Hello. I have been absent from OPM the past few days and I just wanted to give everyone in an update of what’s going on with me. I’m having a rough time right now. See below.
Health: I get a flu shot every year. In 2000, I got one that didn’t agree with me. I had this bump on my arm. I don’t think it showed up right away but I had a little black dot on my arm and the skin was raised. The smart thing to have done was to get it looked at right away but I just chalked it up to a bad reaction, there was no pain or discoloration and so I figured “no harm, no foul.” I have received flu shots since then every year and no reactions. Anyways, about 2-3 weeks ago I noticed that my bump got a little red around the edges. I let it go but was thinking I really need to get this looked at by a doctor (so sad that I want to be one but can’t even take care of myself). The redness seemed to spread almost overnight, I was having pain, and one Sat. the black hole opened up to some pus. Nasty. Also, that same week, I had diarrhea. Apparently, I got whatever stomach flu/virus was going around. I had it on a Weds. and figured it was just something I ate. Thurs., I woke up with a slight fever/was hot. Went to work anyways. Couldn’t eat anything solid. Tried to drink a lot of water to keep hydrated. Fri. was better (no fever) but still had upset stomach. Sat., the diarrhea came back with a vengence and then my arm pused out so I finally made the doctor’s appt. Had it looked at by a PA on Mon. morning. She prescribed an antibiotic (Keflex) and squeezed the hell out of my “wound” and said to come back in 2 days and if it wasn’t better, I would have to have it drained by a specialist. Took my Keflex, went back in 2 days, and she made some calls and got me into a surgeon that day. So he popped it or cleaned it all out or whatever you want to call it and told me to run hot water over it a couple times a day and then bandage it with gauze and first aid tape. I had a follow-up appt. for Fri. and it was healing so he said I was o.k., the wound would close, and that’s it. So NOT a fun experience. I’m finishing off the Keflex today and the wound has closed up but it still doesn’t look pretty.
Math: This has me very worried. We’ve had 2 tests so far and are more than half-way through the semester. I flunked my first test and flunked my second test, which I received back last night–which I actually felt better about than the first test. I have done all the homework, studied extensively for both tests, gone to tutoring sessions at the school whenever I can, and gone for office hours when I can. I don’t know what else to do. I am really trying but I’m so frustrated, angry, distraught, etc. I have done the homework/practice problems over and over. Now, 2/3rds of our class failed Test #2, and 2/3rds failed Test #1 so I know it’s not just me. My prof. is super nit-picky. Not only do we need to get everything right but we have to label everything (x-axis, y-axis, etc.) and other stupid [censored] that takes time away from finishing the problems. I know most of the problems are me but sometimes I feel like, come on already, a 7 out of 10 points b/c you can’t understand my handwriting, give me a break already! Now, our lowest test is dropped but I’m still worried. I don’t want to drop the class. I think it’s already too late and I’ve invested so much time in it that I get what I get. I have the maximum points on homework assignments and about 10-15 points in extra credit but I’m still so far in the hole that I’ll be lucky to get a C! I’ll have to get home and calculate out what I have exactly but I’m worried. I’ve never done this badly in a class in my life. It’s so frustrating b/c I’m really trying! It’s not like I’m sitting on my ass and I “deserve” these grades. I would think in the end, he’s gotta curve the final grades if the majority of the class is failing, but I can’t assume that. I’m going to see him tonight to see if I can talk myself up a few points so I can go from an F to an F+ or a D-. I need as many points as I can get.
