Love What You Hate

or least tolerate it!

In our education careers there is going to be at least one thing we absolutely despise. We can’t stand even going to class because we feel misery just from being there. Unfortunately, when we dislike something as humans, we tend to give it less care and try to shove it away, leading to results that only hurt us in the end. So how can you turn something you can’t stand, into something totally doable and satisfactory?

Here are some way I have found to make the terrible bearable. These are from my experience and yours might be different and that’s just fine. I hope you do find my ways just a little helpful.

Acknowledge why you dislike the subject

There are many reasons to dislike something. Maybe you aren’t any good at the subject material. Maybe the instructor is a complete d-bag. Whatever the reason for your aversion, you need to pinpoint it. In high school I originally thought I hated anatomy but later realized my teacher was a horrible excuse for a human and she made the class miserable. It wasn’t the subject at all. In fact I love anatomy. I’m really good at it too.

When you figure out exactly why you dislike something pertaining to a subject, that’s the first step to fixing the issue. It also allows you to see what you need to do to be successful.

Work on your issues

Okay, if you have a crappy teacher sorry, I can’t really help you there. But if you find yourself just repulsed by the material, that is actually something that can be helped. Everything in our education eventually builds off itself and off each other. That means even within some topic you hate or totally have no interest in is a smidge of something you like. Find that something.  I don’t really enjoy math but I like watching math in motion, so a lot of times I would need to think about what exactly the purpose of the math is (even if it felt totally pointless). Even if it seems silly, it can help just enough to get you through.

If your problem is not with your interest, but with the physical material then you should know you need to seek help. But not just any help from any tutor. You should try to find someone who really enjoys the subject material and understand it, but also can explain it in a way that doesn’t sound like a foreign language. Just being in the presence of someone who has passion for a topic makes you excited for it too.

Miserable company

You’ve heard it before, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Misery loves company. It’s so easy to fall in with a crowd who dislikes a subject just as much as you do, and it’s also easy to fall into a group which has about as much as a clue as you. You cannot let this happen. It’s only going to bring you down, and while its comfortable it’s not good for you. Gather up some courage, put on your big kid pants and find some good positive vibes.

Surround yourself with happy

Know you have to take a class you dread? If possible, fill the rest of your schedule with classes you like. College students (especially pre-health kids) love to complain about how hard their course load is, but hard doesn’t need to mean soul-crushing. It’s harder to be completely miserable when you have classes that give you pep in your step. Along with that, make sure you leave time for activities you find enjoyable. No matter how bad my day was, or how mean a teacher was going to Tae Kwon Do always makes me feel better, thus giving me that little extra something to get shit done.

Good luck out there!

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When Friends are Your Competition

Posted April 2014

Getting into medical (or any variation) school is hard. That’s no big secret.

But do you know what’s harder? Having your friends, your support, be your competition.

Those of us who are pre-med tend to have a lot of other pre-meds in our circle of friends. It just makes sense that we do, since we spend much of our time in class, studying or doing medically (as minimal as it might be) related things. No matter how close we get, we always have that lingering thought in the back of our head “This person is competition”.

So how can we accept that from here on out, everyone is fighting against us and how can we be sane through it all?

Competition does not mean enemy

I come from a world of competition; one where to not be the best means getting you get the shit beat out of you. That’s martial arts for you. But there are times when you have to fight against friends and that’s much harder than fighting a stranger. You know their weakness, but you also know their strengths, just like they know yours. Only one person can win.

Luckily, medicine isn’t the same as martial arts competitions. There is no one winner, and a lot of opportunities to be successful. But something I learned from getting my ass kicked (on more occasions than I would like to admit) is that even when you are fighting, you are still friends. They don’t become an enemy just because we are head-to-head.  And that should carry over to your pre-med and pre-health friends. Your competition with each other makes you better, makes you face the real world with that much more experience and determination. The best thing about competing with friends is that even if you don’t win, part of you wins with them the same thing if you win.

Finding your gold

You’re going to go through a lot of friends in college. Most of the time, universities and colleges support way many more people than high school does, and you will have a chance to meet people who you are really meant to be friends with. I’m not saying your high school experiences in friendship were duds (it’s probably the opposite), but you will find a lot more people of similar mindset in upper level education. But to do that, you have to dig through dirt to find gold.

