I need help...and not just psychiatric

Hi everyone.
I am in dire straits here and I need to vent out my feelings and see if anyone can help me here. I am an RN so I have had some bio. I started pre-med classes this semester, I have been out of school for 5 years. i am a 2-year RN so I need to get a bachelors. I have had the worst anxiety and procrastination when it comes to studying. I am taking bio and o-chem(wrong thing to do my first semester back). I studied for my bio exam the week before the test and read all the chapters for the first time and then did very poorly on the test. I am so far behind on my o-chem it is not even funny, i did not take the first test because you can drop one test and I was no where near ready for it. I feel so bad these past couple days that i have come close to giving up my dream of med school. I do not have kids, am divorced, and I am just so worried now. When I studied for my bio exam I felt like I studied well, I just know that I cannot study the week before the test. has anyone else had a really bad first semester back to school? i feel things will improve if I just get into a study schedule but it is so hard with work and all. I could really use some words of advice and a pick me up here…and maybe a couple Xanax…LOL. Thanks everyone!

Hi! First off take a deep breath and try to relax (i know, i know…easier said than done ). It sounds like you definitely jumped into the deep end for your first swim (pardon the pun). The first semester, heck even the first year back, is generally the most difficult…especially since you have been out of school for 5 years. That’s the good news. Definitely don’t give up your dream yet, especially since you still have to get a bachelor’s. You have plenty of time to “make up” for a not so great first semester if you don’t pull it out by the end which I still think you can do btw .
Now for the bad news. How far behind are you really in O chem already? Cuz the thing is that you really cannot get behind in O chem and survive, or if you survive O chem I you will have a really hard time with O chem II. I’m not trying to scare you…only you can decide whether you can catch up or not, but it is something to consider. If you feel you can’t get higher than a C I’d seriously consider dropping it and trying it again next semester instead cuz o chem just keeps building and building upon itself and without the foundation you will end up having a very hard time. Trust me, I’m on my second attempt at Orgo I lol.It might be a better choice to just concentrate on doing well in bio and getting the hang of the study thing again instead.
Studying will get easier, and now that you have a better idea of what to expect from your bio exams you should be able to study more effectively for the rest of your exams. Also, assuming your grade is based on more than just exams keep reminding yourself that it was only one exam and that most likely you still do actually have a shot at an A cuz you couldn’t possibly have lost more points from whatever the total number of points for the A would be. If your grade is solely exams, well you’ll have to work that much harder but it’s still salvagable i’m sure.
Anyway, hang in there, I promise studying will get easier and the grades will come.
Good luck
–Jessica, UCCS

ok, step back and breath. Take the O2 mask and put it on for a few minutes and then relax.
How are you studying? Are you reviewing everything AFTER class is over/(review one) Are you looking at it in the morning after the class? (review 2)
See by doing that, you have heard or seen the info 3 times. It is truly amazing how much easier material becomes after seeing it 3-4 times. It becomes familiar. By reading it only a few days before an exam, you are not seeing it enough. The key to success in medical school is repetition. Start the same technique now and you won’t have the same difficulties some of us had early on.
I got this info form someone else on here in California. I pass it on for you to use. It is doable.

"I studied for my bio exam the week before the test and read all the chapters for the first time and then did very poorly on the test"
Okay, if this is what you did it does not surprise me that you did poorly. In some classes you “may” be able to get away with the above and do well but not for some of the harder science classes. The golden rule of thumb is that for every hour spent in class you can expect to spend 2-4 hours at home reviewing (depending on how difficult the subject is) and studying the material prior to the test. So when exam time comes you should have most of the concepts down and you are basically just going over material that you already know. You also stated that you have a lot of anxiety and procrastination, I think that maybe some of your anxiety is due to the fact that you know that you should be studying and you are not and hence you are falling behind. You need to do what you need to do aka start spending more time with the books. I know that this is easier said than done but we are all in the same boat as you and yeah it sucks but medical school will be even worse. Sooo, if you are really really behind orgo you better get cooking, on the bio you need to read the chapter or whatever section they are covering before the lecture, then you review again after the lecture and keep doing that until you understand the concept. Good luck.

