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Unsolicited Advice For Incoming Students

Discussion in 'Pharmacy' started by owlegrad, Jul 31, 2011.

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  1. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Just some friendly advice from your neighborhood owle. Also, tl;dr.

    It's a roller-coaster. The trick is to enjoy the highs and get through the lows. Adjusting to grad school is ridiculous. Humbling to say the least. What you (generic you) need to remember is that you are not alone. Most people put on a brave face because really who wants to admit how hard it is or how badly they are doing? So don't get down just because you seem to be having a worse time at it than others. Others are suffering at least as much as you. Make friends in your class, they are the only ones who really know what you are going through.

    Some things that I find helpful:

    Stop comparing yourself to your classmates. Nothing good will come of this. Everyone is unique, so don't think about how so-and-so is better than you (or does better than you) at such-and-such. Just focus on doing the best you can.

    Don't tie your sense of self-worth into your academic performance. I had no idea what a large percent of my identity was tied to my grades until I started really struggling. Learn to separate yourself from your grades or make them a small part of your overall self-esteem.

    Aim high, but don't let it get to you when you fail to live up to your expectations. I might be getting repetitive here, but it is important to not let it get to you when are struggling more than you ever have before. It is quite an adjustment to go from being at the top to struggling to swim. Which leads me to my next point:

    Speaking for myself, I never thought that I had an attitude or anything like that, but damn once I started failing behind I learned how I viewed myself. I never really struggled before in work or school and did not appreciate what that experience would be like. You learn a lot about yourself and get a better sense of your own attitudes when you stop being at the top of the pack for the first time. I realized that I really did have an attitude that was tied directly to owning at school and work (unrelated to pharmacy). I think I have done a pretty good job reining it in now (because I am so awesome like that), but that was a very hard thing to go through. You learn to adjust to the new curve and perhaps grow as a person.

    I am not sure if I typed this up for anyone reading or for myself. It was therapeutic typing all that out. Sorry I made it so long, but you were warned at the top!

    Anyone else want to share some advice to the incoming class? Also, if you are an incoming student, feel free to ask me/us anything!
  2. pinksparkly

    pinksparkly

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    This was really helpful. It addressed one of my biggest fears about starting pharmacy school. For the past few years, I have always been at the top of the class. Now I am in school with everyone else who was always at the top of their class.

    I tend to be very competitive. I know that I have to rein it in. Otherwise, I am setting myself up for a) a big fall, and b) to concentrate too much on grades and too little on becoming a good pharmacist.

    I am particularly concerned with how people manage their time - juggling studying with other demands (work, family, activities). I am also wondering what techniques people use to study. I feel like I finally figured out a decent system in undergrad, but I am expecting this to be a whole different ballgame.

    I would love to hear more advice. I always appreciate wisdom from others who have been there, done that.
  3. rxlea

    rxlea Unicorn in training Moderator Emeritus

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    -Try to have a balanced life; too much work and no play creates even more stress for yourself!

    -Don't overdo the EC involvement right away...try to "feel out" what your workload is going to be like before you jump into 5 officer positions.

    -Look for an internship ASAP

    -Don't buy your books before school starts

    -Study smart

    -Be professional

    -Visit your profs as soon as you start experiencing trouble with the material

    -Attend health/patient education fairs; try to get as much "hands on" experience as possible!
    happyBuddha8 likes this.
  4. MissPharmB

    MissPharmB

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    Thanks for this post! It is really encouraging to go in from day one with a realistic perspective.
  5. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Lea's points are all valid. I am pretty sure that Lea is far more accomplished/involved than I am in pharmacy organizations/EC's, so you should really take her advice as far as all that goes.

    I have struggled academically and barely scrapped by. Perhaps I should have prefaced my advice with that disclaimer. :D I do at least have lots of work experience (two jobs) so I am not too worried about that, I just worry about getting through school in the first place.

    As far as time management/studying, learn what works for you. Study groups work well for many people. The trick is finding a balance, imho.