You will figure out pretty quickly if the people you hang out with don’t have your best intentions in mind (or if you don’t). There are certain red flags like hiding information about a class, unwilling to share helpful resources or trying to psych you out before exams. You don’t need to drop them like a hot potato, but studying or taking classes with them is probably a no-go.

As a pre-med or pre-health, you need to figure out what friends actually want the best for you, and what friends you want the best for. You shouldn’t find yourself feeling uncomfortable sharing good news or feeling weird when they talk about theirs. You want friends who know the competition is there but doesn’t let that get in the way of being there for you and vice versa.

Zen in success

I heard something the other day that I found really true; we are happy for the success of others, as long as it does not surpass our own. Ouch, doesn’t that make us sound like terrible people? It’s something I’m sure everyone has thought at one point or another and it’s natural to want to be better than other people. I’m pretty sure that’s our primordial survival of the fittest thing happen.

I don’t think it’s that we want our competition to screw up or not achieve success. It’s actually the opposite. But there is a sense of relief knowing you were able to do well, really do better, than someone you are competing with. It’s doesn’t make us bad people, but at the same time we want people to be happy for our accomplishments too. We want people to celebrate us so we need to be able to do the same, for better or worse. I know I for sure have had to overcome feeling this way when someone I know does better than me. You need to find a place where you feel good about that you did, and then you can feel good about other people too. It’s a practice in self-control. Don’t let yourself feel any pangs of jealousy or doubt because you didn’t score as high, have as many application points or whatever. And don’t let yourself get an air of superiority over the people you surpassed. We were all in the same boat once.

Focus on you

It’s easy to compare yourself to those you are competing against. It’s also really easy to panic about how much you think you aren’t doing and how much better everyone else has it.

Stop that.

Once you get to med school trying to compare yourself to everyone will do nothing but make it that much harder on you to succeed. Focus on your strengths, rectify your weaknesses and give it 100%. Your goal is to be the best whatever doctor you will be and to do that you need to know what your best is, not compared to your classmates, not compared to your friends and family and not compared to the best people in the world. The one person is truly your competition is you, so beat your previous best and excel. You never know, maybe that’s all you need.

Party Animals: Pets in College

Posted originally in April 2014

Having pets in college.

Last night The Roommate’s dog had explosive diarrhea all over the living room and my cat threw up in the kitchen. We believe they had a grass eating party while we were gone and shit got crazy, literally.

So I thought now is an excellent time to discuss having a pet in college.

 

Having pets is not easy. Caring for a pet on your own is even harder. If you are willing to put the work in, having a little dude around is extremely rewarding and it’s nice to have something that loves you no matter what. A lot of people choose to have animals, and that’s awesome. But if you want to have an animal you better be a forever home.

I had fish (guppies and neon tetras) through my whole sophomore year of college (my boyfriend’s dad took them later, they still live!) and now I have a tuxedo American bobtail, Dodger. The Roommate has a (we think) Corgi and Australian Shepard mix named Oliver, who she has had for three years. Just in case you wanted to know, and yes they are totally named after Oliver Twist/Oliver and Company.

So usually, I say stuff about your own experiences and things of the like, but today I’m telling you straight up. If you want to do things your way, cool. But hurting an innocent animal because you want to be selfish is not okay. If a lot of this seems obvious, it’s not. A lot people take on the responsibility of a pet themselves without properly understand what that endeavor entails. So read and be educated.

Pets have personalities and personal problems

Oliver loves to cuddle but has terrible separation anxiety. Dodger’s favorite place is the red storage cube in my room but he is really passive aggressive. Animals are just tiny people who can’t speak the same language as us, but they try. You have invited a tiny furry person to live with you who either shits in a box, in a tank or in the grass. They develop as individuals and really no two animals are the same despite breed restrictions that animal planet talks about on Dogs 101.

You have to be able to deal with both your pet’s sass and any issues it has, especially if you adopt a rescue. You have to be patient and form a bond with your animal like you would a friend and because they belong to you, you have to have to accept all their weirdness.

Pets are messy

See first sentence for reference. Animals are still animals, and they don’t really have a concept of cleaning up, or sanitary, or don’t throw up on the designer bag. But to keep your pets healthy you must be willing to clean a lot more. Sometimes its actual places your pet hangs out like a terrarium, tank, cage, crate or backyard. You also have to be okay with shedding of all types, cleaning up excrement as well and cleaning things you are not sure of their origin. You also might come home to destroyed furniture, books, or everything you own but hey your little buddy is pretty happy to see you!

