I’m enjoying learning chemistry and biology (not pre-cal though. Ick.), but I am overwhelmed and panicky because I keep getting Bs. I had my second round of tests this past week; I got the chem test back - an 82. “At least it’s a B!” my husband says, to which I want to tell him to go f himself. But I refrain. I had to miss pre-cal on Thursday (sick child)and my friend texted me and told me that the tests were returned to the students and everyone could redo it for 10 extra points… I have a feeling this would not have been an option if we all did really well. :-/ I have no idea how I did, but I’m sure that since I wasn’t there on Thursday, she won’t give me the same 10-point bump she offered everyone else. Biology is … I don’t even know. I like it, but on the first test I got a 92, on the lab practical I got an 88, and I have no idea how I did on the most recent test. Nothing is good enough except an A. I feel like I was fooling myself all these years thinking I was smart. I would like to quit my job, but we can’t really afford that right now. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on too much time with my kids, so that’s an unexpected plus, but certainly doesn’t help with studying. I feel like I need to quit after this semester ends. My long-suffering but clueless husband is just supportive no matter what I decide, but that’s not actually helpful. I feel like I just barely get it, and that’s not good enough for medical schools. My family is wonderful, I suppose, except that they don’t really know wtf they’re talking about, which is why a place like this is a good thing to have. I suppose I’m just venting, but if anyone has any thoughts, that would be good, too.
First of all, every single quarter I have a week or two in which I feel exactly the way you do right now. I imagine we all do. I go from enjoying the journey to feeling profoundly delusional for even starting out on the journey in the first place. To a some extent, I’ve had to accept that I will occasionally cycle through such feelings. The key, for me, has been to acknowledge the fear and the doubt and the uncertainty (FUD!), to hold it in my hands and look at it, and then to put it down. Yes, I am occasionally afraid. Yes, I have moments in which I’m certain everyone is supportive only out of pity or lack of information. Yes, it’s a long journey and there really are no guarantees that it will end the way I hope it will. It is legitimately terrifying to think of spending so much time and effort (and money) on something that might not work out. But uncertainty and fear are not good guideposts.
Have you read The Hobbit? There’s a scene, when Bilbo and the dwarves are in the middle Mirkwood, that I remind myself of when I feel like my journey has been a grand mistake. Mirkwood is an impenetrable and terrifying forest. The company is marching through on the one path. Their provisions are running low, and though they’ve been warned to stay on the path, they begin to doubt that the path will ever actually lead them out of the forest. In desperation, the dwarves have Bilbo climb a tree. From the top of the tree, he looks around and sees nothing but forest in all directions. What he doesn’t realize is that the tree he has climbed is at the bottom of a small valley and that the end of the forest is just a little beyond the rise at the other side of the valley. Lacking the big picture, seeing nothing but trees, his perspective is that all is lost, that the journey onward is hopeless, that the path they started out on will not get them to where they need to go. The point, I suppose, is that I’ve come to realize that using a mid-quarter freak-out as a guidepost is like Bilbo losing hope from the top of that tree. It isn’t a good perspective from which to make decisions about whether or not to stay on the path. Does that make sense? I really do conjure up that image whenever I’m feeling depressed. I think of my fear as the tree I’ve climbed hoping for perspective. I think of that scene. I â€œclimb downâ€ and keeping on walking.
Having outed myself as a ridiculous nerd, I’ll move on to one practical thing I do to keep such freak-outs at bay. At the beginning of every quarter, I calculate how many points can be missed before the drop from an A to an A-. Then, as the quarter progresses, I keep track of my missed points. This makes me feel like I begin the quarter with an A. The A is mine to lose. I just have to KEEP my A. It’s small and stupid, but it has helped me keep my missed points in perspective rather than feeling each as a nail in the coffin of my dreams (yes, very dramatic). I have not yet had a class with a curve, so I don’t know what I’d do in that situation.
Lastly, more specific to your situation, I do feel that my first quarter back was my hardest quarter. My class load wasn’t difficult, but navigating the shift from work/family life to work/school/family life was more difficult than I had expected. I had been out of school for so long that I was out of practice. It took me a while to accurately gauge how much studying was required. It took me and my partner a while to adjust to the new rhythm of things. It has gotten much easier and more natural in the quarters that have followed.
I hope this is at least somewhat helpful and encouraging. You can totally do this. Just don’t give up in the middle of the forest.
