School

Ideal Pre-Test Day

You have 24 hours before your big exam and you have to make the most of them! I’m pretty sure we have all been in this situation before and it can be incredibly stressful. Here are my tips and tricks for making the most out of your study day.

 

Have a plan.

The day before, make a game plan. Make it realistic and make it specific. I brainstorm all the possible ways I could study – retaking quizzes, reading through notes, going through flashcards – and then prioritize them based on what I think will be the most useful or what topics I am weakest in.

 

Protect your bedtime.

Plan to be done studying an hour before you go to bed. I’m sure you’ve heard that cramming the night before a test is not helpful – but it is so true! Feeling refreshed and well rested is just as important (if not more) than getting in an extra hour of review time that probably won’t even be that productive if you’re tired. Additionally, make sure to do something non-school related to let your mind detox a bit prior to hitting the hay. I highly recommend reading.

late night study gif

 

Snacks are your best friend.

Having a surplus of snacks in your bag will prevent you from leaving the library in search of food. You do not need to! Keep your brain focused by keeping your stomach happy.

 

Pack smart. 

Chargers for your laptop and phone. Bring layers in case the study rooms are cold. Make sure to carry any and all books or resources you might need. Your backpack will be heavy but it’ll be worth it.

get down to business studying

 

Prepare to be as productive as possible the next morning.

Mark a few key ideas and notes to review the morning of the test. Make sure it’s only enough that is feasible to look over breakfast.

 

I hope this helps make your pre-test day a little more productive and a lot less stressful. Good luck studying!

 

 

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Medical Student

Should I take time off before med school?

A lot of people ask about taking time off before medical school. The average entering medical student now is 24-25 years old. In college, I personally never considered taking time off before medical school. But having entered straight after my senior year, there are some factors I wish I had considered, so I figured I would share my thoughts.

 

Going straight through means you’re still in school mode

It was definitely easier to jump right into Fall lectures having just been in school in the Spring. I did hear from a few of my classmates that it was an adjustment getting back to classes at 8 am and studying after having taken a few years off.

 

Time off can make your application more competitive 

Taking a few years off to do research, work, or volunteering helps make you a more well-rounded individual as well as make your application to medical school more competitive. Many students apply multiple cycles prior to entry so a few extra experiences can only help.

 

Learning to adult first could be nice

I do wish I had some time prior to balancing classes to live on my own – get used to food prepping, make new friends outside of college, budgeting etc. I think the adjustment to med school life would have been a lot easier.

 

Maturity 

Sometimes I definitely feel way too young, especially when compared to my classmates. I feel like a child accidentally sitting at the grown up lunch table. I think if I was a few years older I may feel more settled and less self conscious.

 

Overall, it’s a very personal decision. I hope some of my insights help you all in your decision and I’d love to hear your own thoughts!

Lifestyle

Valentine’s Day Cocktails

This past Friday, I had some friends over to be my taste testers as I tried out new cocktail recipes for the upcoming holiday. It was such a fun night with gossip, snacks, and lots of experiments with the various ingredients I had amassed. It was so much fun and I highly recommend it both for a fun girls’ night as well as a date night ❤

We came up with a few fun, festive, and tasty treats that I thought I would share with you all.

 

Celebratory Champagne

Jazz up a romantic classic with strawberry heart ice cubes. I found a cheap tray from Walmart that I filled with finely chopped strawberries and water. Once frozen, I popped them into so champagne. They helped keep it chill, looked super cute, and added a little fruity zest to the drink.

 

berry kissable_edited

Berry Kissable 

This drink was my favorite of the night. I mashed up fresh raspberries with a dash of sugar then added in crushed ice, topping it off with Bailey’s Irish cream. It’s a perfect drink for a winter evening.

 

pomegranate_edited

What a pomegra-NIGHT

Ingredients: 1/2 cup pomegranate juice, 1 cup of ginger ale, 2 shots vanilla vodka, and a dash of lemon juice. Mix well then serve. This one was my friends’ favorite. It has a nice festive color and is super sweet.

 

I hope you enjoy the recipes and have a very happy Valentine’s Day!!

 

 

*Note* These recipes are for readers 21 and older. Enjoy responsibly 🙂

 

Medical Student

Studying Bacteria

How am I supposed to memorize all this?