Some of this can be trained away, some of it can’t. If you are a clean freak, might I suggest a fish?

Pets are work

I figure one of my greatest accomplishments last year was training Dodger to come when called. It works about 75% of the time, so success! He also knows the words “no” and “get down/away from there you little shit.” Remember, you are the person who has to take care your animal. You are solely responsible for this creature. Some animals are pretty easy to train, while some animals you can’t really train, but they all learn over time (especially when it concerns food). College is also a lot of work. Are you willing to put more work on top of the things you are already obligated to do to be successful? Remember, your parents aren’t here to do any of the hard work for you, or pick up the pieces you leave behind. They aren’t there when you feel too tried to walk you buddy, or give them gross smelling canned food. Having your very own pet in something adults do. Be an adult.

Pets are expensive

The Roommate is a sucker for soft, fluffy and sad. Oliver was one of the sickest puppies at the shelter and she scooped him up and saved his little life, but it cost a pretty penny to do so. Again, animals require care, food, and tons of other things which requires money. My mom told me she would not pay for me to have a pet, and if I wanted one I need a full time job, which I did. In college, a lot of us haven’t exactly mastered the art of budgeting. We learn over time, but it can take a while. Unless of course you are willing to share your pet with your parents, guardians or anyone else you have to be able to fund your animal endeavors. It’s not cheap, and ranges from a minimal financial hit to sucking up your savings. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice something like currency for your new friends, don’t have a new friend.

Pets need medical care

You have no idea how much it pisses me off when I hear people say “well I haven’t gotten my (whatever) fixed/vaccinated/a simple routine checkup because it costs too much/I don’t have the time.” Are you joking? You got an animal you know needs care to keep it healthy and you got it knowing you can’t give it that care? If you read one thing about pets today read this; Animals need healthcare to stay well. Animals need healthcare because they have medical emergencies.  Animals need healthcare as much as people do. If you think that the health of a pet is not so important, then you are dead wrong. Furthermore, if you can’t take care of yourself, you sure shouldn’t be taking care of a pet.

Pets are a priority

Here’s the thing with animals. They are real living beings which need attention and care. Especially young animals. A kitten under 4 weeks needs to be fed every two hours. You have to make sure you have the time for an animal and that you have time to make a bond with it. When you choose to get an animal you choose to make that create one of the top priorities in your life.

Friends asking you out for a drink right after class? Sorry, have to go home and make sure the snake got fed.

Want to go away for a weekend? You can’t because your dog needs a sitter.

Oh, your cat wants to be fed at 6 am? Get yourself out of bed and give them the good stuff.

Your animal is like a child and you can’t be selfish. Pets are not toys, they aren’t fashion and they never, ever are temporary. I understand there are unforeseen circumstances in life, but that doesn’t mean you need to put a pet through hell because you don’t have your shit together. If you can’t put a pet near the top of your priority list you should not get a pet.

Pets are amazing

Having a pet is one of the best things I ever did for myself and for Dodger. I gave a cat a devoted home where he has everything he needs and I got a loving friend who will be there for me. Having any animal is great. Cat, dog, tarantula, fish, snake, cockatiel, turtle, you name it. The best things come from working hard.

Having my own pet is great and I would never change it, but could I have handled it two or three years ago? It’s hard to say. Its a personal choice you need to make if you can handle an new friend while you are in school. I can’t tell you when it’s time or if you will be a good parent. But hopefully this has helped you get some insight to what it really means to have your very own pet that you are responsible for.

Be the person your pet thinks you are.

10 Kinds of Roommates You’ll have in College

Written April 2014

Hopefully you haven’t actually had to live with 10 different people over the course of your college career (I’m pretty close with 7). And most of us are not lucky enough to have the most desirable of living situation. But hey, we experience is the best teacher right? And patience is the more valiant of virtues.

So here are some types of the roommates you may or may not have had the pleasure of living with while gaining your education. Is this all of them? Does everyone fall into these categories? No way, but you’ve probably had at least one.

