope it’ll be a good day tomorrow!

I’ll also be participating in this thing called Brain Awareness Week in March. Our school does it every spring break and it’ll be my first year volunteering. We basically go to schools and talk about the brain to get more kids interested in neuroscience. I love the brain, so the neuro minor in me is happy to be doing this. I’ll try to write a post about it after it spring break; maybe I can get some cool pictures of brains. ūüôā

MCAT prep is going better than last semester, but I’m feeling a bit burned out. I basically wake up and study until I go to bed, with a few breaks in between to play with my boys and eat. I’m hoping to sign up for a prep class soon, but until then I’ve been doing content review by using books and watching YouTube videos. I’ve taken two half-length practice tests, and even though my scores are horrid, I still improved by about 10 points in a month. I’m sure after I’ve finished the semester and finished reviewing that I will do even better.

I hope my next update will bring good news from an improved MCAT score and improved O-Chem grade. I really don’t want to put off applying to med school another year, but I will make it work if I have to. Time will pass anyway, right?

Good night (morning?) I hope you’re all doing well. ūüôā

Andrea.

New Year and Almost Done!

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Hello everyone!

I really need to write more often…

Today is the first day of my hopefully last¬†semester of pre-med requirements! I’m finishing up O-Chem II and Physics II. I’m excited, but also nervous, because I take the MCAT in May and I apply in June!

So first things firsts, I finished last semester strong! I got an A- in O-Chem and a B in Physics! Physics was a struggle, so I’m so thankful I was able to bring up my grade. I have a different professor this semester so I’m hoping it will go better than last semester. As for O-Chem, I really surprised myself! I didn’t study nearly hard as I did when I first took the class 2.5 years ago. I just studied differently…

I figured I would share how I did it in case any of you are curious. First of all, Leah4Sci’s videos on reactions were amazing. They helped me remember everything while consolidating my knowledge of the reactions mechanisms. I’m so thankful I discovered her site! I also completely ignored my textbook this semester… I just went over my notes, re-wrote them sometimes, and went to SI (supplemental instruction) instead. I think it helped a lot more than my book, since going through every single page didn’t help at all last time. Finally, a friend of mine and I had study group on Saturdays so we could go over things we were not sure about and teach each other. She did well in the class too, so I think our little study sessions help a lot. I definitely recommend making a study group for this class; the more you teach, the better you learn!

So, MCAT prep. I’m hoping to sign up for a prep course within the next month. While I wait to¬†sign up, I’ve been using Kaplan books to study. I just finished the behavioral science review today, and I started the Physics one. I’m excited to be done with a section, but I’m going to pick Saturdays as my review of previous subject days. What I mean is that I’m going to re-write the main points from the chapters on a separate notebook and read over it on Saturdays rather than study “new” material. I’ve also designated 4:10-6:50 Am as study time; I’m not sure how well this will go, but I’m hoping it’ll work. I just want to get it¬†out of the way early so I’m not making excuses once my sons go to bed and I’m too tired to do anything. This means I’ll be going to bed by 8… I’m not excited, but I have to make this work somehow!

Oh, I also took a 2.5 hour long MCAT practice test from Kaplan. It was my first one, and I tried to do it quickly so I could pretend I was running out of time like I’m sure will happen on the actual MCAT. I did horrible. It honestly killed my confidence… I learned a lot from it though, so I’m excited to keep studying and improving. My lowest section was the Physics/Chem section, which doesn’t surprise me since I still haven’t taken the second half of Physics and O-Chem, and I took Gen Chem like three years ago. Definitely my toughest section, so it’s probably what I’ll spend the most time studying. My best section was the CARS section, which surprised me. I’m happy about it, and I know I can keep improving, so I’m excited to take another practice test and see where I’m at. My second best section was the Behavioral Science, which I was happy about since Psychology was my major. Biology was kind of in the middle, but I’m not worried about bringing that up. I think the biggest thing with the MCAT is understanding how the test is given. Once you sort of understand how they test you, and you review all the content, you get an idea of how to apply that content to answer the questions.