The hundreds of flashcards in my backpack were starting to feel ridiculous a week into bacteriology. At what point would they stop being helpful, especially if it took me hours to work through them? There had to be a better way.

 

Luckily, there is, at least for me.

 

Being a visual learner with a storytelling background (I write novels for fun), I decided that I needed to somehow personify these bacteria and morph them into characters rather than factoids. I can remember each and every one of my main characters’ birthdays, favorite foods, and every scar on their body. So, it made sense that if I somehow personified the bacteria, I’d have an easier time remembering them too.

 

How can I characterize them? How do I visualize them? What symbols can I use?

 

diplococci_edited
Some of the bugs are drawn in duos since they appear as paired spheres (diplococci) in a gram stain

 

Similar to hieroglyphics, I utilized different symbols to represent different aspects and factors for these bugs. For example, the bugs are either pink or purple based on if they are gram stain negative or positive (a laboratory test to classify different bacteria). The shape of their body is based on the shape of the bacteria with many being rods or spheres. A bright pink bow on their head meant that they fermented lactose because those bacteria turn certain agar plates bright pink. Mustaches mean that one of the bacteria’s virulence factor is disguise.

Then there were a few details that only specific bacteria had. H. pylori is a stomach bacteria that can cause painful ulcers. It survives in the acidic stomach environment by secreting urease which creates a more basic pH. To help me remember this unique detail, I made H. pylori into a bass-playing music man who love to jam out. the image of him swaying to the beat with his guitar is easier for my brain to retain. I see the bass guitar and think ‘base’ which primes me for the urease detail.

 

ecoli_edited
H. pylori was definitely one of my favorites – even though he causes painful ulcers, I think he’s adorable 🙂

 

Now, this may seem kooky. In fact, it is. When I first came into lecture with my colorful little guys, I felt like a kindergartener sitting at the PhD student table. But it worked for me! My test scores have been the best they’ve ever been and I honestly attribute that to me engaging in the material in a more creative way. My mind is naturally creating stories and characters, so it only makes sense to apply that natural tendency to my studying approach.

 

I hope this approach gives you some of your own study ideas. Please share any tricks you use to actively engage in the material and any goofy characters you make!

 

 

Lifestyle · School

Beating the Winter Blues

It feels like nighttime all the time.

As a student who is accustomed to working during daylight hours then quitting homework once the sun sets, this winter has been challenging. I abhor studying once it’s dark, but when it gets dark way before dinner, one must adjust.

 

So how can I beat the winter blues?

Get up earlier

Yes, it is dark in the morning too. However, I know myself and I’m more likely to work when it’s dark at 6:30 am than 6:30 pm. I get up earlier and go to bed earlier in an attempt to maximize my hours of productiveness.

 

Lamps, lamps, and more lamps

I am not going to work well if it is dim whatsoever in my room, so I blast the lights in my room. I highly recommend purchasing an extra lamp or two to ensure you won’t be tempted to take a nap. This lamp from Target is now on my shopping list.

target lamp

 

Adjust your breaks

I’ve modified my study breaks to be more frequent but shorter now that the winter blues have set in. It prevents me from getting too stir-crazy. I usually work for about an hour then give myself a ten-minute break or so.

 

Fresh flowers

I cannot wait for springtime, so I just pretend it’s here already by always having fresh flowers on my desk. I don’t spend too much money on them, usually about ten dollars a week. But it is worth it to treat myself to a pop of color at my workspace.

flowers-desk-office-vintage

 

Reward yourself

I pretty much bribe myself to do more work with the promise of treats (hey, it works for dogs). For example, if I study for an hour or finish an assignment, I pour myself a steaming cup of hot cocoa. The promise of a mug full of sweetness and marshmallows keeps me motivated.

 

 

I hope these help some of these ideas help you as much as they have me. Have a happy rest of your winter!

 

Medical Student

What exactly is a standardized patient?

While investigating medical school or attending interview days, you probably heard the words ‘SPs’ and ‘SIM lab’ thrown around as if they were common knowledge. To me, they most certainly were not. Now that I’ve been in school for a few months though, these words are part of my weekly schedule and crucial to my learning.

 

SP stands for Standardized Patient.

