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Other No motivation, considering taking time off -- what are some...

  1. Oct 18, 2016 #1
    I graduated college back in 2015. I did nothing but party and the bare minimum and luckily managed to finish a degree in sociology; I'm good at writing. I was a chemistry major when I first started college, and I had the intention of going to medical school. However, I screwed up big time by failing so many science courses, repeating, failing again, so I switched into sociology just to graduate.

    I still do want to go medical school, but it'll take some serious time to fix my GPA, and I'll also need to get a masters degree to overcome the mistakes I made in undergrad. I'm currently considering taking time off from school and going into the work field and then coming back again. (I am enrolled in a post-bacc program that I am pulling a mere 1.98 GPA).

    My (sociology) degree isn't very employable, so I'll be stuck working crappy jobs. I'm currently a dish washer. But something in a lab would be nice since I could put it on my resume. I was a volunteer intern in a lab for a summer, but I don't think that experience is enough to get me a job. Plus I wasn't very good at doing the basic calculations for dilutions, etc.

    I was wondering, what are some things to do when you take time off? How do you make sure you'll be back in school again? Anyone take time off and successfully go back to school? I'll like to really learn skills like discipline and bulk up on my science and math skills. Discipline and laziness are why my grades were so bad. And until I correct that, I'll keep failing in school and won't make it into medical school. If I do, I'll fail out. So I'm going to try to force myself to sit down quietly and study for 4hours daily. Something I have NEVER EVER been able to do before.

    What are some everyday practice routines that I can do to improve on my math and science? Like if I tried to teach myself all the pre-med pre-requisites during my time off, how will I not forget it all when I return back to school? I met kids in college who didn't really study because at some point they had learned all the material or at least the basics. How do people not forget that stuff? Any advice / tips?

    Also I would like a masters in chemistry, so I was thinking that I'll try to run through an entire chemistry sequence on MIT open courseware. Or just run through several chem textbooks. Can I teach myself to do well on the chemistry GRE subject test?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Not really, no.

    If I were you, I'd focus on the problem at hand - getting your grades up.
  4. Oct 18, 2016 #3
    Good point. Thanks

    And is the GRE CHEM really that difficult?
  5. Oct 18, 2016 #4


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    First off it's probably worth taking a serious look at the realities that lie ahead of you if you're serious about getting into medical school. I don't know the exact GPA that's going to make you competitive to get into medical school, but it's quite likely north of a 3.7. I know that a graduate degree can mitigate a lower undergraduate GPA somewhat, but it's not going to replace it, and getting into graduate school isn't exactly easy either. I'm not trying to rain on your parade. It's just that from the context of your initial post - having failed out of science classes on multiple occasions and posting a 1.98 GPA in your current program - you have a very large chasm to cross.

    Sitting down and studying for four hours a day isn't something that you can just force yourself to do, in my experience. You have to want to be there in the first place. And that's different from wanting to have been there. On some level, you have to really enjoy the process of learning. The self-discipline comes in when part of you wants to be there and another part is tired, or distracted or wants to do something else. That's when you can force it.

    Kids in university who don't study, are, for the most part an illusion. I think there are some people who like to project that kind of an aura, but if you were to really look into a lot of the lives of the people who appear not to study you'll find it's not true. You'll see that they either (i) have very effective and efficient study habits, (ii) they actually study a lot more than they let on, (iii) they have a lower workload, (iv) they are coasting on a very solid foundation, or (v) they aren't actually doing as well as they let on. Besides, even if students who do very well with little time studying do exist, that doesn't change much for your specific case. You still need to put in the time, develop good habits, figure out how you learn, etc.

    Anyway, to answer your question about what to do with your time off, you might want to consider taking up some kind of a project. This could be a single night course at a community college, or you could learn to program, or build something, etc. That will give you something practical to focus on and potentially something concrete to talk about when anyone asks about the time you took off. Showing someone the app that you developed over the summer will generally carry a lot more weight than telling that same person you watched some YouTube videos.
  6. Oct 19, 2016 #5
    Thanks for the wonderful advice, Choppy!

    I've decided to keep one class and drop everything else that I am enrolled in for this semester. I can potentially do well enough in that class to bring my 1.98 to a 2.0, at least.
    So that ticks the box about taking a night class at a CC.

    It's specifically podiatry, not (traditional) medical, school that I am interested in. Their grades cut-offs are a bit on the lower side, but I'll still need a masters to compensate for my awful undergrad. I'll like to learn some python since I'll only be taking one class now.

    As far as the masters goes, it's a toss up between chemistry and biomedical informatics. The informatics seems like it's more in demand and can serve as a great back up incase medical school doesn't work out.