What you are feeling is normal, and I bet you would be hard pressed to find someone on this board who has not felt the same frustrations and self doubt that you are at this moment. The “fork in the road” is how you choose to use this opportunity. You are far from “out of the race”. The fact that you are so frustrated speaks volumes for your drive for success. Use this frustration positively to motivate your studys. This might be a good opportunity to re-evaluate how efficient your studying is (as an OPMr I know that “more” is not an option with family and work) Does your school have a learning center? if they do, use it. I learned from my university that I was studying the exact opposite of my most efficacious learning style. What a difference! Do you go to your professors with thoughtful and specific questions? Not only will this help with focussing your studies, but helps you build a positive relationship with your professor for QUALITY future letters of rec. This journey is a marathon, not a sprint and there will be failures and success throughout. Learn from your failures and celebrate your success. Focus on what you can control and dominate! Good luck, Cheers!
Like the others said, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone here who hasn’t felt this. It comes in waves for me. I get through it with 2 thoughts: eyes on the ultimate prize, which is not the stoichiometry wizard of the world, but a doctor; and I didn’t master my old profession overnight so I need to be OK with putting in the work to master this one.
Off the top of my head, a few things that work for me:
- Flipped classroom for sure - I read the chapters before class and take good notes. Then I supplement my notes with what’s discussed in class. Even if I don’t get the material on my own, by the time class is over, I’m a lot clearer and at worst, I’m never sitting there thinking “WHAT the heck is she talking about?!”
- Get supplemental materials to explain concepts and give you a different way to understand the subjects. I use Khan, but also have a few AP review books (because that’s basically what these classes are and if you’re not in upper level, you’re probably not ready for MCAT review books.) Princeton Review’s bio coloring book is strangely heaven sent for me.
- For bio, I make flashcards of every chapter. It’s time intensive, but saves time when it comes time to study for the exams.
- When I can’t look at a book or get anything more out of studying, I stop. I’d rather use my time for either something I enjoy or something I’ll get use out of. If I hit a wall with studying, neither of those things are happening.
- Vent! Here, obviously, and also with your classmates. Everyone in my cohort feels left behind or overwhelmed at different times. Just knowing that makes it slightly better.
Thank you, all, for those comments. It’s been tougher than I expected… The thing I keep saying to my husband is that people told me it would be insanely difficult to go to school with children, but they didn’t tell me it would be impossible. Impossible is how it’s felt though. Everything you guys mentioned is helpful (I LOVED “The Hobbit” reference), but no one really mentioned the one thing that worries me more - will a final grade of B in one or all of the classes derail my chances? It would be awful if I had to quit after one semester b/c of stupid B grades.
I would take a look at the schools you’re interested in, what’s the average sGPA for people admitted? Shooting for a 3.5 seems reasonable given everything you have going on and that obviously allows for some Bs as long as you counterbalance.
I know the concern is working yourself into a hole (B in bio I means you need an A in bio II, etc.) But the semester is just halfway over, there is time to readjust. Talk to your professors, see if you can get study help from your academic center and try to adjust to what you now know your professors want and expect.
To throw another cliche into the mix here, one day at a time. Your study sessions build to your your exams, build to your grades, build to your overall sGPA, which is just one part of your application. Don’t jump ahead to med school quite yet.
I had a B in Physics I and B’s in both Physics labs and a B+ in one of my Chem labs. I’m a 4th year med student. Take heart!!
(I’m taking that Bilbo story to heart too- as I tend to have fairly frequent “freak-out” moments
Hey Rachel, I’m sorry you’re feeling stressed out! Is this your first semester back in school? I found the first semester was be far the hardest (and got my lowest grades). It is really hard to learn how to study this sort of material again, especially with so much pressure. Perhaps with work and child-rearing, you may find that in your next semester you want to take only 1 or 2 courses so you can better manage your time.
I might also think about what additional study methods you could add to your repertoire to boost performance. If its the little details you are missing on tests, maybe flashcards would be a good tool. (I credit raising my Bio grade form a B+ to an A between semesters entirely to flash cards). If its the general concepts, look online for Open Courseware to see if there is a great professor from MIT/UCBerekely/etc posting their lecture videos that might explain things better. I would also recommend checking out the “study tips” thread that was recently posted on here so you can see what other habits people are using to get As.
And most importantly, don’t get disheartened - there is still lots of time left in this semester!