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The Pre-School Jitters

It’s that time again!  The new school year is lurking just around the corner.  Whether you’re a hardened veteran on the verge of completing your graduate studies, or a fledgling greenhorn about to begin high school, you’ll surely recognize one important thing.  That is, the fact that you are going to turn the pages, and inevitably experience an entirely new chapter in your life’s story.

Unless you possess the sentiments of a stone, then you will likely greet this change in your life with an amalgam of emotions.  You may feel anxious, excited, relieved, happy, nervous, or all of these at once.  This, I believe, is perfectly normal; especially for those who are making fairly large transitions, such as from high school to university.

 

Are you ready to start yet another year of school?!

 

I’ve recently spoken to a handful of prospective undergrads, and they’ve all told me, more or less, the same thing.  They are excited, nervous, and a tad intimidated.  My advice: the only way to successfully combat human inertia, is to run the gamut of human emotions.  In other words, I told them that people are naturally apprehensive and resistant to change.  Fortunately, we are highly adaptable creatures and when change is forced upon us, we can learn to deal with it.  In order to ‘deal with it’ smoothly, we need not bottle up our thoughts, questions, or emotions; rather, we should bring everything to the table, and realize that everyone is going through the same ordeal.

I’ll conclude this post with a little anecdote:

Many of you don’t know this, but I’ve been running in races, quasi-competitively, for a number of years now.  I remember how nervous/excited I had been during my first couple of cross country races; or before my first 10 kilometer road race.  Then, one day, as we were about to begin our lengthy trek through the tenacious mud and serpentine trails, a friend, and fellow racer, turned to me and said: “Wow, I’m pretty nervous about this.”

This was truly a moment of epiphany for me, as I had realized that I was not alone.  I had never been alone.  All along there were others who were experiencing the exact same thing.  Consequently, my nervousness from before had been quickly and quietly dissolved.  My mind had been cleared and I was finally ready to do what I had set out for … compete.

Whenever I am faced with a new experience/event, I think back to this story and any anxiety that had managed to accumulate is rapidly dispelled.  All in all, if you’re feeling a bit nervous about stepping into uncharted territory -so to speak-, don’t worry about it; everyone else is feeling the exact same way.

——–

Best of luck with the new school year!  And remember, only with a clear mind and level-head, will you be ready to do what you had set out for … learn and succeed.

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  1. Ray
    August 29, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Hi, I just stumbled upon your blog today, and it’s been a very fascinating read.

    I have a few questions, if you don’t mind.

    What do you think of a student taking Bio 107 and 108 together in the same term? Would it be kind of odd to do that? Is it going to be a lot of work? I don’t know if it’s wrong to base it on which professors are teaching the courses, but it seems from various sources, the two best professors that are teaching these two courses are during the fall term.

    What do you think of ratemyprofessors.com? Do you use it any way?

    Thank you so much.

    • August 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Ray, I’m glad you like the blog!

      In regards to your questions:

      I know a handful of people who have taken Bio 107 and 108 together in the same term (more specifically, during their first term in first year). Some of them did just fine (A- to A+ range in both courses), while others crumbled under the workload. All of them, however, told me the same thing: it was very information intensive.

      The 100-level bio courses focus mainly on terminology and biological processes. In fact, I’d liken both courses to a more intense version of Biology 30 (high school), in which there is much to memorize, and virtually nothing to calculate / solve.

      Before you choose to take both courses in the same term, ask yourself:

      – What other courses are you taking in that term? Are you taking any other courses with a lab component?

      – What kind of experience did you have in Biology 30? Did you find it very demanding, moderately demanding, or quite easy? (If you found it ‘very demanding’ it’s probably best to take one bio course per term, instead)

      – Are you planning on majoring in Biological Sciences? If you are, taking Bio 107/108 in the same term will be a glimpse of what is to come in the future. (ie: physiology and upper year bio courses are even more demanding, but more interesting!)

      ——–

      Remember to play to your strengths! If you really enjoyed Bio 30, and found it easy to manage, then you will probably not have too much of a problem doing well in Bio 107/108 during the same term.

      Time management is definitely key! Make sure to keep on top of your readings and lab assignments; the single most common mistake for first year students is that they maintain their high school mentality and cram/procrastinate. Steer clear of these vices and you’ll find yourself in a world of high GPAs.