    EDIT: And boy is Lea right about books! What a waste of money!
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  6. crazybob

    crazybob

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    It usually depends on the person though, and how much they want to read up for more information.

    For example, if you have an excellent background in Biochem, you don't need a biochem book, but if not, it can help.

    Borrowing could work, but it might be a hassle.
  7. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Many are available online, in the library, from a friend, or are unnecessary to begin with. I am not saying that they are always a waste, but boy can they be!

    Any more advice for our...friends? :D
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011
  8. Judgment Dragon

    Judgment Dragon

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    Apply for internships right away!
  9. rxlea

    rxlea Unicorn in training Moderator Emeritus

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    I borrowed my books from a second year for this year :smuggrin:

    Seriously though...you may not need all the books. Figure out which ones you really need before you run to the bookstore; it could save you a lot of money.
  10. Swishers

    Swishers

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    Do you think I could get a pharmacy intern job without ever having been a pharmacy tech?
  11. Trent Steele

    Trent Steele benadryl brownies

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    Best advice:

    Start networking immediately with other students and professors. If you are an introvert you can now reinvent yourself and become an extrovert. Nobody knows you, its clean slate. Take advantage and learn to start talking to people. Those that didn't grasp this concept are now working for a chain in Timbuktu, Whothehellknows or are unemployed.

    Networking is the most important thing in pharmacy school. I don't care if you were president of every club on campus with a 4.0, the guy that knows someone with influence on a potential employer gets the job over the bookworm. This mostly goes for therapeutics profs since they work in the field; and with this market, you had better damn well know somebody. Its very possible that one of your classmates may be hiring for a job you want someday. You don't have to be bff with everyone, but having a positive rep with your peers is vital. Social grace trumps academic expertise everytime. You need much more than a pulse and a pharmD to get a job in today's workforce.

    Make sure to give yourself at minimum 3 days to study for each exam, last night cramming doesn't work in professional school. You will learn this whether you want to believe it or not.

    Lastly, manage your time well and you can have a very enriching social life. Go out as much as possible! If your 8 am lecture is the history of pharmacy or management or some other crap, skip it and go out anyways. Most classes are overrated. You are fortunate to be in college for an additional 3 years, Enjoy it!

    ps: Textbooks are for suckers. The library has them on reserve if you really really need them.
  12. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Yes, I did. :thumbup:
  13. crazybob

    crazybob

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    Yes. But your first few weeks of working might be a fairly difficult transition to make. I started as an intern with no tech experience.

    You'll pick up on a lot of things very quickly. Then after that, it's just knowing the common names for drugs, the customers, and the state laws.

    I meant common names as in "purple pill," "blue pill," "the bars," etc.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011
  14. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    I would add: the pharmacists. My day is radically different depending on what pharmacist I am working with. To a lesser extent there is also getting to know the techs.

    It is tough at first because you know nothing. But with time it gets a lot better.
  15. rxlea

    rxlea Unicorn in training Moderator Emeritus

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    Mike was right. One of the most important things (if not the most important) I did on my IPPE rotation was go out with one the pharmacists after my last day to play pool and have a beer :)

    Networking > 4.0 GPA
  16. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    This is something I rarely hear discussed and it is one of the biggest truths regarding graduate school. It is a major adjustment and no one wants to talk about it (of course). The truth is you will adjust, but I hope that being aware of it in advance will help make the adjustment easier. It is entirely possible that advance knowledge will be no help and it may just be one of those things you have to experience for yourself.

    It's not all bad though! You can make great friends, have some fun, learn some stuff, etc. Don't think that it is all struggling and growing as a person. :laugh:
  17. sweetdaises2000

    sweetdaises2000

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    Great Read Owl. Just reminded me of some of the things I've been trying to tell myself before I start my d-school journey. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees things this way. Thanks for the reflective thoughts.:)
  18. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    I am glad your status says dental, because I came up with an entirely different meaning to d-school!