    My main problems are:

    - distractions: I find that it's hard to really focus when I study; and my phone is a distraction

    - consistency: I'll go about a day or two then take a week off, so I never make any real progress since there are large gaps between my study periods

    - poor study strategy: I feel my methods are letting me down. I spend too much time trying to read everything throughly. If I'm taking a course load of 5 science classes, such a time consuming approach cannot cut it.

    I know for the quantitative and math-heavy classes, it's all about practicing the problems. But classes like biology, which is more qualitative, what do you do? How do you approach those in a faster way?
  7. Oct 19, 2016 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    A 20% duty cycle isn't going to cut it.
  8. Oct 19, 2016 #7


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    Besides the 20% duty cycle that Vanadium 50 mentioned, this has to be addressed, as well. Turn the phone off.
  9. Oct 19, 2016 #8
    I would start by taking the two online ALEKS courses in college Chemistry (1st and 2nd semester General Chemistry). This will be cost effective, and force you to work quantitative problems of the same kind you will see in any other context. You can supplement with Khan Academy and MIT OCW videos and lectures, but ALEKS is really the top end for accountability on problem solving, which is where the real challenges are in most students for Chemistry. If you can't hack the college Chem, you can go back and do their "Prep for College Chemistry" which is equivalent to high school chemistry. Our students have been very successful with it.

    Once you have 90+% of your pies completed in ALEKS General Chemistry, you are likely prepared for Organic Chemistry, which you probably need to take in person somewhere with the labs and all. Two semesters of Organic, on top of 2 semesters of General would at least have you prepared for the Chemistry portions of the MCAT, PCAT, etc. You still would need a few more semesters of college Chemistry (P Chem, Analytical, Inorganic, etc.) to really be ready for the Chemistry GRE.
  10. Oct 19, 2016 #9


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    I can't see how any variation of the road you are on can lead you anywhere but failure. I think if I were in your situation, I'd get out of the academic world entirely and go get a real job for 5+ years. Then if you have matured and still want it, consider going back to it.
  11. Oct 19, 2016 #10
    This. If you lack motivation and discipline, even if by some miracle you make it into medical school, they will totally eat you alive.

    "I'm way behind on my career plan, what should I do with my time off?" is probably not the right question to be asking. I think you either need to *seriously* buckle down, or change your career plan.
  12. Oct 19, 2016 #11


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    I would have to agree with the advise given above.
    In addition, if I were you and had already gotten serious about doing the studying (meaning were motivated enough and disciplined enough), i would do the following:
    1) Learn the basics of the math and chemistry. This should become second nature. (Figuring out dilutions is basic to biological and chemistry lab work.) It is unlikely you will ever get anywhere in biology or medicine without that. It is basic to understanding.
    2) Get a job in a lab, hanging with those kind of people can help motivation. You may also get cheaper prices on courses and better recommendations than you might otherwise.
    3) Get a new set of grades from retaking classes. I like taking classes rather than online courses because of the interaction (in person) with the teachers and other students. Having discussions is often illuminating as well as motivating. Don't give them your old transcripts with your bad grades.
    These are long term steps, not quick and easy. It takes dedication to achieve things.

    Many have. It is not that unusual.

    Personally, I construct an understanding of what's being studied that is internal to me. That is I create my own concepts that I can use to apply to whatever problem or situation I might want to use it for. Being a highly visual person, it is often a graphical kind of concept. Therefore I can recreate answers (or new applications) on the fly by remembering one thing (which I had constructed myself, making it easier to recall). This would be like knowing calculus and using that knowledge to derive equations for physics tests rather than remembering all the boring details of each little formula.
    This approach takes time, but is rewarding in both test results (for me anyway) and for your personal enjoyment of science and the world around you.

    WRT biology studying, I recommend drawing pictures of what you are studying and labeling them with pertinent information from memory (takes several repetitions). If you can do this, you will know the information. The drawing and writing will give you a stronger memory (kinda like muscle memory). This is not necessarily a fast method but it is efficient (at least for me).

    If you are a good writer, you might want to consider working from your strength. If you have a big interest in medical school (but maybe its not really feasible) you could try getting a job writing about medical issues in some way.
  13. Oct 19, 2016 #12
    Well, as far as "real" job goes, my degree won't do much for me. I'm currently clearing minimum wage as a dish washer. Looking into getting a second job. Maybe I'll apply with an employment agency.

    I don't want to be a bum on the street. Just (officially) dropped my classes today and the thought of being trapped forever working as a minimum wage guy makes me sad. I wouldn't find any happiness in life if that was to happen. I'm ready to be serious now by first getting off probabtion, then building a better foundation in math and science.

    (1) I'll start reviewing some algebra tonight then work my way to precalc, calc, and physics?