Campus life: I visited the campus of Old Dominion University this weekend. I purposely planned my visit for after my math test and during our national meeting at work b/c I knew everyone would be gone. I’m trying to decide whether to attend ODU or Univ. of North Carolina - Greensboro (UNCG) in the fall to begin my prereqs. I visited UNCG about a month ago and loved the campus and the town. The administration there is very responsive and seem to really want me there. I think I could be happy there. The campus is beautiful, I talked with the premed advisor, and UNCG is much more professional than ODU. But, it’s out of state tuition (slightly more expensive) and farther away from my boyfriend and friends here. Also, I hesitate to change state residency. I’m a Virginia resident and I would really love to go to any of the VA schools: VCOM, EVMS, MCV-VCU, and UVA. I’m especially interested in VCOM and MCV-VCU. Also, if I attended ODU in VA, I would have the advantage of being right next door to EVMS so maybe I could make some contacts and try to work my way in there. North Carolina also has 4 schools but I think they are much harder to get into: Duke, Wake Forest, East Carolina, and UNC-Chapel Hill. Duke & Wake Forest are private and nearly impossible to get into so there isn’t a great deal of incentive for me to change my state residency to NC for 2 schools, even though it will mean paying more to attend UNCG. ODU is essentially a commuter school and Navy town since the Naval Base is there. There’s not much of a campus life, it’s not very attractive, etc. However, there are 2 hospitals in the area (1 of which is a peds hospital) and a medical school so hopefully I could get a job working in one of the hospitals. I’m sure Greensboro also has hospitals; I just didn’t get a chance to check them out. Also, I did a lot more appt. shopping in Norfolk than I did in Greensboro. I’ll have to check rents in Greensboro but I think cost of living is comparable but Greensboro might be slightly cheaper in rent. I saw some gorgeous places in Norfolk yesterday in the Ghent area (their historic area) that are probably way beyond my budget but I’ll have to sit down and crunch numbers to see for sure. UNCG has already sent me my FA package and I’m waiting to hear from ODU. I saw the FA advisor at ODU and basically, they’re giving me the same amount at UNCG but ODU is splitting it up differently. I’m getting the max in loans that FAFSA allows for my situation ($10,500) and UNCG splits it evenly between subsidized and unsubsidized. Although I haven’t gotten my formal letter yet, I talked to the FA office at ODU and they’re going to give me the max also but they’re splitting it differently: about $8K in unsubsidized and $2K in subsidized. I’ll need outside loans for both schools–probably about $5K in outside loans. I have to work the numbers up sometime soon and really figure out what it will cost to live where but I don’t think there is going to be a huge price difference between UNCG and ODU even though UNCG is out of state. I think the cost of living will even it out but I have to double check all that. Also, I still haven’t heard back from Barry but I’m almost writing them off. The last contact I had from them said they’ll look at my application in May, which is extremely late. I think I need to put a deposit down and/or accept my FA packages at either ODU or UNCG or both by May 1. (I’ll have to check my acceptance materials at home to find out what the exact procedure is).
So I’m a little overwhelmed right now. My health issues have cleared up but they haven’t come at a good time with my math/college issues. I don’t get sick much so I’m really cranky when I do get sick. I don’t know what to do re: math and college. I desperately want to officially start my premed journey but it’s so hard for me to decide between schools and my math class has totally killed my self-esteem lately. I wonder if I’ll fail as miserably in the fall as I am now. I’ll keep in hanging in there and hope that my grades go