    Glad you like my thread. Good Luck in grad school my fellow future healthcare professional! :luck:
  19. RockHardIce

    RockHardIce Returned to Stock

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    How much work is considered too much? My retail employer is demanding I tech/intern at least 3 shifts ~ 21-22 hrs/wk
  20. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    That would be too much for me. It all depends on what you can handle though as well as what your priorities are.
  21. IndustryPharmD

    IndustryPharmD Here to Help SDN Advisor

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    1) Don't sweat the small stuff. If you don't think you will remember it in all the gory detail five years from now - it's really not that important.

    2) Get a part-time pharmacy related job ASAP. It will help in more ways than one.

    3) Do get involved with pharmacy organizations once you figure out which one(s) might fit you best. Not for beefing up your resume, but because it helps develop useful skills, from public speaking to fundraising to networking.

    4) Try to get out of your comfort zone and explore different things. You never know what you might discover about yourself and your chosen profession.

    On the less global scale:

    - if you are assigned reading before class, try to at least scan through it
    - don't be afraid to talk in class, discussion is what actually makes it learning
    - even if you are not prepared for class, don't stare at the professor with the deer-in-the-headlights look
    - do use your faculty advisor - he/she is there for a reason and really can help guide you to whatever you think you want to do in life
    - do try to become known to your professors - it will help when it comes down to getting letters of recommendation, finding internships, etc.
    - if you don't think something is right - don't be afraid to stand up for yourself
    - there may be no stupid questions, but some questions will make your classmates hate you, especially if you ask five questions every single class

    And enjoy all the free time you will have. Because once you get out and start working full-time, you will have less of it.
  22. Rockinacoustic

    Rockinacoustic

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    Really? I look forward to days where I can come home from work and not have to worry about an exam or presentation to prepare for.
  23. type b pharmD

    type b pharmD

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    Decide *early* if you want to do a residency. If yes, study your Ass off. If no, have as much fun as you can, get good internships, and forget about grades because as long as you know what you need to know to be good at whatever field you are aiming at, they do not matter. Hint, learning the difference between what is important in real life and what relates to your strategy for cramming/gaming the exams should be your primary task no matter which route you are headed for. Once you fully realize the truth about school , you will have won and it will be easy.

    Also, showing up for class is overrated. I think I went twice last year and still pulled acceptable grades and got several intern jobs instead. For me, it was a *much* more efficient use of time to teach myself the material. If you are decent at self motivation and organizing info, you can probably free up 10-20 hours per week by staying home from class, avoiding the commute, optimizing your sleep schedule, and teaching yourself from the PowerPoint. More importantly, it leaves time for networking and internships. Just make sure you write down on the calendar which days you actually have to show up, or things can turn to **** real fast.

    Another tip, try real hard to score well in the beginning of each semester , that way you will have wiggle room to blow off an exam or quiz or final later on. One thing that sucks hard is partying too much early in the semester and having to *scramble* and claw your grades back up later. Think hard about which quiz or exam you want to take as your "freebie" if they are available.
    One last thing, read the rubric for grades. People worry wayyyy too much about quizzes. In our case,numerically each one may only be worth 0.8% of your semester grade , which makes them not even worth studying for. Think of them like a practice run and free preview for the exam.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  24. 297point1

    297point1 5 years of this $#!+?

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    Oh so true, in pharmacy school and in life. I didn't come around to this way of thinking until after I graduated, but have been a less stressful person since I did.

    Great post Owle- a tip of the top hat to you!
  25. ucrx

    ucrx

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    That depends on you. How quick do you learn? How well do you manage your time? Are you good at taking tests? I did it, but I pick up concepts easily and studying was mostly focused on details so that helped free up some extra time for work. It would also be difficult (but not impossible) to do if you have any leadership positions, although that is unlikely as a P1.
  26. ucrx

    ucrx

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    :laugh: I HATED when people stopped class for 5 minutes to ask a million questions. If you really don't get it, or have some obscure question for your own curiosity, wait until after class or office hours to ask it. Don't waste all of our time.