      ——–

      The ratemyprof site is a useful guideline; but it’s just that, a guideline. Always take it with a grain of salt. I look at it to get a ‘general idea’ of what the prof ‘may’ be like. Usually: more reviews = a more accurate ‘general idea’. Keep in mind that everyone has a different style of learning. Some people are heavily dependent on their professor’s lectures, while others can get by with reading only the text. There is no right or wrong style, and similarly, there’s usually no right or wrong professor to take. Students fail in every class, and students get A+’s in every class, regardless of the prof.

      ——–

      I think it all boils down to work ethic. If you’re willing to learn, then there will be nothing stopping you from getting those A’s and A+’s!

      Hope that helps a bit. Feel free to ask me any other questions about undergrad courses / undergrad life. (I’m a Faculty of Science mentor, after all)

      ——–

      P.S. I have a friend, who is in the Biochemistry Honors stream. Last year, she ended up taking Bio 207, and Bio 208 at the same time … let’s just say she would definitely NOT recommend that. (Bio 107/108 is, however, doable!)

  2. Ray
    August 30, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Thanks for the prompt and informative reply. You pretty much answered all my questions, and possibly others that might have been lingering in my mind.

    But, I just have a few more questions regarding the lab components for Bio 107 and 108. Are they fairly straightforward? Do you work with partners a lot? Are they assigned to you? Or is the lab partner(s) thing more frequent in Chem?

    I’m on the pre-med track just like yourself. 🙂 From reading your introduction entry, you’re in the General stream? Biology?

    I’ve been contemplating for a while whether to go the General or Specialization path. I’m sort of leaning towards a Specialization. There’s just so many intriguing ones. It’s all still up in the air at this point, though. I might even consider majoring in Computer Science, because I’m interested in it as well, and it might be a good backup degree, in case things don’t work out as planned for med school.

    • August 30, 2011 at 11:27 am

      The 100-level bio labs are truly a double edged sword. On one hand, they are fairly easy to do well in; on the other hand, they are very time consuming. If you’ve already purchased the lab manuals, then you’ll see that although the labs are straightforward, you must be very meticulous when carrying out the experiments (ie: you have to follow the instructions ‘to the tee’ when doing the “DNA extraction lab” in Bio 107).

      Lab reports can also be quite the task, as they will most likely be your first dose of ‘technical’ university writing. The TAs, and the faculty at large, are quite understanding of this, and let you do a re-write report if you score under 85%.

      Furthermore, Bio 107 and 108, like the other first year sciences, require that you write a final ‘lab exam’. The bio lab exams are the toughest part of the lab-component, and serve to test your overall understanding of the labs. Be really prepared for these; they have a way of sneaking-up on you during the end of the term (when you’d normally be busy studying for finals).

      For bio labs, you will ‘always’ be working in groups of 2-3 students. These students will be the people sitting at your bench (each bench will consist of 5-6 students; so, two groups per bench). The bench you choose to sit at during the first lab will, generally, be the bench that you will be sitting at for the rest of the term. Basically, whoever ends up sitting next to you will be your partner for the lab-component of the course.

      The bio 108 lab has a poster presentation assignment in which you will have to work very closely with your lab partner. You’ll be expected to divvy up the work and, when all is said and done, present your poster to the rest of the class. (It may sound pretty demanding, but it’s not. The TAs mark very lightly, and from what I remember, everyone in my lab section got over 85% on it … Make sure to double check your citations, though!)

      (Chem labs, in contrast to bio labs, are ‘solo-oriented’. You will seldom work with a lab partner, but are free to talk to the people around you)

      ——–

      When I began University, I had my sights set on majoring in the Biological Sciences. After all, it seemed to be a very appropriate pre-med route. I chose the General Stream because I didn’t want to commit myself to one specific area of study, for fear that I may end up not enjoying it in the long run.

      Suffice it to say, this sort of happened. I took Psychology 104 during the first term, second year; and wow, it sure made me second guess my choice of major. I enjoyed the course enough to give it another go, so I ended up taking three more Psychology courses in my second term (just to see if I ‘really did’ like it). Well, I ended up getting A+’s in all of them, and made the decision to revamp my old plans. I’m now a Psych (Science) Major, and a Biology Minor.