    (2) I actually was a volunteer intern in a lab this summer. The position--unpaid--is still open, and I could look into getting in touch with the professor about getting back into the lab during winter break; she teaches while school is in session.

    (3) Yes, at this rate I have several semesters of retakes ahead of me.

    (4) A job as a medical writer? How safe, secure is the career outlook? The salary isn't convincing either. I wouldn't be able to pay off my loans and live comfortably. This is part of the reason why medicine appeals to me - job stability and good income!

    Alternate career(s): informatics or analyst

    Thanks for all the advice and suggestions, guys! I've deleted ALL the distracting apps on my phone including live sports update apps. I only have biology to worry about now so I'm not as stressed anymore as before. Hopefully I can pass the class and bring my 1.9 to a 2.0.

    In addition to the biology class, I'll incorporate what y'all suggested about learning the basics through online courses
  14. Oct 19, 2016 #13


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    Nobody with a college degree should be making minimum wage if trying to work full-time, regardless of the degree. Heck, I was an office temp while still in college and even at that made double minimum wage. Any degree is at least worthy of a random office job.
  15. Oct 19, 2016 #14
    How did you land it? And this is actually something I've been looking for. Seriously. I'll love a job where I can dress professionally in a suit and tie
  16. Oct 19, 2016 #15
    I don't want to discourage you from trying to better yourself. But I think what you have to ask yourself is "Why do I think that I will be able to complete four years of medical school and three years of residency *now*, when I had difficulty as an undergraduate *then*? What has changed in me that will enable me to do this?" If you feel as if you have a handle on why, go for it. But if you can't really answer this, think about it some more. Because it is very easy for all of us to repeat old mistakes, but it is much harder for us to start a new path.
  17. Oct 20, 2016 #16


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    russ, you're roughly the same age as me (early 40s) so what you state above was true when we graduated, but that is not the reality of students in the current economy in the US and Canada. A college degree is no guarantor of full-time employment, particularly if the graduate does not have any particular marketable skill.
  18. Oct 20, 2016 #17


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    The recession is over, Statguy. The unemployment rate is as low as it is going to get until discouraged workers stop coming back into the workforce, which is a relatively small effect. If we assume the most useless college degree is still better than an associates degree, that puts the unemployment rate for such people at no worse than 4.7% (as of April) vs a pre-recession low of 3.4%, and still trending down.

    In the last 15 years (again, mostly due to the recession), the percentage of people aged 25-34 who were in the labor force and working full-time jobs is nearly unchanged except for those who have a high school diploma or less and a very slight change for associates degree holders.

    For associates degree holders, that's about 66% in 2014 vs 71% in 2000.

    Again, assuming the most useless bachelor's degree should still be better than an associates degree, the ability for such a person to get a full time job is barely changed in that time period.
  19. Oct 20, 2016 #18


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    If by this you're referring to probation for some kind of criminal offence - this is likely a major source of your problems. Even for people who have completely turned around, a criminal record, even for something minor, is a major hurdle to employment.

    Also - it's best to avoid as much as possible tying happiness to your job. People can be happy doing some of the most menial jobs that exist. Sometimes it's just a matter of perspective.
  20. Oct 20, 2016 #19


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    At the time I wrote my previous post, I was thinking about the unemployment rate in Canada, which as of September was 6.9 or 7%.


    That can be compared to the an unemployment rate of 5.8% in 2007. You can see the trend over the past 5 years in the following link below:


    In Canada, there was a spike in unemployment from 5.8% in 2007 to around 8.7% in 2009 (ostensibly due to the 2008 economic crisis), but then there had been a steady decline in unemployment until 2015. Since 2015, there has been an upward trend in unemployment, due primarily to the collapse in commodity prices such as oil (which Canada's economy relies on more heavily in comparison to the US).

    While Canada is not in a recession, growth has been quite slow (although my hopes are that the Trudeau government's policies can help alleviate this and stimulate further growth). So our perspectives are quite different, as from the evidence from the BLS, employment rates have been considerably more robust in the US.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  21. Oct 20, 2016 #20
    I do not think I could handle it now . I would drop out / fail out. I'm not disciplined and can't sit there for hours studying. My mind just wanders off too frequently. So I need discipline and to learn to keep my mind still. If a school accepted me today to start tomorrow, I would fail out. What needs to change? My attitude towards school and my work. Need to study effectively and consistently. Question is, how? What will it take? What is it that has me unmotivated? Those are questions I'm trying to answer by taking time off. Do I really want to be a doctor or is it the things people are telling me? Stuff like that is what's running through my mind right now. Need to answer those questions.

    The probabtion is academic, not criminal.