    Many of our professors hated it too. We had a student-faculty forum every year at my school, and this came up a few times. Too many questions can make the rest of the class distracted, and sometimes it is hard to get everyone back on track. There isn't a ton of extra time built in for millions of questions in every lecture- sometimes there is a lot of material to cover. If an important question comes up after class or several students ask the same thing, many professors (or at least the good ones) will clarify the information for the whole class in the next lecture or by email. And sometimes the professors felt like they were being challenged by students. (They probably were. Either way, nobody wants to give the impression that they think they're smarter than the professor. It certainly won't help you in the long run.)

    Some additional advice:
    1. Professors talk to each other. So do preceptors. Pharmacy is generally a small world. Don't burn your bridges.
    2. Get an internship as soon as you can. Even if you don't like it, you have some experience and you learned one area of pharmacy you don't want to work in.
    3. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Be social, spend time with family, or whatever else. It helps with stress and makes life much more enjoyable.
    4. Join organizations you're actually interested in. You won't feel like you're wasting your time while at meetings or events if you want to be there.
  27. xiphoid2010

    xiphoid2010

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    I'm a firm believer of hard work. Forget what you had in undergrad, forget partying, forget the football games. The old Chinese saying goes "first the bitterness, then comes the sweetness".

    Spend the day focus in class, then study what you learned the same day, workout to stay in shape, take part in professional organizations, intern 16-20 hours a week. Never take the easy/slack off way out, and never stop until you gave your best. It helps if you find a gf/bf that shares your vision and values.
  28. PumpkinSmasher

    PumpkinSmasher Pharmacist

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    You do not sound fun. :rolleyes: Miss football games, festivals and parties.?...lame!
  29. Quiksilver

    Quiksilver Secundum Artem PharmD

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    This is the best advice out of all so far in this thread. I'll add to get involved in research.

    There's a saying I live by... there are always two roads in life, one is easy and that is its only reward.
  30. LazyMooch

    LazyMooch

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    Couldn't agree more. Theres a big gap between school and reality hahaha.
  31. AverageBro

    AverageBro

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    Great info! I'm sure I'll have to experience some things on my own just like undergrad but thanks for the advice!
  32. type b pharmD

    type b pharmD

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    What's sad is that so many people dont realize this and get their heads stuck in the books and in learning all of the useless trivia. These are the people freaking out before each exam, freaking out when they did not get A's, and freaking out about being overwhelmed in general. I feel so bad for their high stress levels and the fact they are more or less wasting their youth stressing out about something that has little real world relevance.

    Once you realize that pharmacy school and the real world bear only a small resemblance to each other, the pressure stops. Incoming students need to realize more than anything else that the amount of pressure they feel is directly under their control.

    Pharmacy school represents your last 3 years of being able to stay up all night, control your own schedule and life, and spend your time the way you want to. If you're not doing a residency, there's no reason to memorize all of the useless trivia. Learn how the tests are formatted, learn what to study enough to pass, and then learn what to remember for real life (you'll find this out from your preceptors and introductory rotations), and you will be golden.

    Just dont let your gpa drop below a 2.5 :thumbup:

    And again, if you want a residency, then by all means sit in front of the books 24/7 because you better have that 3.5+ gpa and be able to jump through all of those academic hoops to get one.

    Life is short. No regrets!
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011
  33. Trent Steele

    Trent Steele benadryl brownies

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    I agree with the second paragraph but the first is an epic fail;

    most classes are optional except medchem and therapeutics... and the latter for most, though I found our lecturers stimulating and able to answer any ?'s so i liked going to them.
  34. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Hurpffh. I wasn't aware it was a contest. :mad:



    jk
  35. xiphoid2010

    xiphoid2010

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    There isn't a single best way to achieve your goals. Every one can feel free to promote their owm method. I advocate the method that has served us Asians well for ages: get ahead by working harder than others. This is not fun or easy, but it will consistantly put you ahead of most.
  36. R2pharmD2

