How did I end up here? My Educational Journey..Bonus: How to Succeed in College and Earn As!!!!

I have spent much of my adult life in college. I completed the traditional track, finishing my BA in History Minor in African American Ethnic Studies from Adelphi University at the age of 21. I loved Adelphi so much, that I stayed on another two years to complete my Master’s in Secondary Social Studies Education in 2009. As you may or may not know, from 2009 until the present, has to be one of the worst times in history to try to land a job in the education system! So I bounced around, worked retail and a telephone sales job at a Manhattan IT school which I absolutely abhorred! So after endless resumes sent out, applications, and countless interviews. I started to search for another answer. I knew what I wanted, I want a career, I do not need to be rich but my husband and I would eventually like a family and a house one day and I would like to be able to afford both. (We are sick of paying the absolutely ridiculous rental rates in Brooklyn!) Equally important, I needed a job that would be intellectually stimulating, offer excitement, variety, and NOT be in a cubicle! I started to research which sectors of the economy were still hiring even in the recession.

A little research revealed, that the Health Care industry was one of the few sectors that had still shown significant growth in the past few years. I knew I was not ready for the seven year commitment required to complete an MD. So, I looked for another answer, I attended an information session about the Physician Assistant Program at Pace University. I was thrilled, it was a perfect fit and it would only take 27 months to complete! As I did not have any science courses yet under my belt, I did have a significant amount of prerequisites to complete before being eligible to even apply. So I came to a crossroad, I did not know what to do. I had already dedicated a significant amount of time and accrued significant student debt, that I had yet to pay, did it make sense to go back to school, for something entirely different? It was a huge dilemma for me but with the support of my husband and family, I decided to take the plunge!

I enrolled at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, mainly because of the affordable cost of the CUNY system and it is relatively close to our apartment. I was pretty terrified I had not taken any Biology or Chemistry courses in ten years….what if I was terrible at it?!?!?! I graduated with a 3.67 in my BA and 3.881 in my MA so I have always been an excellent student, but would I have the same success in science???? So it was with equal parts trepidation and excitement, that I found myself sitting in my first class at Medgar Evers College: Anatomy and Physiology, Part I. To my delight, I loved all my courses! It was A LOT of work but I was earning good grades! On a side note, I cannot more enthusiastically endorse Medgar Evers College, my experiences there have been absolutely amazing! All of my professors have been Ph.Ds and really know their topic area. Equally important, they always have an office door open for extra help and questions. I have also made some amazing new friends. If considering CUNY, please look into Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, you will not be disappointed, I can promise you that! At a total cost of $5000.00 per a year, you simply cannot go wrong!

The irony here is that all through high school if anyone asked, my career goals, I told them I was going to become a pediatrician! So it’s almost as if I have come full circle. If I have said it once, I have said it a million times: “Life makes its’ own plans…you never know how things will turn out!” I am optimistic though. My only worry now, is that I will complete all my prerequisites and not get into any programs! I have almost a 3.8 (all As but one C in a summer chemistry course is killing me!) If God forbid, I do not get in anywhere, these past two years will basically be for naught! So please, keep your fingers crossed for me!!!

So, now on to the second point of this post, my thoughts on succeeding in college. I was prompted to write this post after something my professor said in my Anatomy and Physiology course this past term. I had done really well on a test, that a majority of the class had failed, so to my embarrassment (I blush a bright red very easily!), Dr. Stoddart announced to the class: “study with Kirsten!” So, after class, another student came up to me and asked me how I studied and what advice I could offer. I looked at her and said verbatim “I read the book.” That is the key, there are no gimmicks to earning good grades, just read your textbook! I was, and still am shocked, at the number of college students who do not read the textbook for the course! I know texts are ridiculously expensive, especially for the sciences, but every college library has all the textbooks on reserve for students, so, there are no excuses! The other key, is do not attempt to study the night before the exam! College work requires constant effort, reading, notes, and practice problems! I have found the rule for every hour of class, you should be putting in about 2.5 hours of reading at home! Ideally, the night before an exam should be spent on a short review, a good dinner, and most importantly, a full night’s sleep! That’s it, the key to good grades, it is as simple at that!!!

I have found I have difficulty getting studying done in my apartment. Between my hubby, TV, and housework there’s just way too many distractions! I have to place myself into an environment where there is absolutely nothing else I could be doing, except eating books! For me, this is the library, find a place that works for you!. I have also found that I must listen to either classical music or instrumental jazz like Miles Davis or Charles Mingus to really concentrate. Flashcards have also been immeasurably helpful to me, as a commuter on the NYC Public Transit System, whether waiting on the train or bus, or sitting on one of the two, I always have time to study my flashcards. I usually make them myself, but for Anatomy and Physiology, I finally broke down and purchased a set last term from Barnes and Noble. There are from Mosebly and I have found them to be extremely useful. The only complaint I have is that they do not list functions, so I have taken to writing directly on the cards themselves. They were about $30.00 and well worth it! Find something that works for you. What study tools have been worthwhile for you?