up. Last semester, I started equally bad and ended up with a high B (only 5 points away from an A!) so I hope that he’ll end up curving the grades in the end or that I suddenly grow a brain or something. sigh.

Hi Stacy,
I’m sorry to hear about all the stressful stuff going on! But hang in there.
As far as your math class, I think it sounds pretty wierd, honestly. 2/3 of the students in your class have failed both the first two tests? Were you given letter grades? Or are you getting percentage scores? I had a math prof last summer who gave really hard tests too–the average was never higher than a 35/100. But we didn’t get any letter grades until the end of the summer, when he put together a pre-final exam curve. It turned out that even a 40 or so average over all the midterms meant a B at that point. So a lot of people were better off than they thought they were.
Does he really take of 7/10 points for bad handwriting? I can understand not giving points if he can’t read the answer, but if he just doesn’t like the look of what he sees, that’s not fair. Also, the x and y axes? I’ve never come across a prof who required that EXCEPT in physics, where it matters. Practically all the functions you do in precalc involve y as a function of x, with x as the horizontal axis. I can see a point or two for not specifying that, but that’s it. Is he taking off more than a couple points? Personally I would find that excessive. Especially if you are under heavy time constraints.
If he’s not grading fairly, you might want to consider getting a small group of students together and talking to an administrator, say the math department chair or an academic dean. This is what several classmates of mine and I did last summer. We brought our exams in to the department chair, and he agreed that our prof was being too harsh. Ultimately though, since he graded us reasonably, no action had to be taken. But it was reassuring to have the dept. chair behind us.
The other thing I’d suggest is to try to figure out what your prof’s pet peeves are when he’s scoring. If it’s labeling the axes, then before you start any problem, label them. Probably there are a handful of annoying things that he sees students doing over and over. Maybe you could even ask him what they are! The nice thing about “picky” points like that is that they usually aren’t too mentally challening, but more a matter of depeloping a certain routine with each problem. For example, don’t use the equal sign where it’s not warranted! Lots of students do that, and it’s SO irritating to graders. There are others… and a lot of these things are pretty easy to overcome.
Stacy, don’t give up on math. I’ve read your posts about the class as it’s gone along, and I bet it’s just one of those mean classes we all come across. You did well last semester, and if you keep working at it, you probably ARE learning the math. The issue is to find out what’s going wrong on the tests. Keep in mind that math profs often just don’t see “grades” as the focus of a class, so there’s a lot of variability in that area. I think it’s one of the subjects where a C from one school or prof can be the same as an A from another place. I doubt a pre-calc grade would have too huge an impact on a med school application. Especially if you take calculus next fall and ace it. Which, with all this studying, you’ll be well prepared to do.
I hope some of this is helpful. And good luck! Keep us posted.

I agree with Andrea - definitely don’t give up. I’m sure you are actually learning the math - you just ended up with one of those insane math profs that are unfortunately out there. Another thing to consider would be are your homework/practice problems in the least bit representative of the questions he asks? If the practice problems are way easier than the exam problems that’s another thing I would bring up if a group of us went to the chair or dean as well. The prof for one of my calc classes ended up installing a curve at the end as well so that’s not an uncommon occurrence. If 2/3 of the students are failing he will have to install a curve otherwise his job will be in danger…CC’s don’t have tenured profs as far as I know so if this teacher doesn’t have a good fcq rating (most people doing well) he won’t be around long. So if this isn’t his first semester teaching definitely don’t worry about it…the curve will end up being there.
Good luck, hang in there, glad to hear your health issues are clearing up
–Jessica, UCCS

Hi Stacy,
I’m right with ya on the math!
I was definitely not born with the
"Math gene". Which Math are you
taking? I’m in Trig (Pre-Calc)
and it’s kicking my butt, thankfully
I have a lot to kick
I’ve decided to perhaps take it over
this Summer so that I’m really prepared
for Calc. in the Fall.
Have you tried to get some tutoring?
I’m finding that’s really helping (my college
offers free tutoring) and also I started a study
group and there are classmates that come who
have a good handle on Trig and are willing to
spend time going over stuff.
I may not get an A in this class and I’ve had
to make that ok. We do the best we can!
I’m new here but I just wanted to offer support
to you.
I hope that you feel better and that the wound
heals —vit. E to help with scarring.