    R2pharmD2 Moderator Emeritus

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    Agreed. Some people don't want to hear this, but there is typically a high correlation between how hard a person works and how successful they are. It's important to have some time for yourself to avoid burnout, but that doesn't mean partying every weekend.
  37. nafcillin

    nafcillin

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    best advice I can give is that life isn't all about school and work. I have felt a lot happier since I have taken that intense pressure off myself and tried to enhance other areas of my life rather than trying to be the best pharmacist ever.
  38. Ackj

    Ackj

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    I'm finding this to be very true right now on rotation. The pharmacists I've worked with have said to me "I bet you're at the top of your class," but that is definitely not the case. I know the big picture, the most important details, and where to find the rest. No sense wasting memory space on trivial details. That exam you're pulling your hair out studying for will be the only time you'll have to regurgitate that fact, so no reason to sweat it. I may only have a 3.0 gpa, but I'm not stressed out and my preceptors find me knowledgeable.
  39. pinksparkly

    pinksparkly

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    I have been surprised at the number of people in this thread (and on this forum in general) that say that they do not attend class. Is this really the norm?

    In undergrad, I found that the more I showed up for class, the better my grade was. It's highly possible that this is just what works for me (and I will probably continue making class a priority), but I am curious if there is something inherently different about pharmacy school that makes class attendance not that valuable.
  40. spacecowgirl

    spacecowgirl brr

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    I completely disagree with this. I think it's best to approach it as though you'll do a residency. People who go in with the strictly retail mentality are the ones that come on SDN after a year of working and b*tch nonstop about how much retail sucks, their life sucks, pharmacy sucks, want to go back and do a residency, etc, etc.

    It's much better to approach school as though you will be doing a residency because making up for poor grades and lack of participation in your P3 year is pretty damn hard. When you have a lot of credits, it's hard to budge a GPA. If you haven't shown up to class, it's hard to build rapport with a professor who might open doors for you.

    I'm glad I spent a short couple of years working hard to create a path for me to be happy in my job for the next 35 years. I have a job I love that is challenging, fun and has room for growth.

    Short term sacrifice for long-term gain. No different than anything else in life, folks.
    oldstock likes this.
  41. nafcillin

    nafcillin

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    ^
    amen to that! don't write it off right away and then slack throughout pharm school. That limits your options, which is not a good idea.
  42. rxlea

    rxlea Unicorn in training Moderator Emeritus

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    SDN Published Author NCPA hSDN Member hSDN Alumni SDN 5+ Year Member
    No there is nothing inherently different. Personally, I think going to class is valuable. I think I learn a lot more by being there because of discussion and the questions that people ask. It is also fun (IMHO). Most of my classmates go to class. During lunch people hang out together. Also, by going to class, I get to know my profs a lot better and I think that is important for future LORs for residency and just networking in general. The people who just stay at home and study and never come around are "forgotten" so to speak. If they were to ever run for leadership positions, I am sure they would have an uphill battle come voting because nobody knows them!
    oldstock likes this.
  43. type b pharmD

    type b pharmD

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    Three things.

    1. The nature of the material. Pharmacy school consists largely of knowing a small bit of knowledge about a large number of things. It is broad, rather than deep, in many cases , so oftentimes you do not need help to understand the material, it can be memorized on your own. Unlike say a liberal arts class or high level basic science where there is a lot to try to 'figure out' which attendance could seriously help.

    2. At my school at least, curricula are extremely standardized. All courses are taught to the same standards and write their exams and quizzes very much the same. So as a student I don't need to attend to try to 'figure out' the course structure and guess what the professor will be like on an exam.

    3. Many health sciences schools and pharmacy schools have invested heavily in lecture recording technology and in course websites such as blackboard. All of my school's lectures are videotaped and archived online. Any concept that I don't understand i can just reference the video and PowerPoint. For particularly challenging classes I will watch all of the recorded lectures.