      After taking Psych 275 – Brain and Behavior, I know that I have an affinity for Neuroscience. (I’ve decided that Neurology is the field that I want to focus on in med school)

      ——–

      I have a few friends in Computer Science. They tell me, at times, it’s very challenging, but very rewarding. If you end up majoring in it, remember to still take all of your med school prereqs!

      ——–

      Moral: you never know what you’re going to end up liking. Keep all of your options open! I have a friend that wants to get into med school, who, very recently, decided to switch from his major in Biological Sciences to the Faculty of Arts, but that’s a story for another day.

  3. Ray
    August 31, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Thanks again for all the help, and such detailed responses.

    I was just wondering if you’re still studying for the MCAT, or have you written it already? How did you study for it? Do you use any of those MCAT prep courses (e.g., Kaplan, Princetown Review)? If so, how did you do?

    Incidentally, are you involved in many extracurricular activities? Do you volunteer at hospitals? Or do any type of research?

    Yeah, the thing I worry most about is all the EC’s and volunteer work that has to go with a high GPA + MCAT score for med school. It must be extremely time consuming, and requiring a lot of work, to maintain the GPA, along with other commitments.

    • August 31, 2011 at 11:03 am

      I am actually still studying for the MCAT. I’m planning to write it sometime near the end of the year. I study for it in much the same way as for any other exam/test; that is, I tackle it in methodical chunks. I reviewed chemistry first, then physics, then bio, etc.

      In fact, it’s more like an extended review than anything else. Because the MCAT covers basic undergrad science, I am already familiar with the majority of the material. In light of this, I chose not to enroll in any sort of prep course, as I believe that I can cover the material more effectively on my own.

      My study sources include: “Kaplan MCAT Premeir 2011-2012” ; “Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning” ; “The Official Guide To The MCAT Exam, by AAMC” ; and lastly, the MCAT practice tests, which can be purchased online from the AAMC.

      ——–

      As far as EC’s are concerned, I seem to have a modest list of them, but not nearly as much as some people. I elected to do ‘very little’ EC’s during first year, because I wanted to focus primarily on ‘adjusting’ to University life.

      I did, however, start to get more ‘involved’ as time progressed.

      ——–

      Sports: I volunteer at many athletic events (mostly races); I participate in many races as well; I’m captain of my street hockey team.

      ——–

      Leadership:

      Mentor for the Undergraduate Psychology Association (UPA)
      (http://www.ualberta.ca/~upa/)

      Mentor for the Faculty of Science
      (http://www.science.ualberta.ca/UndergraduateStudents/ResourcesforStudents/StudentMentorProgram.aspx)

      CCIS Ambassador
      (http://www.science.ualberta.ca/CCIS.aspx)

      ——–

      Awards:

      Aside from the regular entrance scholarships, I haven’t gotten much in the form of awards.

      Some running medals; Two time recipient of a Higher Education Award (Essay Application) – $2000

      ——–

      Research / Publications:

      None so far. (Planning on doing some psych research next summer, hopefully)

      ——–

      Hospital Volunteering:

      None so far. (I do plan on looking into it, though!)

      ——–

      Miscellaneous:

      Dean’s Honor Roll
      (http://www.science.ualberta.ca/UndergraduateStudents/ScholarshipsandAwards.aspx)

      Member of the Golden Key International Honor Society
      (http://www.goldenkey.org)
      (http://www.ualberta.ca/~goldnkey/)

      This blog … Yes, I count this blog as an extracurricular, lol.

      ——–

      Moral: Your grades will open many doors for you. It’s by far the most important determinant, as they are permanent. EC’s and the MCAT score can always be boosted, but grades, sadly, are a different story.

      You’re definitely right when you say that EC’s, the MCAT, and getting good grades are all very time consuming. But don’t worry, you’re a premed, you can handle anything!

  4. Ray
    September 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Ah, I see. Best of luck on your MCAT, whenever you decide to write it. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll do very well, though, considering how excellent your marks are.

    Wednesday September 7th is fast approaching! I’m just trying to get everything ready and in order right now. Trying to catch up on my tv shows and movies, and get as much gaming in as I possibly can. I will sorely miss gaming a lot, lol. With pre-med being so time consuming, I’ll probably not be able to play as much games as I used to.

    Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to more of your blog entries in the future! Thanks again for being so kind and helpful!

    • September 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      No problem! Best of luck with your first year!

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