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Survival Strategy

If I was told 10 years ago that I would be studying 12+ hours daily, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here I am diploma in hand, and it still feels surreal.  I’m here. I did it.  The ceremony will make it official, but I’m a doctor!

Medical school was difficult, and though I never felt like giving up, there were times when I felt overwhelmed. During my clinical years, I was more confident, more comfortable with medicine, and I did well.  However, in Basic Sciences, I was no A student, but success is indeed possible even if you don’t get straight A’s.

The student who struggles in basic sciences may find themselves in situations where they question their ability to advance. My advice is to take a step back and self-evaluate.  Know your abilities; seek help when you need it.  Motivation and self-determination are great principles, but blind determination will not get you far. Fortunately, you have a few options.

If you’re struggling but think you can handle a full course load, ask friends to tutor you, or go to free TA sessions. If you have to pay someone to help you, that payment is pennies compared to the tuition paid after a failed course. Don’t be too proud to accept help – consider this: would it be more embarrassing for people to know that you are being tutored or for them to know that you were academically withdrawn from AUA?

Another consideration is taking a block class ahead of time. You’ll enter your next semester with a lighter course load and more time to devote to tougher classes.  If it’s ¾ through the semester, you can’t drop a class, and you find yourself facing failure in multiple classes, consider the game of chess.  In this game of strategy, you move your most important pieces from point A to point B, and if the pawns are sacrificed in that process, all is not lost. Likewise, if you are in danger of failing 2 courses, re-evaluate and decide which can be saved or sacrificed. I’ve personally experienced this and made it through safely. It’s all about strategy. When it comes to surviving medical school, there are two choices – sink or swim.  Whether we’re Olympic swimmers or doggy-paddlers, as long as we keep swimming, we’ll reach the shore.

by Alberto Marcelin, Class of 2011su