These are people that are trained to be patients for medical students. This allows us to interact with patients in a safe environment so that we can develop professionalism and bedside manner. Additionally, we can practice physical exams and patient interview skills. At Larner College of Medicine, we tend to work with our SPs about once a week with a new focus every week. Today, I’ll be learning how to perform eyes, ears, nose, and throat exams. It usually works with us having readings and watching a demo video prior then working through the exams with our SPs and learning what it’s like to perform them on a living, breathing human.

 

play acting as a doctor
How I think I look most days

 

SIM labs are Simulation Labs.

Often times, these mean working with the SPs in rooms designed to emulate doctor’s offices. You wear your white coat and your stethoscope and when you walk in, you act the part. *Yes it still feels like acting to me*

There are, however, other aspects to SIM labs including using point-of-care ultrasound techniques or ‘dummy’ bodies that you can practice techniques on. One of my favorites is Harvey who resembles a crash-test dummy but has different heart beats and sounds so that we can learn how to identify murmurs and diagnose different cardiac issues.

medical dummy

 

 

I hope this clears up some of the confusion that I had prior to starting med school. Please let me know if you have any other specific questions because I’d love to be able to target my content to your curiosity 🙂

 

 

Medical Student

So, you’ve decided to take the MCAT

So, you’ve decided to take the MCAT, congratulations! Now, what?

 

The Medical College admission Test (MCAT) is a beast of a test that is required for prospective medical students in the United Sates. It takes 7.5 hours to complete, is a significant component of your application, and causes some students to spend months studying in preparation. So, what do you need to know about?

 

mcat books

The MCAT recently changed

The test had a huge redesign in 2015. Thus, if you’re planning on buying old books to save money, it may not be worth the cash saved to get a book prior to 2015. The biggest changes to the MCAT were the elimination of the writing portion and less math. Now, there are four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations, Chemical and Physical Foundations, Social and Biological Foundations, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning.

When you take it is important

Admissions are rolling. Even though you want to be as prepared as possible, if you are taking the exam in the same year you are applying, you want to receive your scores early enough to apply earlier in the cycle.

mcat studying

Know your study plan

Create a study plan before you start studying. Are you going to break it down by class or mix it up? How often will you take practice exams? With creating a rough outline, you need to consider if you’re actively taking classes or

Be smart with your study supplies

You will not read every single textbook or prep book. Do not make flashcards for every concept. Do what you think will be useful and focus on that. I recommend one set of prep books (I read the seven Kaplan books myself). Then re-use old notes and online practice exams.

 

Good luck with your studies!

Medical Student · School

Study Technique: Frontloading

As a relatively new medical student, something that is often on my mind is metacognition or ‘thinking about thinking’. What I mean by this is that I often wonder about how I learn and if how I’m studying is the best way to support my learning. Recently, I had a meeting with my academic adviser to discuss my current study strategies. She encouraged me to continue with my group studying, approach to anatomy lab, and utilization of study hours and tutors. Her strongest suggestion was switching to a study approach called frontloading.

elle woods studying

Prior to lecture:

  •  Fill out study guide (based on objectives provided by professors)
  •   Read through PowerPoint, notes, or readings
  • Self-assess (either through refilling study guide or available self quizzes)
  • Highlight what I’ve missed
  • Focus on highlights during lecture, fill out study guide more thoroughly during lecture

My biggest concerns – Is this reasonable with how much time I have? Will I save more time in the long run? Am I smart enough to teach myself the material beforehand? How can I best discipline myself to keep up with this? What if the professors don’t post assignments early enough?

 

Thus, I’ve decided to slowly make the transition to frontloading my work rather than learning and reviewing topics after lecture. 

An easy way to frontload that I’ve implemented is ‘previewing’ lectures. Before, I would simply scroll through the next day’s powerpoint to get an idea of what we’d be discussing. Now, I do the same thing but with a bit more focus. I create a list of key words that I don’t know. Basically, I form a vocab list and I also include new acronyms so that during lecture, I can reference my created cheat sheet to help keep track of all the new information. This only takes about 10 minutes to do but helps me feel a lot more prepared. It really helps especially when topics have dozens of acronyms and new terms to keep track off. That way, I can be more focused on understanding the themes and concepts during lecture instead of the meanings of a few words.

study gif

Additionally, I am taking the professor provided self quizzes after lecture prior to my studying. The thought is that by assessing what I already know, I can avoid wasting time reviewing concepts that I am already comfortable with and instead hone in on the questions I got incorrect. 