    It's impossible not to tie my happiness to my employment. My job / title essentially would be who I am. I don't want to one of those people that retire early, etc. Even if I hit the lottery, I still would want to keep working. So it's important to me what I do for a living. I'm also trying to get into a certain income class, live in a certain area, and never worry about money or employment. Career and finance are the two things I worry about most in life. I don't even care for a wife, child, or fam. Just want a great career and some wealth. So I wouldn't mind going to school til like 33 just to land a nice and well paying career. My perspective won't allow for happiness of I'm stuck with a menial job. What would be the point to life then? All the student loans, etc, just for a blue-collar gig? No point.
  22. Oct 20, 2016 #21


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    But any person is a lot more than his or her job title.

    Most, if not all people need to feel that they are making some kind of important contribution to the world. While that can came from their career, there are a lot of other places it can derive from as well... hobbies, sports, volunteer work, coaching, mentoring, art, philanthropy, caregiving, etc. In fact I suspect a lot of the regular posters on the Physics Forums derive at least some fulfillment just from helping other people understand more about physics.

    There isn't much point in artificially constraining your own happiness. Remember that a career is a product not only of your intrinsic qualities and work ethic, but of many random factors that you have limited or no control over: opportunities available at the time you're looking for them, personal responsibilities, geographic constraints, other peoples' prejudices, your own health, other goals you want to achieve, etc.
  23. Oct 25, 2016 #22
    I did successfully drop out and then go back to school. First time around, I was mostly interested in the fantastic independence that allowed me to drink a lot and try (unsuccessfully) to get laid. I failed out and got a job after a bit. I worked a variety of science associated jobs, QC and lab tech. I was bored out of my skull in my mid-to-late 20's. I had the good fortune to have a job at that time with a 401k that I would be vested in at 5 years, and after I was vested, I quit and used the money on an undergrad degree. I took heavy loads and finished an undergrad in 2 years with a 3.7 GPA.

    I found that there was more motivation when I was older. I also was more used to working 8 hours a day. I was paying for college, which made me take heavy loads (Ohio State University has a strange system where after you are paying for a full load (13 hours of classes?), any further hours are free). I took 25+ hours of classes per semester, took summer semesters, and finished in 7 semesters. If I had been interested in Med School, I would have probably found a way, and my academic history would not have been an issue.

    I saw a comment that resonates, which is that it sounds more like you want to HAVE DONE this stuff, not to DO this stuff. I found that at age 18 (and 19, and 20, and etc) I was only interested in good times. And I came out of High School with enough good classes that Freshman College first semester was review, and I could skip classes ... until I couldn't.

    I've never learned good "study habits". But I can sit and work on a guitar lick for hours. Some things that grab me ... I'll find myself obsessing on, and I don't want to stop for anything. There are always the things we do, because we have to do them, not because we want to do them. Those are unpleasant for everyone. When I had classes like that (my second time around), the most important habit was showing up. Not cutting class. And listening hard that class, asking questions, and doing the boring work required. Those classes were harder for me than, say a math class, where I like the material.

    It was possible for me to quit school, and to return later. That was dropping out in 1979, and going back in 1989, and times are different now ... I think it is harder now. Good luck.
  24. Oct 25, 2016 #23
    Since you like to write, have you considered a degree in English? It would be fairly easy to pick up a second BA and, with some knowledge of science, maybe land a job as a technical writer.

    When I needed to brush up, these 2 books were invaluable:
    The Humongous Book of Algebra Problems, and The Humongous Book of Trigonometry Problems.
    I took 3-4 months on each book, did every single problem in them, and felt worlds better about my math skills.

    As for forgetting things.....back in the 70s, an engineer told me that I'd forget 80% of everything I learned in school. He was so right! I wish I could remember his name....I guess that's lost to the 80% of stuff that I have hopelessly forgotten!
  25. Oct 25, 2016 #24
    Mod note: Member advised that typing in all caps is considered "shouting."
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 26, 2016
  26. Nov 6, 2016 #25
    You will most likely not be accepted to medical school, it is probably time to let go of that dream.

    It is good that you are able to analyse yourself well.

    Take some time off, work and think about what you really want in life. And if you still want to be a doctor you should go for it but know the chances are low.

    4 hours a day is a good target, but 8 hours a day can be realistic for engineers and even more for medical school students.

    If you cannot manage yourself, how can you manage a patients health? Certain professions are very demanding and require high standards of discipline and integrity apart from academic titles, maybe I shouldnt be an engineer because of my mentall illness too. So, be more serious.

    Yes one has to study a lot and really love his subject, I too manage to study 8 hours sometimes but I am really angry afterwards for some reason. Do you have a problem with attention? If so, medical consultations may help.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016
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