You’ve gotten good insights from our other posters. I want you to know that I can definitely relate to the procrastination thing - I’ve done LOTS of procrastinating in my life. And I will be honest, I still do more procrastinating in preparing for stuff than is wise. The difference is that at this point in my academic career, I’ve learned what I can get away with. You haven’t yet.
I also know that my worst procrastinating tendencies come out when I can least afford them. There is a fatalistic line of thinking that goes like this: “what’s the use, no matter how much time I spend on it, it’s not going to be enough, so I might as well not even start.” It sounds like you may have that playing in your head and it is starting to do a number on you. You need to take some small steps to re-orient your thinking and approach.
First thing I recommend you do to alleviate your anxiety is what Jessica suggested - DROP O-CHEM. NOW. If it’s too late to drop, withdraw. I am dead serious about this: o-chem is one course in which you absolutely, positively cannot play catch-up. I do believe that you can take one course, biology, and work on your study skills. But to try and “reform” at this point in the semester for two classes is just setting yourself up for failure. Remember you have to crawl before you can walk, and (continuing the cheesy metaphor), what you actually tried to do with your approach this semester was sprint into a race that had already started. No wonder you’re stressed!
The key to my recommendation to drop o-chem is that you MUST know it well from the start. You are behind now. It is hard enough to keep up in that class, but (sorry to be repetitious, but I can’t stress this point enough) it is impossible to catch up. You’re setting yourself up for guaranteed failure, and right now your strategy needs to be, how can you set yourself up for some positive experiences, some successes?
(As an aside: when you take o-chem again, or actually any course where the lowest test grade is dropped, don’t just blow off a test and don’t ever skip the first test. That lowest score dropped policy is a valuable gift if you know what to do with it. Taking the first test is your reconnaissance into the course. If it busts your butt, you know how to change your approach before the next test. If you fly high on a first test, you’ll know that you are in good shape for the rest of the semester. But don’t ever accept a “0” for your dropped test grade. You want to take all the tests, always.)
Okay, next after you get out of o-chem: biology. Blessedly, on this one each unit test is likely to be devoted only to a piece of material that doesn’t so much build on the earlier stuff. Figure out how you can spend time every week reviewing that week’s materials. You’re working full-time - maybe shifts and weekends, since you’re a nurse, so you’re going to have to identify those time slots that are open and resolve to spend major quality and quantity time on studying. You may not be able to review after every class; that’s okay, I didn’t generally do that. But you MUST review all your class material at least every week.
Once you have regained control of your ongoing biology study burden, and shown that you are back on track with the next (good) test performance, you can figure out how to squeeze in some review time for the stuff you didn’t get from the first test (as I presume it’ll be on the final). But do NOT think right now about going back to the beginning and learning stuff, to the detriment of the things you need to focus on now.
Finally, your studying and review needs to be active. In some classes, I rewrote my notes after class, with the textbook open next to me so that I could clarify points that, on reflection, I didn’t understand from the lecture. At one point I used a notebook - I think it was for law students - where the margin is actually in the middle of the page. (old-fashioned steno books are like this too.) I took notes down the right half, and when i reviewed, I noted the key words and concepts on the left half of the page.
If your syllabus includes objectives for each class, or each unit, you sit down with those objectives and you WRITE OUT the “answers.” If instead you’re assigned reading, the text will generally have questions or challenges for each section. WRITE the answers to them. If you aren’t sure your course materials are giving you enough opportunities to ask yourself questions and actively come up with answers, get a review guide (your school bookstore will have them) and do problems and questions. Biology is challenging this way - a lot of time it’s a bunch of facts that (IMHO) are boring to try and remember. Make up your own tests. Whatever, you need to engage lots of your brain in reviewing this material; just reading over your notes and text will NOT cut it at this level.
This sounds like a lot of work. It is. I worked very, very hard on my post-bacc coursework and was rewarded with good grades - compared with my college experience twenty years earlier, it was astonishing to me how hard I worked… and quite the revelation to discover that ya know, if you really bust your butt you can get all As!
Finally (sorry this got so long) yeah, this is nothing like how hard you’ll work in med school, that’s true. But right now you just need to figure out how to study effectively; don’t fret about your long-term goal because once you’ve mastered this skill in the short run, you’ll be in much, much better shape to pursue your long-term strategy.

Thanks for all the advice, I think I knew a lot of it deep down. I will look at dropping O-chem, I am jsut worried that if I do I will lose my financial aid for the semester. Does anyone know? I am required to take 6 credits for fin. aid and I only get loans, no grants. My fin.aid has already paid my bill for this semester, I am just worried it will be revoked and then I will have this huge bill that I cannot pay out of pocket by Fall semester then I will end up not back in school. I would rather do my best in o-chem, although it will not return a good grade this semester and then repeat it in the Fall or next Spring. Is that a totally bad idea? It is the fin.aid that is possibly going to block me from dropping it.

Ouch…if this had been your second semester back I’d say it wouldn’t make a difference as far as financial aid. The “rule” is that you have to complete 75% of your schedule or they will make you pay back your loans, but I’m not sure if it’s just the difference between whatever % of classes you are completing or the entire loan for the semester so definitely check with your financial aid office. If dropping Orgo would cause you to lose financial aid then no it’s not an awful idea to leave it on your schedule and just plan on retaking it but it will be more to “make up for” later. If you are hoping to go to an MD school you’ll have to remember that both grades you earn in a class will be averaged into the gpa calculation vs DO where the most recent grade is the one that is counted. W’s on the other hand aren’t included into the gpa calculation.
Is that an insurmountable thing? Of course not, so if you’d totally lose financial aid by dropping it definitely keep it but definitely concentrate more on the bio than the orgo…it’s just too much info to catch up on once you get behind.
Another option to consider and ask your financial aid office about would be whether you could still take out a private student loan if you did withdraw and temporarily lose your financial aid. Since those aren’t federal you may be able to. Yes it would be a higher interest rate, but you could take out enough for your budget for the year and then pay off your financial aid for this semester over the year and be ready to get back on the federal loans come next year. I don’t know your financial situation so I don’t know if this suggestion would be possible or not, and I don’t know if it’s something financial aid will let you do, but it is an idea.
The “saving grace” if you can’t drop orgo is that you are still in your first year of at least 3 years to come to complete a bachelor’s (assuming you’re going to keep going part time) and if you needed to you could still complete a master’s or post-bacc afterwards to make you a competitive med school applicant, but if you do well from here on out, which I have every confidence you can do, you probably won’t even need to do something after. One bad grade is not going to kill you
Good luck!
–Jessica, UCCS

One last study tip for bio: Form a study group. Meet once or twice a week, and go over the lecture notes or handouts and teach each other the material. It gives you a regular study schedule and forces you into good study habits, because your group is depending on you.
I would say do whatever you can to afford to drop the orgo: Work a second job in the summer to pay off the loans. Max out your credit cards. You’ll find the money somehow, and money won’t erase that bad grade for you.