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.

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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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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 · 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.

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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 🙂

Medical Student · School

Active Learning Study Tips

I just had my first real medical school exam this past Friday (*shriek*). I tried hard these past three weeks to utilize effective and efficient study methods that focused on active learning to help me prepare. With school just starting, it’s a great time to try out new methods and integrate them into your studying repertoire. So, I thought I’d share some of the new techniques that helped me.

 

Studying for all the senses.

While rereading the textbook can seem effective, it has been proven to be one of the most ineffective study techniques out there. Active learning is better. Active learning means listening, drawing, and moving. Rewrite your notes. Draw out diagrams. Listen to podcasts. Perform practice questions. The more ways you come into contact with the information, the better you will retain it.

 

pictures in notes
I add little doodles here and there in my notes to keep my mind focused. Plus, sometimes a random analogy (i.e. separating Romeo and Juliet) helps me remember concepts.

 

 

Identify your ideal noise level.

Some people need absolute silence and thus should find designated ‘quiet’ areas on campus or invest in ear plugs. I personally do better with some ambient noise so I like to sit at a semi-crowded café. I also found this amazing site that makes ambient noise mixes so that it sounds like I am sitting in the Slytherin common room at Hogwarts.

 

Base study guides off objectives. 

This is something that is emphasized a lot at my school and I wish I had focused on this more in undergrad. Most professors have a list of learning objectives or focuses that they introduce at the beginning of each new section. Use these to your advantage! They are a fabulous guide to what you should focus your studying on. These topics are likely to be high yield – meaning they’ll show up on a test the most and are thus more worthy of your study time.

 

study guides
Study guides directly based on the list of objectives

 

Teach and be taught. 

They say that you truly understand something when you can teach it to someone else. Now, we don’t all have roommates kind enough for us to teach them all of our lectures. I recommend a study group (my ideal size is 4-7 people) who can talk out hard concepts. If you’re struggling with one topic, try teaching what you can to the group and allow them to jump in when you mess up or forget something. Then do the same for them.

 

I hope some of these tips help you all as much as they helped me with my first exam. Have a great start of the semester and happy studying! 🙂

School

Getting Ready for Back to School

It’s that time of year again when stores stock up on colorful notebooks and students slowly walk back onto campus. The few weeks before school can be bittersweet with the sadness of losing free time but the excitement for what the upcoming semester has to offer. This year is especially exciting for me as I start at a completely new school – the Larner College of Medicine.

There’s a lot to do before going back to school including packing (if you go to university), buying supplies, and catching up on summer reading. Today, I thought I’d share some of the tricks I use so that by the time that first morning lecture rolls around, I’m feeling totally prepared.

 

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Organize your desk

Clear off your desk and make sure all of your newly purchased supplies are easily accessible so that you’ll actually want to study. I also recommend adding something a little cute or whimsical so that the desk isn’t too serious and is more inviting. On my own, I have beautiful teal elephant book ends that I love.

Clean out your room (especially your closet)

Most likely, you purchased some new items for the year so going through your clothes and throwing out or donating old and worn out items is a must. It’ll be easier to pick first-day outfits if you know what you have. Additionally, having a de-cluttered and clean room will give you peace of mind and more confidence to start the semester.

Get a planner that works for you

As I have mentioned, I LOVE bullet journaling so I always look up different layouts to try during the first months of school. The past year I have always included a ‘semester overview’ page dedicated to showing just the big test and project dates for all of my classes. If bullet journals aren’t your thing, do some research about what kind of planner you want and don’t just buy the first one you see. Ask your friends what kinds they use and what they like or don’t like them.

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Print off all syllabi and materials prior to class

Reading these prior to the first day of class will help you feel prepared and will give you a better idea of how big of a time commitment this course will be and how to prioritize it.

Identify semester goals

This is so important to having a great semester! I recommend having two-three general goals with more specific sub-goals underneath. Write them down. Put them in your phone. But check back in throughout the next few months to see how you’re doing and make adjustments as needed.

This year, my two goals are to focus on my wellness while starting medical school and to stay on top of my studying. For the wellness goal, my more specific goals are to find time to write (a favorite past time and stress relief of mine) at least one hour every week and to exercise three times a week on average. For studying, my specific goals are to create biweekly specific study schedules and to participate in a study group a few times a month.

 

I hope these have been helpful. Please comment below with tips of your own and have a fantastic start of school!!

Book Worm · School

Best Writing Advice I’ve Received

Hey everyone, sorry for the last two weeks of silence but I’ve been dealing with some laptop issues. Luckily, my lovely mother is allowing me to use her’s so I can get back to blogging ❤

 

I will admit, I am not the best writer there is (shocking, I know). However, I have been blessed to have some amazingly talented teachers and professors as well as had the opportunity to meet a few stunning authors at my university. Today, I thought I’d share some of the best advice for aspiring authors that I have heard from these professionals.

 

Focus on character, not plot.

I took a student-led workshop and the women running the show urged us to avoid ‘genre writing’ meaning not creating an epic horror or fantasy and instead creating a character first and seeing how that character interacts with the world. They said this helps avoid archetypes, cliches, and allows the readers to relate to the characters more because they turn out to be more life like.

The 1 inch picture frame.

One professor told me that when you’re stuck, fill in a 1 inch picture frame. What he meant was, when you don’t know where you are in a scene or what is happening, imagine the person or setting and just try to explain a 1×1 inch square of the full picture. It will get you started and help keep moving you forward.

best book ever

Write what you’re bad at.

The brilliant Junot Díaz spoke at my university my first year there. Many of his books are written in second person point of view and when asked why he writes that way, he responded that point of view is the one he is worst at. So, he writes books that way so he can get better because otherwise he would never improve. I try to emulate his approach by trying to write short stories and thrillers every once in a while to mix it up and practice. It’s kind of like switching up exercises in the gym so that all your muscles get stronger rather than just one.