Neutral territory

You are not friends with this person, but you don’t dislike each other either. Maybe you don’t have any common interests, your hours are completely opposite or you just don’t feel to need to really interact with each other. You just kind of exist within each other’s space and have a mutual, unspoken agreement that you probably won’t ever hang out after you move out that it’s totally okay.

Stage 5 clinger

Wait, you changed your whole schedule so it’s almost identical to mine? Why? So we can see each other all the time and we can be full time study buddies, I see. It’s not bad at first, but there aren’t too many people you are excited to see at 8 am, especially you hover roommate. You’ll be sick of this roommate pretty quickly, they never seen to leave your side. Be ready for a hissy fit or two when you go out without them, because they have put a lot of effort into being around you and you need to reciprocate. Most of the time, this goes pretty sour but it kind of is a relief when it’s over.

 

The Greek

Letters everywhere. Is this because they can’t remember the right Greek letters if they don’t see them all the time? You aren’t really sure. Their hours are kind of all over the place and they get dressed up way more than you do, which makes you question your life choices. Maybe you should actually do your hair tomorrow morning (spoiler; you aren’t). They won’t be your favorite roommate because let’s face it, The most important people to Greeks are other Greeks.  But you learn secrets. Greek secrets. This is pretty cool because it’s mostly a secret society. Just watch out for late night entrances, fueled by liquid courage.

Up all night, up all day

How can anyone be a night owl and an early bird?! Well this roommate is and does so. To bed at 4 am and to class at 9 am! Stay out until 5 but up for a 5k three hours later. You question if they actually do sleep, when they sleep and how can you sleep less and do more. And they aren’t a complete mess, because if you tried living that way you would be the dictionary definition of hot mess. Luckily, they are always up for most anything, but don’t feel bad if you have to tell them to keep quiet at some ungodly hour of the night/morning.

Stuck-up hermit

This isn’t your average hide away roommate. Nope, this roommate hides from all the incompetence in the world, including you and your other roommates. And together you have decided that if your hermit roommate doesn’t appear after three days you are allowed to break down the door to see if they are alright. Every once in a while they act like a human-being, but that’s rare and in-between. Be ready to be yelled at around 10 pm on a Saturday and how senseless certain things are when you do see them.

The one upper

You have two tests this week? Well they have three. Went to the clinic for a cold? Well damn, they had the flu! Nothing you do or say will hold a candle to the things they say they do and how successful (or how terrible) they are. You will by annoyed by the one upper roommate but their isn’t too much you can do. Can you call them out? Sure, but that probably will just start a roommate war (which are tons of fun).Eventually, you figure it’s just better you answer in vague, cryptic messages, because they have forced you to indeed be that person.

The swamped

They say they love the major they picked but the sobbing you hear coming from their room makes you question where the line between determined and crazy is. Their normal response to you asking about an activity is “I’m sorry I can’t go out I have to study/work/do 5,000 applications.” They make you wonder if you’re doing enough, but also that you’re happy to have something that resembles free time. If you want to feel productive, just hang out with this roommate when you study since they can go for hours. These roommates are best if you are also swamped, since you can relate to each other.

Drug Lord

Why does the apartment smell like dry, burning…oh. Yep, the door to their room is firmly closed, but vents opened wide. They aren’t actually drug lords (could you imagine?) but they know where to get the shit they want, as well a lot of hard liquor. If you have chosen live with a roommate who dabbles in the hallucinogenic arts you don’t really get to harp on them about it. If it’s a situation you weren’t aware of, then you have every right to demand they not smoke in the damn living room and take appropriate measures from there onward.

The significant other

I’m not talking about YOUR significant other. I’m talking about your roommate who gets off from being called someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend. They are either firmly attached to their significant other by the hip or constantly talking about them. So much so that you know way too much about their partner. You will see your roommate’s SO all other time, or you never see your roommate. And if you hear sex sounds, you find out you can drop the most subtle sassy hints. Even if your roommate never gets it. Good on you if you tell them you’ve heard their mating sounds.

The chosen one

Finally, someone you can LIVE WITH. You guys are totally on the same wavelength, but know when to give each other space. You have no problem letting each other know what’s bothering you around your living quarters which allows you lead a peaceful co-existence. You most likely will keep in contact with this roommate after you no longer share the same living quarters, since your most likely great friends! This roommate makes your college existence just that much better, because let’s face it, great roommates makes everything better.