As far as my personal life goes, if any of you care ha ha, things are going well. My twins are almost two years old and my husband is working to become a stock broker. Life seems to be taking us in a good direction, and I hope it continues. I’m still volunteering at hospice, I volunteered at a school last semester, and I’m going to an interview tomorrow to volunteer at the hospital where I lived for 7 weeks delivered my twins. I’m also looking for a D.O. to shadow, so that will be interesting.

I’m on track to apply to med school with my GPA being the only thing holding me back, so I’m not going to lie that I’m pretty scared, but also pretty sure, that I’ll get rejected. I’m still thinking about applying to post-bacc programs, but studying for the MCAT is taking up all of my time so GRE prep is not really a priority for me right now. I might apply to a few that don’t require it, and if I don’t get accepted I might apply in the Spring when I have my MCAT score. If things work out I’ll start med school in the next two-three years. Fingers crossed. ‚̧

So that’s it! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season and are ready for this new year. I definitely am!

Cheers!

Andrea.

Midyear Update

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Hi everyone!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated this; life has gotten busy! First of all, I graduated! I even managed a 4.0 during my¬†last semester. That A in Biochem was difficult but I did it! I even got close enough to my professor to ask for a letter of recommendation. ūüôā

Unfortunately, I’m not done with that school and pre-med classes. I had to change my schedule to be able to graduate before my financial aid ran out, so I still have O-Chem II and Physics II to go through. I planned on taking O-Chem this summer and Physics this fall, but after a day in O-Chem I realized I wasn’t ready to take it. When I looked back at my transcript I realized it had been two years since I took O-Chem I and Physics I. I didn’t want to bring down my GPA, so I decided to drop the class and re-take O-Chem I and Physics I this fall. That means O-Chem II and Physics II will happen in the spring. After that I’ll be done with my pre-med classes, yay!

I’m not sure if I’ll take the MCAT next year, but I feel if I don’t do it now I’ll never do it. Taking it will make it much easier to apply to post-bacc programs as well,¬†and the ones with the best programs require either the MCAT or GRE. I decided because of this that I will start studying tonight.¬†I still plan on taking a course, but I’m not sure of the timeline. Most post-bacc program deadlines are in January or February, but I would like to take the MCAT¬†in May so I have enough time to prepare. I think I’ll make an excel sheet with information about the schools and their deadlines. I think if most of them are later in the year, I’ll take the MCAT closer to May. If not, I’ll take it closer to January if I feel ready. I wish more deadlines were closer to June, but I understand schools need time to fill their classes for fall.

I’m hoping to start a post-bac program next fall. My husband and I are already planning a move out of our state, since there aren’t any programs available here. I’m so ready to move on, but I am kind of nervous. I’m mostly nervous about getting into a program; I still have doubts about being smart enough. I know I’m not the perfect student, but I have worked extremely hard for this, and I will continue to do so. I guess it’s just hard to believe in yourself, at least it is for me.

Besides MCAT and classes, I need to find a job as a CNA to get more patient exposure. I had one for a week, but the schedule wasn’t¬†working out and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought. I decided I’ll look for a job at the hospital close to my university, the one I had my boys at,¬†to make it easier to go from school to work. It’s also much closer than the other job, so it’ll save on gas.

I’m also still volunteering at a hospice, and I have plans to go back to Big Brothers Big Sisters this school year. However, since I need another leadership experience, I might need to stop BBBS and find something else. I was planning on using¬†hospice as patient exposure, but since I can work as a CNA I was thinking of using that instead so hospice can be my medical-related volunteer experience. If not, I need to find¬†another medical-related experience, and fast. I’m not sure what I should do, or how to fit it all in my schedule, so I may need to talk to my advisor first.

Anyway, I think that’s all I can think of. Life is going well, for the most part. Hope you’re all doing well! Hopefully I’ll have some time to update this more often. ūüôā

Andrea.

MCAT Study Schedule

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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.