Edit at the end.

Nanowrimo taught me this. Before, I’d write twenty pages then spend hours painstakingly looking over word choice and spelling errors rather than writing twenty more. By not looking back until you’re done, you’re less likely to get disgruntled and more likely to finish.

kermit writing

Rewrite rather than edit.

My creative writer professor is a novelist and his main advice for editing drafts was to literally retype the entire piece rather than just edit an existing document. He encouraged this for poem drafts, ten page stories, and claims that he does this for his novels as well. Although time consuming, he guarantees that it helps slow you down and will allow you to catch mistakes and areas to improve that you may otherwise miss. While I have yet to do this will a full novel, I did recently retype rather than edit a twenty page short story and I do believe it helped.

 

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. Please share your own in the comments because I’m always looking for new ways to approach telling a story!

Lifestyle · School

Advice for my 18 Year Old Self

It has been exactly one week since I graduated and like many other new alums, I’ve spent some time reflecting over my college experience. I wanted to share advice that I wish I had known as an 18 year old entering college.

grad 1

You’re no longer a big fish in a little pond

You’re not going to be the smartest in your class, the most active in your sorority, or the best on your intramural team. You’re transitioning from a 400 person class to a 1400 person class so it’s okay that you aren’t number 1. Don’t let it get to your head.

Find people who make you happy

Don’t spend time with negative people who talk behind each other’s backs. Don’t be a negative person who talks behind someone’s back.

grad 2

Ask people out

Okay, by this I mean 2 things. 1. Feel free to ask boys out. Hook up culture does exist but who cares, if you like someone, ask them out. 2. Ask out friends for dates. If you meet someone cool, ask them to grab coffee. It’s not weird to pursue friendships.

Grades are important but you don’t need to work as hard as you think you do

Now, we both know that you’re a neurotic freak who obsesses over grades. But being happy and having a balanced lifestyle is just as important. In fact, if you’re happy, you’ll do better in school. Having fun for a few hours a day will make you more productive in the long run.

It’s okay if you don’t meet your best friends right away

Freshman year is overwhelming and you’ll make friends but it’s okay if they don’t carry you through all four years. In fact, you may meet your best friend as a senior and that’s great too.

Last but not least, enjoy yourself. It’s gonna be a great four years!

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Medical Student · School

Tips for MCAT Test Day

The MCAT is a beast of a test and there are so many tips and tricks to use for preparing for it. However, not a lot of people share their ‘day of’ tips. Here are some of my personal tips for what to do the day of the test based on my personal experience.

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1. Try to have a relaxing night

Obviously you want a good night’s sleep but if you can’t fall asleep because of nerves, try to do something relaxing that does not include technology. Maybe read a book or journal just to keep your mind at ease and rest.

2. Get there early… duh

You will not be the only one and it will cut down some of your anxiety.

3. Stretch during breaks

You’re going to be sitting for a long time. During my breaks I did full yoga stretches and even sat down on the floor to do the butterfly – I didn’t worry about what I looked like, I just wanted to feel comfortable.

4. Pack smart

I brought plenty of snacks and a cardigan because I tend to get cold.

5. Know the rules

You need proper forms of ID. Also, some places will only let you bring in ear buds to the testing site if they are still in the package so double check this.

6. Don’t make plans

You may be mentally exhausted by the time the test is done. If you want to celebrate after, do so but don’t plan anything too strenuous otherwise you may regret it.

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School

Finals Study Schedule

Finals are going to be coming up sooner than you know it… *insert groan here* After four years of college finals, I’ve accumulated some tricks for planning and sticking to a study plan in preparation for exams.

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Write it down

I always either physically write out study schedules in my bullet journal, planner, or I create an excel spread sheet to assign and track hours. I include the day, times, and subjects. I try to assign study times to the morning because I know I work best then. For example, on Tuesdays I don’t have class until 1:00 so I would write 9:00-11:00 immunology, 12:00-1:00 anatomy.

Be realistic

If you know you cannot study for four hours straight, then don’t assign yourself that. It’s just setting you up for failure and that will discourage you from sticking to the rest of the plan. Set realistic goals and if you surpass them, that’s even better!

Alternate Classes

I always study better if I alternate subjects meaning that I work on immunology for two hours, take a break, then study anatomy instead of continuing to overload on immunology. It helps me stay fresh and prevent zoning out.

Be specific

Assign certain classes to your study hours but be even more specific than that – perhaps you write down that you’ll reread chapters 1-3 or will be meeting with a study group to review key concepts from the first month. The more specific your assignments are, the more likely you are to accomplish everything you want.

I hope some of the tips help. Best of luck studying!

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School

Make Studying Colorful

Any of my friends and classmates can tell you that I am OBSESSED with making my notes and study guides as pretty and colorful as possible. I utilize gel pens, fine tip sharpies, and bright cardstock all in the hopes of making my studying a little more exciting – and as a happy addition, making these study guides helps me retain the material better as well.

 

 

I try to do only one cardstock (front and back) per chapter or main topic so I only focus on the truly important details. you have to prioritize and organize to make these and by doing so, you are already studying. I include charts, lists, and key diagrams.

By rewriting and drawing out important diagrams and charts, you are implementing more senses than just listening especially by using multiple colors. This helps reinforce the material so much better than just looking at notes.

 

 

One thing that I highly recommend is color coding your study guides. I pick one color of cardstock per class so when I go to study, I can just grab all of the sheets of one color. Immunology is green, Anatomy is orange, Molec and Cell is pink and so on.

Happy studying!