Letter of Rec: How to Get One while Volunteering

Originally posted April 2nd, 2014, revised April 2017

Wouldn’t it be nice if things could just be consistent? Like if the way you get a letter of recommendation from a professor you could just translate over to getting one from a place you volunteer. Unfortunately, things are never that clean. So how exactly does someone go about getting a letter from a volunteer agency?

A word of caution though. Volunteering is meant to dedicate your time to someone or something else. To expect anything more is losing the essence of what volunteering is. Please take this as suggestions to help you if getting letter is something you see as fair and plausible.

Do volunteer work you actually enjoy

Volunteering should be fun. You should be doing something you enjoy and feel at least a little bit passionate about. Doing something you care about makes you appealing as someone to work with and it makes you someone others can share their passion with.  More than that though, it makes it an experience you can relate to a gives new perspective you may not get otherwise. Don’t just volunteer for perks, do it because you want to. I understand not every opportunity is ideal and that there’s certain…expectations about it, but if you don’t like the idea of building a tiny house on your school’s campus don’t volunteer for habitat for humanity because you feel like you have to. Do something that means something to you.

Do research before you start

There are a plethora of places to get volunteer hours, so it can be hard to figure out what’s legit. The things you are looking for are the program coordinator, the people who interact the most with the volunteers, and the mission statement. These are all preliminary moves to know who can give you guidance during your volunteer activities. When you are at the location for a fair amount of time and have foraged some relationships then you can start scoping out who you think would make a good letter writer. For example, you are in a clinic, a doctor or administrators are good choices. If you volunteer for youth programs, the coordinators are your best option.

A little birdie told me…

Keep one ear open about what the agency does in regards to letters of recommendation. Some places are known for just giving them out, but others almost seem to have hidden requirements before you can even ask. Things like this are you need to work at the site for at least 4 months, or you have to acquire X skill first. Ask around and listen to other volunteers, but be wary of rumors and exaggerated stories. This of course can hurt just as much as they can help.

Longevity is key

This is both a point for asking for a letter and something that is highly appreciated on applications. Being a volunteer for a substantial amount of time at one locale makes it easier to obtain a letter, sure, but also admission committees for grad/professional schools love to see that you have a commitment to something (it doesn’t specially need to be volunteering though, its just that sort of thing they like to see). Your potential letter writers like to a commitment to their passion too.

Don’t act like you deserve a letter for being there

It’s fine if you want to know about getting a letter from a place. Asking other volunteers and maybe even group leaders about letters and such is okay, but you really shouldn’t be jabbering about how great it would to be to have a letter from there or how everyone gets one when you’re still new to a specific volunteer group. You’re there to work, not to take advantage of someone. There is no such thing as a true guarantee and acting like you don’t need to earn anything is a good way to be an annoyance, rather than an asset. The last thing you want to do if offend anyone because it might look like you are only participating to reap the benefits. Later on after you have established some type of meaningful relationship, go for it. Ask about it. But don’t get cocky.

Be personable, be outgoing, show appreciation

I had a friend who did volunteer work with elephants for close to two years. When she approached the head coordinator for a letter she said “Who are you? I’m not writing a letter if I have no idea who you are.” And that was that. My friend would go to the site, do the work and leave. She never truly interacted with anyone besides her friends and never made an effort to make a reputation for herself. Obviously a good reputation is what you want, but you need to make an effort to know the people who are putting in the heavy work where you’re volunteering. Connections aren’t given, they’re earned.

Face-to-face

In contrast to a professor, asking for a letter of rec from a place you volunteer should be done in person. These people have made time specifically to volunteer so hopefully they should be able to spare a few minutes to speak to you as you are one of their volunteers. There are certain situations where an email is totally acceptable to use as well, but you need to be the judge of that. Being a volunteer is partially about being able to cooperate with others, so directly asking, I feel, is good in this case because it shows you are fully there and the organization isn’t an after-thought.

Keep volunteering even after you get the letter

You should be volunteering in a place you like, like I said before. If you need to stop because of something, that’s alright. But if you can keep going, don’t stop! Getting a letter should not have been a goal, just a bonus. Keep up the good work are doing, and enjoy it.

Pick A Major, Any Major

Originally posted March 31st, 2014, reviewed 2017

A guideline to help figure out what route to take in your college years based off the experience of yours truly.