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The Beginning of Summer

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Hi everyone,

So final grades are in… straight A’s! My very first 4.0 in college! I was very excited when I found out. It was definitely a hard semester and I’m SO glad it’s over. As excited as I am about this 4.0, I’m also very nervous that I won’t be able to pull off another one¬†I’m taking hard classes during the upcoming school-year, and I really don’t want med school admission committees to think I’m a bad student…

Now that I have literally nothing to do all summer, I’m looking for ways to keep myself entertained and still making progress in my pre-med journey. I was able to get a hold of my volunteer coordinator for hospice so I’ll be getting a new patient to go visit soon! I’m very excited because it’s been a year since I’ve had a patient. I also need to find another animal shelter to volunteer at; I miss being around furry little critters! I have two cats but I still miss being around kitties that need my help to find a home.

I’m also set to shadow the doctor that delivered my twins and became my friend along the way; I just have to get some blood work done that proves I had varicella so I can start. She’s finishing her residency soon, so I will only be able to shadow her for a short amount of time. Anything I can learn from her is appreciated though, so I’m excited.

That actually reminds me… I was able to attend a surgical conference in a city close to where I live this month. I went last year for the first time and I fell in love with it, probably because it had a¬†neurology/neurosurgery theme. This year it was all about family practice and it was equally interesting. I learned a lot, but my favorite lecture covered Malaria. I honestly did not know¬†anything beyond being transmitted by mosquitoes; I wish I could tell you about it with more detail, but it was a lunch lecture so I was not able to take notes and I don’t want to misquote anything. The one thing I know is that I came out of the lecture wishing I could do something to help get rid of it… but I think that happened with every disease they talked about ha ha.

Back to what I’ll be doing this summer… I wasn’t able to get a hold of my match specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters before the program for the school I volunteered at ended for the year, so I’ll¬†have to wait till September¬†before I can rejoin the program. That’s okay though, because it’ll give me time to settle into the huge amount at least that’s what it feels like¬†of extracurricular¬†activities I take a part of!

As far as studying for the MCAT goes, I bought¬†this¬†book to start studying. I wanted a book that will go over the concepts as a review but also give me some practice tests and lots of examples. This one was the only one that had all of that at my¬†local B&N, so I’m hoping it will be a good review.¬†I eventually plan on buying¬†this¬†book once I’m done with the first one. I really need¬†want a really high score, so I’m hoping the second review will help. I’ll let you guys know what I think of them as I work through them and if they were helpful/worth it. On top of all that, I really want to take a practice course in about six months. They’re really expensive though, so I’m not sure if I will be able to do it. I’m really nervous about this test… I had no idea that the highest score was a 528! 528?! Does anyone know what a “competitive” score is?! I know that you wanted to aim for at least a 30 in the last version, but I have no idea what it could be for this one. I think the fact that it’s a higher number makes me more nervous; I dunno if there’s a psychological reason behind it, but a 40 seemed easier to accomplished than a 528.¬†Does anyone else feel this way, or am I crazy?

But anyway, the last thing on my to-do list for the summer… if you read a few of my entries from last year I talked about becoming a CNA. I finished the course and everything, but I wasn’t able to get certified due to my pregnancy. I have until October to become certified if I want to work in a hospital setting, so I’m going to start studying and take my certification exam as soon as possible. It’s been a while since class and clinicals,so I hope that most of it will be review and not re-learning everything… Ideally I would like to work at the hospital where I delivered because I loved their level of care and want to be in the type of environment where the patients are treated with utmost respect. I think I would enjoy working in¬†postpartum, but I wouldn’t mind the NICU. I’d be happy anywhere though, so I really hope I’m good enough to work there!

That’s pretty much all I’m planning to do this summer, besides taking a vacation to my favorite state, Washington! I absolutely love the beach and the trees are beautiful. The rain is also very calming, so it’s just the perfect place for me. Oh, and they have stratovolcanoes! I’m kind of obsessed with volcanoes since I learned about them in geology last semester, so living next to them would be a dream¬†as long as they don’t erupt. I tried getting a hold of their med school last year when I went to visit but I wasn’t able to, so I’m hoping to do that this year and see if it’s possible to take a tour or at least talk to someone in the administration to see what I need to do to be a strong candidate for their school. I’m extremely excited for this trip and I can’t wait to see all my friends! Washington¬†feels more like¬†home than the state I currently live in, so I always feel like I’m coming home when I travel there.

It’s going to be a great summer!

Wish me luck!

Andrea.