Thanks everyone. My professor happens to be head of the math dept. and chair of math & sciences division so I can’t go to the dean–he is the dean! So far I’ve got a 47/100 and a 44/100 on the tests. He doesn’t give grades but all the points will be added up in the end.
I am trying to work around his system. He takes off a lot of points for a variety of things–labelling axes, making sure you have the approximate equal sign (wavy equal) and not the regular equal sign, making sure graphs are exactly labelled pi, 2pi, etc., word problems are written out in a sentence, etc. The test problems are not trick questions–they are very similiar to the the homework problems, but I guess I just freeze up or forget the formulas or run out of time. Definately the pressure is hard for me. I’m used to having a whole class period on test days and now I only get an hour for 10 problems although the last test he gave us an hour and a half. Plus, this guy always throws one calculator-dependent problem in there and I, for the life of me, can not figure out how to do certain functions on my calculator so I usually lose 10 points off the top b/c of that one problem. My previous math teachers were more “anti-calculator” and it seems math teachers fall into 1 of 2 camps: pro- or anti-calculator. As you get up to calc., it becomes more pro-calculator.
I do go for free tutoring in the math lab when I can and to his office hours when I can. I tried to show him what I did on Test #2 in hopes that he would give me a few more points b/c I had the concepts right but he said I had the “execution all wrong” and he wouldn’t budge. I had a bit of meltdown, which didn’t help my case any, but I’m just so totally frustrated right now.
So I guess for the next test in 2 weeks, I’ll give myself practice exams by picking out various homework problems and time myself so I can get it all done in a hour–hopefully correctly! At least I finished Test #2 in time. The first test I didn’t even finish the last 3 problems.
Other people in the class are also doing poorly–mostly I think because of all of his pet peeves. That’s my guess anyways. I get the impression that everyone in class, for the most part, “gets it” but we’re all losing a lot of points on our prof’s quirky issues.
I’ll keep you posted on the next test, which is scheduled for 4/13. Then, I’ll have a fourth test and then a comprehensive final on 5/4, and then I’ll be free from this madness and I can relax again.

I feel like your story–is my story
I got about the same on both my first
two tests and my teacher is also giving
way too many problems for the 1 hr/20 min
we have to complete the test. The last test
had 18 questions just on Part II ! and Part I
was about 10 questions and then labeling the
unit circle (which goes pretty quick when you
know everything in Quad I).
It’s tough enough to be older (I’m 41) and
trying to re-learn; or in my case learn for
the first time all of this, but
then to not get help from the instructor is
really frustrating.
I’m going to meet with my prof. tomorrow again
and see what she suggests I do at this point
of the semester. I still have another week to
drop the class but I think I’ll hang in and hope
& pray that I can pass and just keep working
on it
Good luck to you and just know that you aren’t
alone… Laurel

Hey Stacy,
Could a small group of you ask your prof what a 44 translates into as far as a letter grade? I’d try that first, and try to get as direct an answer from him as possible. If he’s curving, ask what the median score (or the mean) translates to. You could also ask what the standard devition on his curve is–being a math guy, he might not mind questions like that. Since you’ve already spent some time talking to him, maybe try to get one of your classmates to do most of the initial talking? You could do this after class one day.
If he’s giving everyone a low score and WON’T tell you guys what those scores mean, then if it were me I’d go complain to the Dean of Studens. If only because you and your fellow students have a right to know where you stand, and whether you’re making progress. Don’t complain about the class, but just express an interest in knowing whether or not you’re making progress.
But be diplomatic, of course. Like I said before, there are math profs who only think about grades on the very last day of the semester, when they do the curve. Up until then, everything is about expecting you to learn the math. That doesn’t mean the grading won’t be fair in the end, although it’s stressful for students who want to know they’re doing well.
I’d spend the time in his office hours asking really specific questions–how exactly to do the calculator problems, for example.

Second everything Andrea said, hang in there!

Hey Stacy,
Try to make an appointment with your prof to go over your previous exams very carefully. Not only may you learn from your mistakes but you may earn some intangilbles that may help you on the next test.
Don’t fear math but set your mind that you will do whatever it takes. I just finished putting in a central line on the sweetest gentleman that I have ever met. I had to stick him many times but I took some deep breaths, tried to keep my voice calm for him, and got the line in. He said that my voice kept him calm and he is doing well now. I shut my eyes and prayed when the chest film came. I was so afraid that I had placed the line in the wrong position. It turned out OK. The point to this is that I have every confidence that you will find the right track to pull this out. You will look back on this class and realize that you leaned tenacity if nothing else.
Hang tough and keep plugging away. I know that it’s been tough with all of your health problems but you are destined for medicine. Sometimes you just take your C, say “thank-you” and come back to fight another day. I also think that in the end, you may have a better grade than you think.

