Happy Studying! (and good luck!)

How to Make a Four Year Plan for School

Hello folks! Today i’d like to share with you a little tool that has helped me tremendously during my time as an undergrad. The four year plan can be done electronically or on paper and easily saved as a reference when it’s time to register. It is malleable, and will change with your changing course requirements or needs. Give it a try!

What is a Four Year Plan?

A tentative 4 year schedule which displays the electives and major requirement courses needed for each semester or quarter in order to graduate and obtain your degree.

Benefits

  • Displays all requirements in one place
  • Helps you to remain organized
  • Lists alternative courses to help during registration if you are not able to get into your first choice courses

How To

1. Create a Spreadsheet or Table

The best way to remain organized is to have a a visual to display everything. An excel spreadsheet or word document can both be used. You can find a simple word table hereย or here, and a link to the excel document provided by my home school here.

4 yr plan

2. Obtain Major Requirements

These are usually listed on your school’s advising website or on the specific major’s or department’s website. You may also find these by doing a general search on your school’s website for your specific major, or by calling or showing up to the department directly.

Below are two examples of where you can find the major requirements on your school’s website.

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Some courses are offered all quarters or semesters, while some are only offered once per year. Figure out when your courses are usually offered during the year and add them to your spreadsheet in the semester or quarter you would like to take them.

3. Figure out Pre-Requisites for Upper Level Courses

After you’ve found the requirements for your major, the next step is to review the pre-requisites needed for your upper-level courses. Meeting with an adviser may be the most accurate way to ensure that you have all bases covered, and know all classes needed. You can also review the course catalog for your school for each of the required classes and make a note of the specifics. After you have that info, fit it into your document so you can tell which semester you need to take which course.

4. Add in your Electives

My school has a core curriculum where all students have to take courses from different subject areas, regardless of major, to complete their degree. Most universities have these core classes in areas such as science, literature, history, art and others. They may be offered in a tier system where you have to take two courses, one upper and lower; or you may just be required to take one; or some other combination.ย  Check your school’s website to find the many electives from which you can choose to fulfill the core requirements. This is an example from my school.

Fit the electives into your schedule for the next four years. I think it’s important to take heavy major courses with light electives, and heavier electives with light major classes. This may not always be possible, but try to have an even course load to keep burnout at bay! While adding in electives, ensure your classes add up to the minimum credit requirement for your major and school so you ca graduate on time.

List any courses or activities like research or volunteering you would like to accomplish on it as well, so you’ll have a complete picture of how your time will be divided during each term.

5. Find Courses which Double Dip

It’s a beauty when you find courses that fulfill multiple requirements! Be on the hunt for these.

6. Be Flexible

Life never goes exactly as we plan, so be open to change. Remember that this isย  tentative, and can be changed around to fit the individual needs of each term. Always list alternatives courses just in case you weren’t able to get into your first choice during registration.

 

If you feel unsure about any requirements, don’t be afraid to email your adviser or drop by for a meeting to clear things up. Being prepared is the first step to success!

Happy Studies!

Karissaย โ™ฅ

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Top 5 Tips to Deal with Getting into Classes during Registration.

Imagine being so excited about your future classes. Even though you have to take a few heavy courses to stay on track, you’ve added in one or two fun classes to lighten the amount of work and stress you’ll have to deal with. You know your registration time and are ready to hit the add button. When you do, you’re faced with the dreaded X throwing your defeat in your face as your excitement dissolves into a pit of despair.

Don’t delve into depression! Trust me, I know how it feels! At the beginning of every semester, I would hate the upperclassmen and athletes so much because they always registered earlier than I did. I was always so anxious that I wouldn’t get into my first choices. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t, but it all works out in the end. Here are a few simple tips to deal with the horrors of registration.

Four year plan

As a freshman, I had to create my four year plan during my first semester to plan out my class schedule for the next four years. This is usually a mandatory part of most first year seminars, and rightfully so. This plan is such a powerful tool especially because it is adaptable! You add the program requirements and electives to your calendar and are able to see which pre-requisites you need before you can take upper level courses. There a usually a generic track for most pre-professional students, so you could obtain that from the advising office or your school’s website and adapt it your specific needs or elective choices.

If you are not able to get into the class or classes you had hoped to and you have tried all options with no success, then you can always use your four year plan to see which classes can be switched around to accommodate the setback. If it is a dire situation, speak with your adviser or the dean to see what can be done, but if not, move a few classes around.

Add classes to cart early

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When we fail to plan, we plan to fail! Be aware of the courses you need from your four year plan, and save them in your cart ready for registration. Most classes, especially stem and those taught by amazing professors, fill up extremely fast. Do not waste time after your registration time searching for all of your classes because they could close before you even have a chance to find them!