The college major. Your conversational starter, your ice breaker, your identifier. The one thing that will define your college career as it appears on your diploma.

But how can you know what direction to go? Out of so many different options which one (or ones) make the most sense for you?

Maybe you know exactly what you want to do. Maybe you’ve known since your were 3 years old. But maybe you don’t. Either is fine! But in case you have reservations, I’m sharing my thoughts and devised a bit of list to help those who are seeking find a direction to go in.

This is to help those who are struggling to find a major figure out how to go about it. This is not specifically how you should pick one, just some ideas to consider. There are no rules.

What are your interests?

Alright, this seems pretty obvious. I mean you should do what you like, right? But think about your answers to this question as if they were to appear on an application. Interests include; sports, drawing, hiking, reading, base jumping…I have no idea what you people are into. But they don’t really sound like college majors. So, if no major sticks out to you right away, think of your favorite subjects and favorite activities. How do they relate and how can you bring those together? There might be a major that stands out as one you may not have thought of before.

What are you good at?

When I was little, I was really into aeronautics and space related things. But as I got a little older I realized something. I don’t like math and I’m not that talented in relation to it. So doing something engineering related wasn’t really in the cards for me.

HOLD ON RIGHT THERE THOUGH. I am not at all saying if being an engineer is your dream, but you aren’t amazing at math you should give up on it. If you know that is what you want, work your ass off and go get it. Kick math’s butt.

But but if your direction isn’t so clear cut, you can find yourself at least a temporary place in subject you’re more interested in and with things you understand and have a natural inclination for. Even if it’s not what you end up doing in the long run, choosing something based off general interest and skill can at least get you moving in the right direction rather than picking at random and you’ll most likely do well in those classes. You can take some time to figure it out that way.

Be a little brave, and experiment.

Even if it takes you a little longer to graduate.

There are really no hard and fast rules for “time spent” in college anymore. Sometimes you’re there the traditional 4 years but maybe you’re only there two. Maybe you’re there eight. What matters is that you’re getting to where you feel you need to go.

My college roommate is a lovely example of this. She is so intelligent and wonderful, but a lot of her high school career was planned for her. So when she got to college, she was lost. She tried so many majors; biology, hospitality, finance, and maybe other ones that I can’t remember. But she knew she would never know or be satisfied unless she actually tried on every shoe, so to speak. Yes, she’s graduate a year later than expected. But is she secure in what she wants? Yes she is. No questions, doubts or regrets.

Now if you’ve know exactly what you wanted to do since birth, I still say experiment a little. I’m not saying you have to outright change your major, but take a class that sounds interesting, even once. You never know.

What can you see yourself doing as a real adult in the real world?

I’m not a big fan of the “where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years” because I’m not a person who is good at looking at specifics when it comes to my future.

I’m “focus on the now” kinda gal.

But I have pictured, the big picture, of what my adult life could be like, because it doesn’t need to be specific. It just needs to have a general feel. What kinds of things do you see? A family? Being totally invested in a career? Traveling the world? Use these visions of the future to help guide you to a major that can make these less dream and more reality.

How much are you willing to work in college?

While no major is better than any other, there are differences in how much the workload is, or how intense they will be. And some people really thrive on the non-stop, while others need life to be a little more chill. Nothing wrong with either.

There are majors that are higher in intensity and a bunch that are lower. Intensity does not mean easy or hard, it means more time invested into a single entity. It just means that someone who is a engineering major probably has to spend more time (literally, most schools have it as a 5 year program now) than someone who is a religious studies major. It just depends on how well you know your own work ethics and how much of “the college experience” you feel you need.

Is there a specific career path you want to take?

Some majors matter when it comes to what you want to do, and sometimes they don’t matter in the slightest. Medical school and law school don’t really give extra consideration to what your major is as long as you have certain pre-reqs and testing in place. But if you want to go into televised journalism, a physics major isn’t going to help with that. You also need to do research on your career goals. Is it really what you expected? Are the classes something you truly enjoy? Think about it, do your research, get experience.

Do you need to go to grad/professional school to make your major work?

Working off the last questions, med school and law school aren’t picky about majors. There are certain majors that make it easier to cover what you need for these types of schools, but in the long run your major isn’t as important. So if you plan on being a doctor, you don’t need to sweat the major as much.