Stacy, first of all, keep plugging away. You are finding out this professor’s particular preferences and so you are armed with knowledge that should help you the rest of the semester. You noted that you “just freeze up” even though you’ve practiced and even though you know the stuff. This is a bit of a head game for you personally and will require some self-talk to work through. I suspect that for the second exam at least, you went in there and psyched yourself out of a better grade just because you started thinking, “OMG it is happening again.”

So for the next exam you will need to say to yourself, “This time is different. I know what I need to do.” When you encounter a problem that starts to throw you, say it to yourself AGAIN. If necessary, put that problem aside and go to one that reinforces your self-confidence. I remember saying to myself on the MCAT, “Don’t freak out, it’s just another question, it’s not worth more than any other.” (i know this doesn’t work as well with a math problem but…)

Finally, about all those picky details. At the risk of getting flamed, I’m going to take up for your professor on this issue. Details are IMPORTANT. Every discipline has a particular language that you must learn to “speak.” Labelling axes, using the wavy-line equal sign - those signify particular things in the language of mathematics and you must learn to use them correctly. I would guess that is his point - anyway, it’s my point! It’s basically “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and that is going to be true in every subject.

And handwriting matters. A baby died at Children’s Hospital here in DC a few years ago because someone thought “1.0” looked like “10,” and gave the infant ten times the correct dose of morphine. Having legible handwriting is part of speaking the language IMHO and I find it really upsetting to look at a chart, for example, to see what the consulting specialist thought of my patient’s problem only to find that I can’t decipher a thing from the consult note. I am kind of old-school on this but I think good handwriting is just the professional way to work.

For both the symbols and the handwriting issue, the thing is that you do not want your reader to guess what you meant. Your written communication, whether it’s a math problem or a medication order, has to be absolutely clear so that no one can say, “Well, I thought she meant that…”

Please know I am NOT ragging on you, because it sounds like you’re figuring out these things matter; I’m just using your situation as a platform to address a few pet peeves!

Handwriting may be a new topic altogether, but does anyone have any terrific ideas to solve that particular problem? I have appalling handwriting…

Hi Stacy,
Please let us know of your post-bacc decision as soon as you know. I feel like you and I were at the same point applying for post-baccs, so I feel a little invested. It’s nice to know a cyber-buddy is one the same timeline as you.
Anyhow, with regards to the math class, I would say that use the knowledge you’ve picked up already. When I say knowledge, I don’t necessarily mean math. You already know he’s ridiculously picky and is inclined to grade more on format than content. So use it to your advantage. Even if you don’t know an answer, just make it up and label it beautifully…And of course, if you do know the answer, do the same. I would say when you go back and review your answers, make sure you make your handwriting clear and neat. Make sure the labels are there. Maybe even write a checklist for each problem. Like 1. Calculations 2. Labels 3. Handwriting…do it in code so he doesn’t realize that how transparent he is…1. C 2. L 3. HW
Anyhow, I also would like to second what others have said…if 2/3 of the class is getting failing grades and the other 1/3 is getting B’s or below. I’d guess he’d have to curve it later. It’s impossible not to…Technically, a professor is not doing their job if more than half of the students are failing…obviously, he is not doing his job getting the material across.
So stay hopeful…but keep working hard.

I have class tonight and my next test is a week from tonight on 4/13. I am hoping this one will go better since Test #3 only covers about 5 sections in the book. I e-mailed my prof. yesterday and asked him for the even problem answers to practice problems I gave myself for “homework” this week, and I’m hoping he will e-mail me a practice test, and then I’m going to place myself under “testing conditions” either at home or the library/testing center on campus this weekend as soon as I review all the sections. It’s kind of like the MCAT–on a much smaller scale! (I dread the MCAT, but I’ll worry about that much later. I think it will completely fry my brain. I will HAVE to take a prep course for that.)
Wish me luck. T-minus 7 days until Test #3. And only 5 more class sessions left, including tonight. Then, I will be very .