When in doubt, see an adviser

Your advisers might be able to get you into a filled class if circumstances permit. If you need a class to graduate and you only have one semester or quarter left, or the class is only offered infrequently, see your adviser as soon as possible to ensure you’ll have a spot in that class when it starts.

If you are confused at all about anything, make an appointment with your adviser. They are trained to handle all registration and class related issues, and can guide you on the best path to success. Even if you aren’t confused, it’s a good idea to see your adviser to have them review your classes or four year plan and see if you are on the right track.

Ask upperclassmenย or athletes to hold classes for you

Since registration begins with seniors then juniors then sophomores and finally freshmen, ask a friend who is in a higher grade to hold a class for you if they have space in their schedule. Student-athletes are usually able to register before most other students, so hit up a friend and ask a favor if they can.

Stalk the website

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Most students add some upper-level classes while they are still enrolled in the pre-requisites. Sometimes they don’t pass the class and have to drop the upper-level class. You need to be on that website like white on rice after your registration time and during the break to increase your chances of seeing the opening in the class andย  being able to add the class. Most students will save the closed class in their cart and give their login info to friends who will take turns watching the website to increase their chances of getting into the classes even more.

Hop to it kids! Have an amazing school year!

Karissa ๐Ÿ™‚

What to do During your Gap Year before Medical School

Hello everyone! โ™ฅ The topic of remaining and becoming more competitive during my gap year has been forefront in my mind. I have mauled over this topic continuously and have come up with a few options which can give me, as well as you, an edge going into the application process.

I find that most schools, medical included, prefer quality over quantity. It’s great to have 10 extra-curricular activities, but were you active in all of them? Did you hold any leadership positions? Did you participate in the planning and organization of these activities. Higher education institutions want to see effective time management, optimal productivity and a genuine passion and interest for your leisure time activities. You don’t have to be the best to ever do it, but are you excelling in or giving your all to the 1 or 2 activities which you have chosen to give your time?

I believe it is best to have a plan! Yes, sometimes you need to wing it or you have no idea what will come next, but try to keep a goal in mind that you can accomplish. It could be “I want to volunteer for 100 hours during this year” or “I want to create a YouTube channel to share the knowledge I have gained and to encourage others who wish to follow in my footsteps” or even “I want to become better at playing tennis”. This is the time to develop and excel in your other interests separate from medicine, while remaining connected to the medical field in some way.

Travel

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One of the most popular or publicized gap year activities is to travel. If you can afford to, go! Traveling is such an exhilarating experience which broadens your perspective on life. Experiencing different cultures or ‘ways of life’ and thinking will open your mind to new definitions of what it means to be a human or a part of society. Plus, you can try so many different kinds of food and see so many attractions! Whether it be in a corner of your city that you haven’t explored or a different country. Go explore!

The other side of the coin is to do a medical mission. You can travel and remain attuned to the medical side of things. These trips can range drastically in prices depending on the locations and the itinerary, but there are some scholarships available that can offset the cost. Most offer room and board as well as 2-3 meals. The itinerary usually involves shadowing, helping in the clinic and community building activities till the afternoon, then you have the evenings free to hit the town and explore.

Volunteer

Another popular option among the ‘gappers’ is to give of your time to the community. You may volunteer at aย medical office, a hospital, a hospice, a nursing or children’s home. Hands on experience shows dedication and a commitment to helping others.ย Even though you may be applying to medical school, diversifying volunteer activities is a big plus! Giving back to the community by helping with an after school program, a soup kitchen or a non-profit is a fine way to stand out!

Remember that we shouldn’t volunteer solely for building our resume, volunteering and service should come from a place of love and a willingness to help others who are not as fortunate as you are in whatever aspect of their life. We should focus on the people who will be both indirectly and directly affected by our actions and act to increase the living conditions, or even just the mood, of those around us.

Work

I’d like to think that I am an independent person, both in thought and responsibility. Earning, in whatever capacity, translates to freedom. You may want to begin paying down your student loans or save for medical school or both. You may want to purchase a car or continue living in your apartment because it’s closer to opportunities. Being an earner allows you to be more flexible and more in control of your options.

You do not have to work in the medical field if you are not able to. Working in another field is just as acceptable as long as you are doing other things to remain competitive. A full-time or part-time job, whether temporary or permanent are all fine options. Save some money to avert the cost of rent or tuition for your first year!

Start a Business

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If you would like to create a product or offer services to the public, now is the perfect time to create a business. During school you’ll be swamped with course work, so a gap year is the best time to get the ball rolling and establish a foundation. From what I have gathered, social media is a powerful tool for outreach and increasing sales.