Can anyone relate to my story? What study tips can you offer?

Best of luck and Happy Studying!!! 🙂

“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.” ~Warren G. Bennis


5 thoughts on “How did I end up here? My Educational Journey..Bonus: How to Succeed in College and Earn As!!!!

  1. A&P is one of the hardest courses, I think. We had a full-year course for first year, 3 hour lectures that went right from start to finish. You’re right, reading the textbook does help a lot! It depends how you learn, but my prof had us make mind-maps of the more complicated subjects, and it really helped to connect ideas on paper like that. We also got marks for them, so bonus!
    A lot of people failed, but I came out with a decent grade.

    • I agree, Anatomy and Physiology, is an immense challenge! Add 2 more science classes with labs and it’s easy to feel like your drowning in schoolwork! It’s super awesome though and it’s fascinating to learn more about how we work! The trickiest part for me is/was memorizing the weird muscle names and all the nerves! Besides the index cards, I try to make little memory tricks for myself of course mnemonics are immeasurably useful for memorization! Examples: Old Oliver Ogg Travels To Africa For Very Good Vacations And Holidays (the twelve pairs of cranial nerves) and thick for tibia and feeble for fibula. Also, here’s an AWESOME site for review: you can also get there by typing in: in your browser! Check it out and let me know what you think. Yes, if you want good grades, at the end of the day you need to put the work in, consistently throughout the ENTIRE term! Another thing, I simply just do not get, how can you be taking a class like this and not take it seriously? If you are in these classes, 99% of the time you want to go into the medical field. If I go to see you or take my family to see you when I am sick, I want someone who takes it seriously and knows what the heck they are talking about…END OF STORY!!! Out of curiosity, what are your career goals?

  2. Yes, I am also in a similar situation. I have a first bachelor’s in computer science and am in school for a second bachelor’s after finding out the first bachelor’s has been obsolete. While graduating with my first degree, I have gotten a job in scholarly publishing and discovered that I did not like administration much. After 4 years of working, I returned to school for medicine.

    I understand your pain in chemistry. I am taking organic chemistry, again. Chemistry is a discipline that cannot be studied based on what the textbook says. Research must be done as supplement to studying. The idea in chemistry is that everything is theoretical, which requires some serious thinking power. Most of the time, in chemistry, student will do a lot of analyzing. In general chemistry, there is a lot of math dealing with thermodynamics and molarity.

    Here are some websites:

    I study according to my natural ability. I tend to compute and analyze a lot. Oftentimes, friends will tell me I over think things. So, I use mind-mapping as a technique to learn quicker. I write out my mind-map and post it to my bedroom walls.

    Example of mind-mapping
    Gregor Johan Mendel —> Law of Segregation —> phenotypic ratio 3:1 —-> genotypic ration 1:2:1—> F2 generation —> homozygosity recessive

    Above will help me remember that Mendel created the Law of Segregation stating in F1 generation the phenotypic ratio is 3:1 and genotypic ratio is 1:2:1, which means that a monohybrid will appear in F2 generation.

    Writing a short statement underneath each of your mind-maps will also help.

    • I am surprised you could not find a good position in computer science! I was under the impression that field was hiring as well? Is your goal to complete your MD? Where would you like to go to med school? Just a head’s up SUNY Upstate has an amazing FREE joint PhD and MD program and you even get a yearly living stipend! I must admit I am more than a little terrified of my Organic Chemistry I class (which starts this Monday!) I ended up with an A+ in Chem 202 last term which I was SUPER happy about but I worked by butt off! My professor, Dr. Bajue was amazing and let me show up at his office at least twice a week with questions. Also, sometimes I found our text made things A LOT more complicated than they need be so he even let me borrow another text for the entire term! Something I also found super helpful, was to visit my school’s Learning Center at least once a week for a few hours. The key with that though is to go right from the beginning, NOT the night before your exam! On a side note, the one thing that frequently annoys me about the Learning Center is the impatience of many of the other students! I mean, jeezum you are getting FREE tutoring, it’s not one on one! You cannot expect the tutor to be giving you their sole attention the entire time your sitting with them! Bring problems you can work on during the session when they are helping someone else! It’s not neuroscience people, just use a little common sense!!!!

      • Prior to working in scholarly publishing, I had positions in computer hardware and web design. I learned a lot about myself in these positions. I became a germophobic. No longer would I configure dusty computers. Listening to a client explains what he or she wants on a website annoyed me. These positions were in academic and nonprofit institutions. I did not want to work in corporations because of the long hours.

        I am interested in getting both a PhD and MD but not sure if I want to do them together. Thank you for the tip. I am checking out Suny’s Upstate now. I have been looking into NIH programs.

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