 

I started utilizing this technique this week and plan to continue it into my next med school block to see if I like it and to see how it impacts my success. I’m excited to see how it goes! Do any of you frontload? If so, let me know how you like it and if you have any tips – I’d really appreciate it 🙂

Book Worm

Creating a Character

Two weeks until November which means two weeks until the start of Nanowrimo. For those of you who don’t know, Nanowrimo is a personal challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days of November. A lot of my friends and I spend the time prior to the start of Nanowrimo planning or generating a few plot ideas. Others decide to enter the challenge blind and just start writing with no set plot. While I admire these creative minds, I prefer to at least have my main character set.

 

I go about creating a main character in a few different ways and generally, I create my character prior to inventing a plot.

 

Pinterest Board of Characters

I have a board saved on Pinterest where I include photographs or striking individuals or models that inspire me. I often will look up specific facial features such as scars or hairstyles to use as a reference when describing a character.

 

Sketch

I love fashion. And I believe that both in real life and literature, what someone wears can reveal quite a lot about them. I often start by sketching a character and drawing out their hairstyle and outfit (I avoid face details because I am not artistic enough). I tend to just design whatever comes to mind whether that’s a post-apocalyptic outfit crafted from trash bags, a ball gown shredded from a sword fight, or a chic outfit for a business woman. From there, I try to imagine a character that would wear this outfit, where they would wear it to, and what is the scene that takes place with this outfit on.

rae character sketch
A current character I’m creating. The tattoos are a big part of her story so it was important to be able to visualize them.

 

Drives

One of the most important aspects to a character is what is their motivation. What do they want and what is in their way? This will also help to flesh out potential plot lines.

 

Dating Profile Questions

There are hundreds of character questions available online for writers to utilize when creating and understanding a character. Some of my personal favorites include…

What is their perfect first date?

What is their biggest fear?

Do they have any tattoos? If so, what are there and do they have any meaning?

What kind of music do they listen to?

Where do they go for vacation?

If in a fantasy realm, what is their relationship with magic? Are they human? If not, how are they different from humans both physically and emotionally?

character

 

Idiosyncrasies 

These are the most fun features of a character, in my opinion, and are a great way to flesh out and individualize your characters. Quirks, ticks, odd scars and personal deformities help make a character come alive.

 

I hope some of these are helpful to your creative processes. Good luck to anyone participating in Nanowrimo and please share your own tips and tricks in the comments!

 

 

Medical Student

How much time do med students have, really?

Everyone has heard it – med students are so busy and study all day and all night. But how accurate is this?

Here is a break down of my average week day. Please keep in mind, this is specific to me and to my school’s curriculum.

late rabbit

6-7: Wake up, pack lunch, walk to school.

7-8: Eat breakfast at school, get coffee, get organized for the day

8-3: Classes including lectures, labs, and workshops, generally last from 8-3 on the average day with a one-hour break for lunch.

3-4: Head home. I usually try to give myself one hour off so that my mind can get a break. I’d like to say I’m productive but I usually use this time to text friends, play games on my phone, and watch YouTube videos. Sometimes, the brain just needs to be mindless after a full day.

4-6: Homework. This can include pre-reading and materials for tomorrow’s lectures, taking online quizzes, or prepping for dissections.

6-7: Cooking and eating dinner. I can save time by eating leftovers which I often do by cooking two large meals early in the week. If I’m particularly stressed, I do reading while eating but I try to avoid this.

busy
How it feels sometimes

7-10: Either continue doing homework or, if I’m finished, start studying old material. I do this in a variety of ways in the week including creating study guides, flashcards, or rereading various power points and materials that were confusing.

10-11: This is my ‘wind down’ time. I shower, get ready for the next day, maybe clean my room and maybe write. I try to be in my bed by 10:30 but this often doesn’t happen. The true goal is to be asleep by midnight so I can get at least six hours before the next day.

 

Overall, it’s a fairly tight schedule. There’s usually twenty minutes or so in between classes where you get some free time to socialize or jot ideas down in a notebook. I often write blog ideas in between classes. But as you can see, there’s not a lot of large free time to do things like get groceries, watch a movie with friends, do laundry, or clean. Thus, most of these things are allotted to the weekends. If I get out of class early or have a light load of work, I try to take advantage of that by either going for a run, getting ahead of my work, and doing some chores.