There are many courses, free and paid, which offer step by step guidance when creating a business which you can invest in. I think another viable option is to reach out to someone in the industry you are interested in and pitch yourself as an asset to them. Use your skills to be valuable to them as an intern or even shadow for a few days, then use your gained knowledge and experience in your own business endeavor.

Research

Research can take many forms. You could be working in a clinical setting interviewing patients or you could be working with live tissue where you are pipetting, cultivating and transforming cells. You could also be working in your community where you might visit people in their homes or at a community center.

If you are able to be apart of research, take the plunge! Look around on the internet or ask your professors if they are doing research or know anyone who will be conducting research. There are many hospital research labs that employ research assistants, so if you have some experience with research, apply!

Whether it’s volunteering or earning a paycheck while getting your research experience, medical schools look favorably upon research experience from your gap year or during your undergraduate, post-bac or graduate years.

Learn

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There are many websites and schools which offer free or paid courses in a wide variety of courses. You can brush up on your scientific knowledge or take courses to learn something new in another field. If you are able to obtain a certificate of completion or participation, it’ll work beautifully towards building your CV or resume.

Learning doesn’t have to be as structured as a classroom environment or even an online classroom. You can learn from watching YouTube videos or reading books. Reading isn’t always a hobby for everyone, but committing to read at least one book isn’t a bad idea. Choose a topic you really like and start from there! It doesn’t even have to be a book! You can read articles or magazines or journals. I am a staunch believer that your writing will improve by constantly reading well-written and intellectually crafted pieces.

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Gap years tend to be periods of exploration. Even if you’re under the rigors of a full-time job or post-baccalaureate programs, try to move outside of your comfort zone and have some fun!

If you have any further tips please share them below! If you are taking a gap year or two, what is your plan?

Be happy and healthy ๐Ÿ™‚

-Karissa

 

 

Top 10 Tips On How To Ace This Semester!

Hello my beautiful friends! This time last year I was a university senior excited to make it through her last year! It’s so hard to believe! It was a bittersweet time because my undergraduate career was coming to an end, and I had so much to look forward to in my future. There are a few things I wish I had done differently, but I am blessed and proud of my accomplishments!

The past four years have equipped me with expert tips on how to make it through each semester. It’s important to adopt and practice good study and life skills from the beginning to ensure smoother sailing during rough final and exam periods when time seems non-existent! Here are a few of my tried and true tips to help you ace this semester!

Make a schedule

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Whether it’s strict or loose, it’s always good to have a general idea of what will happen each day or during the week or the month. I have found that using a schedule keeps me on track to complete assignments on time. It also allows me to able to more efficiently use my time. If there is some concert or game that I want to go to, I have all of my upcoming tasks and events in one place so I can make a quick and informed decision to go or not.

Connect with professors

It’s so important to form a good relationship with at least a few of your professors. Go to office hours from the beginning and show an interest in the class and your grade. When it’s time for recommendations, you will have some professors who know you and can speak to your passions and strengths. Keep in contact even after the class ends, and it’s even better to make connections with professors who are in your future professional field.

Review syllabus

Even though most professors reserve the first class for reviewing the syllabus, always run through briefly before starting classes. Be aware of all the class policies and structure of exams and grading scale. Most professors include assignment due dates and exam dates in their schedule breakdown for the semester, so add these to your own calendar and schedule!

Figure out your study style

It’s better to know how you study best from the beginning than to wait till final exam week to realize you’re studying ineffectively. There are so many different ways to study whether using flashcards, re-writing notes, watching videos, teaching others or re-reading notes. Find what works, and stick with it!

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Study early and often

Reviewing often and consistently will make your life 100% easier! For me, when I see the material more often, I’ll be more likely to remember it. Review your notes after class or at the end of the day, or even at the end of the week. This way when exams roll around, you won’t need to relearn the material, but just review to remember even the small details.

Protect study time

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Do not compromise study time! If you aren’t able to study at the scheduled time, move around some things to make time. The only way to remember the material is to study, so ensure you leave enough time in your schedule to study!

 

Find a comfy study spot

I am a serious nester! I need to be extremely comfortable in my study environment so I can focus all of my energy and attention on retaining the material. Whether it be at home, in the library, at a coffee shop or in i-hop, find a comfy place where you won’t be distracted.

Form study groups (if that’s your thing)

I utilize study groups as a second resource. I usually ensure that I know at least 85% or the material before participating in a study group to ensure that I can contribute to the discussion. I learn through continuously reading and teaching others; the more I read and recite, the more i’ll remember. Use study groups, if that’s your thing, to teach and quiz your classmates.