But say you want to be an archaeologist, maybe a biologist, perhaps a college professor. Your undergraduate major alone won’t get you anywhere you want to be. To have any successful in that field, you at least need to have a masters in it. Are you ready to go the distance? Did you know you had to go further?

 

Don’t let your past get in the way.

I spent most of my education doing art. When I went to college, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor which is a complete 180. A lot of my high school friends seriously questioned me and said if I gave up art I “was wasting my talent” and that there was no way I would do well in the sciences. I’m not friends with them anymore. But the point being is that you can’t take what you once were and think you always need to be that. You need to do what’s right for you, even if that means you change.

And changing is part of growing up, as mushy as that is.

Don’t let anyone make the choice for you.

During college, I met more than a few people who were completely miserable in their major. When asked why they don’t just change a lot of the answers were “Well I told my parents I wanted to do this already”, “My parents won’t pay for my anymore if I don’t do this” and finally “Well I don’t want to disappoint anyone.” Is this worth hating your entire college experience? I personally say no, it’s not. If you disappoint yourself, then you’ve disappointed the most important person in your life. Choose a major that makes you happy.

Do what you want.

If you’re reading through this and thinking “Stop telling me what to do Sass!” then don’t listen to me. I’m no expert. But the most important thing you ever do in college is to choose what you want. No other time in your life will you have the freedom you have during college and you should take advantage of that. You have the right to be passionate, excited and happy in college so choose a major you love.

Letters Of Rec: Getting Them From a Professor

Originally posted March 24th, 2014

The university I went to is known for having massive stadium style classes. The biggest one I ever had was my chemistry 1 class, which had 400 people in it. Four hundred. That’s absolutely insane.

So how exactly are you supposed to get to know one professor in a sea of other students? You need to stand out of course!

Well, here are a few trick and tips that I used to get on your instructor’s good sides so they can write you a recommendation letter that leave admission committees swooning. Remember, everyone’s situation is different and what works for me might not work for you. But these should be a pretty good way to start.

Know what you need

Different graduate and professional schools have different needs in terms if who they want letter from, but most of the time you’ll need an instructor letter. For example there are some general guidelines that most medical schools require out of letters of recommendation. One of these criteria is you must have at least 2 letters from science professors. But other schools want other things specifically. Do a little research.

Do some digging

Okay, so now you have idea of what you need and want. Take a look at the professors you have in your arsenal. Do you like the subject the instructor teaches? Have other people received letters from them before? Do they know if they get a generic letter or a personalized account of your performance in the class? Do you need to take more than one class to be considered for a letter? Do they only write letters for TAs? These are the important things to find out.

Sit where you can be seen

I am not saying you need to park it in the center seat in the first row of your class. But you should sit somewhere you can be seen fairly easily and that eye contact with your professor is possible. This way, you can demonstrate that you are interested in the material without being too…uh…desperate.

Oh also, show up to class as often as possible. You can’t ask for a letter if you show up for tests only people.

Ask and answer questions in class

Whoa now, make sure you know how your instructor is with questions though. I’ve had both great professors who take all questions and answer them to their best ability, but I’ve also had professors who will put someone on blast if they don’t like a question/answer/response. So if you’re in the clear, make sure you participate in class and get those questions right!

Go to office hours

I cannot stress this enough. Even if you are doing well and understand of the material, think of a question and get to that office. Be interested an involved in the subject. This is really how, especially in a large class, a professor comes to actually know you.

Remember the details

Does your professor like to mention little things about their life? Remember those little quips. When you see them, instead of always asking about class, grades or whatever you can have an actual human conversation with your instructor. This will help them see as more of a peer rather than just a student. Also let them know a little bit about you, especially your future goals. They will feel like they can share in that too.

Do well in class

No matter what you do, no matter how hard you work to impress an instructor if you don’t do well in the class it’s a completely lost cause. And I when I say well, an A or B should be good. But professors need to be able to say how you excelled in the class along with your other med/health school worthy traits. Most teachers in general are uncomfortable writing letters for students if their grades aren’t good even if they really, really like the student. It’s a tough fact, but it just has to be done.

Other things that can help you get professor letters

  • Do research with them
  • Take multiple classes they teach
  • Become a TA
  • Stay in contact with them

Good luck with letters and applications!