Scope out clubs to join

Even though this post is focused on academics and grades, it’s super important to have a healthy social life, well as healthy and social as our exams and assignments allow you to be. Go out and meet new people. Engage in new, safe and exciting social activities. There are so many options in many schools for clubs or greek life that you can be a part of. Not only is it important for your mental well-being, it looks amazing on your resume! Enjoy this time while you still can; it’s not all about grades, but how well you use your experiences, both academic and social, to enhance your intelligence and overall ‘well-rounded-ness’.

Be healthy!

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Don’t forget to eat! Stay active as much as you can. Most schools have gyms with free classes like yoga and bootcamp. Take advantage of these!! Practice self-care and surround yourself with positive and encouraging images, people and environments.

Other key tips

Connect with your academic adviser and department adviser to help plan out your academic career, stay true to your dream and vision for your future, choose classes and register early to ensure you get the classes you want, get meaningful volunteer and intern experiences early and don’t sweat the small stuff!

Be proud of yourself, take pride in your work and always strive for better!

 

Be happy and healthy my loves!

Karissa ๐Ÿ™‚

How to Get into Medical School?

As the years go by, getting into medical school gets harder and harder. So many people are doing more to make themselves stand out and be as far away from average as they can be. If you want to attend medical school, the competition should drive you towards excellence.

Even though we should always try to improve yourselves, we need to draw a line between trying to emulate or draw inspiration from someone and comparing ourselves to others in a negative fashion.

With all the people on social media sharing their stories, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and inadequate. We should not spend time loathing ourselves because of the qualities or activities we haven’t cultivated for ourselves.

With that said, here are some of the most common ways to up the competitiveness of your application:

Medical Volunteering

Now this is a must have! Most, if not every medical school, list some form of exposure to the medical field as an important component for anyone applying to medical school.

This is understandable because you need to know how everything works and what to expect when you enter the working world.

You can fulfill this by :

Volunteering at a

  • Doctor’s Office – any one of your choice
    • Call, go in or email the doctors or the receptionist to inquire about volunteering. If going in face to face, bring a resume and put effort into looking presentable!
  • Hospital
    • Most hospitals have programs where you start as a general volunteer showing people around for a semester or up to a certain number of hours, then you can be assigned to a specific ward.
    • Hospice or Nursing Home
      • Call, email or go in and inquire about volunteering to help brighten the day of the patients!

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Shadowing

  • Some doctors allow you to follow them around and observe their interactions with patients and also the paper work involved.
  • It may only be for a day, but some doctors allow you to establish a schedule for a set amount of time like a semester or even as long as you want!
  • You can do this at a local dr’s office or even at a hospital

Extracurricular Activities

These are extremely important because they show medical schools what you are passionate about outside of academics! Be involved and maintain it! Quality over quantity!

Join clubs!

  • It’s okay to have many clubs, but it’s better to have a few that you are very involved in and can speak passionately about.

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Sports

  • If you are blessed with the sports gene, then flaunt it! Become a student athlete or just play for fun!
  • Putting marathons and competitions on your application definitely adds dimension and interest!

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Become a Leader

  • Get a leadership position in one of your clubs or start your own club!
  • Run for a student government position if you are interested in policy and making a change in student life.

Become involved in the community

  • Medical schools love seeing applicants who are involved in their community in any aspect whether working at a shelter or a soup kitchen or even a mission trip.

Academics

We can’t all have a 4.0 with a 528 MCAT score, but we should strive to do the best that we can. Put your all into your classes, and put forth the effort. Be realistic, and ensure other parts of your application boost and supplement your grades. Go to office hours, and get tutoring if you need! If your professors see your hustle and your drive, they will respect you, wish the best for you, and write amazing letters of recommendation for you!

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Research

Medical schools love students who have some exposure to the world of research. It doesn’t have to be for your entire college career, but some time in a laboratory is good to boost competitiveness. If you try and don’t like it, that’s okay. If you can, try to pursue it for at least a full semester, then you’ll be able to list it on your application.

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Something That Makes You Standout

With more students having amazing grades and heavy resumes, medical schools look for students with something special about them; something that separates them from the applicant pool! There are so many ways to achieve this, and it must be specific to you and your passions, but here are a few ways:

  1. Excel in sports or academics with accolades and championships
  2. Start or operate a business
  3. Start a blog or a YouTube channel

Remember:

There is no magic sauce, combination or recipe for getting into medical school. I think the secret is to strive for excellence, put forth massive effort, and invest in yourself and your passions!

 

Love Karissa ๐Ÿ™‚