    It's very different than undergrad in many ways. Start by employing the tactics you used in undergrad but keep a *very* open mind and be ready to make many changes as necessary with regard to optimizing your study skills for the new paradigm you're presented with.
  44. Greekmeek

    Greekmeek

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    Thanks owlegrad! Well said...very nice post. I'll try to keep all this in mind during my first year.
  45. spacecowgirl

    spacecowgirl brr

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    Regarding class attendance, I'm not a very self-motivated person. Going to class helped me stay on task vs my predisposition to procrastinate. And for the reasons Lea mentioned. I'm normally not a group-study person, however having friends in my class to study certain topics with helped me immensely. Not to mention, it's nice to know the people you'll be on rotation with and your fellow interns at work. Since I had 4 years of undergrad, I mostly skipped the social aspects of pharmacy school - been there, done that. But it's stupid to completely isolate yourself. Doesn't have to be one extreme or the other.
  46. ucrx

    ucrx

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    Doing that would have given me a mental breakdown. I took time for parties, football games, and some days sitting around doing nothing. I still managed to do well in school, be involved (with leadership positions), intern, and get a residency in the end. I don't think I could have done all of that without taking time to have fun, and I think pharmacy school was some of the best years of my life so far.

    For those starting school now, figure out what works for you. I still think everyone should take some time for something other than pharmacy (really, who wants to work with someone whose only interest is pharmacy?) but figure out the balance that you need to be happy and reach your goals.

    Everyone has different priorities.
  47. PumpkinSmasher

    PumpkinSmasher Pharmacist

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    :thumbup:
  48. IndustryPharmD

    IndustryPharmD Here to Help SDN Advisor

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    I personally never skipped class unless it was a worthless undergrad class like sociology. I would rather listen to the lecture than try to read the book and fall asleep after every page. Besides, my auditory memory is somewhat better than my visual memory, especially for things I don't particularly care for (and I found pharmacy school rather boring). Because I always went to class, I never studied outside of class other than read through my notes the night before. So I put a lot less time and effort than someone doing self-study and got almost all As.

    The real value of going to class is in the discussion, but unfortunately a lot of the time teaching just becomes reading the slides. Often it is the fault of the professor, but sometimes it is the fault of the students. If any attempts at having a meaningful conversation turn into a hundred pairs of scared eyes pleading "don't call on me!" staring back at the professor, it's very hard not to give up and just read the slides, bag the paycheck, and lament the current crop of students. And hope that next one will be better, if you aren't completely jaded yet.

    I am personally against mandatory attendance policy. I would rather not have those dead bodies in the room (and they probably would have preferred skipping class, too). I could have covered more material and added more practical, interesting things if the only people present were those who actually wanted to be there. It's like anything mandatory in education - drags down the best, and doesn't help the worst anyway.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  49. xiphoid2010

    xiphoid2010

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    I will admit my method isn't for everyone, but the workload is certainly easily managable, and was a cake walk compared to my residency workload. And yes, there is still plenty of time to unwind during the numrous holidays and breaks, far more than any real job. I work hard while the school is on and enjoy life when it won't affect my grade and future. Pharmacy school was also the best days of my life. I love learning as much as I could, and met my wonderful wife in the process, couldn't have hoped for more.

    Advantages of Toughing it out:
    1. greater depth of understanding, GPA, internship experience, leadership. Keep options open and put you ahead of your classmates when it's time to compete.

    2. Less student loans. Great GPA gets you scholarship $, internship pays for the living cost, less partying and games cuts down on expenditures.

    3. Time management skills and self-disipline. Both are extremely useful in life, residency or not.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2011
    oldstock likes this.
  50. 74777

    74777

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    SDN 2+ Year Member
    Hmm... I usually earned the highest grades in the classes I took -- literally. For example, in one of my general chemistry classes I ranked second out of a class of roughly 600 students at a respectable university. In my calculus class (for engineering majors), my professor congratulated me face-to-face for attaining the highest overall grade at the end of the quarter. In biology, I was emailed by one of my professors, who let me know that I had the highest grade in his class. These weren't the only instances.

    Wouldn't it make sense for it to be easier to be at the top of your class in pharmacy school? In undergraduate classes, you're competing with some of the most competitive students out there -- pre-medical, engineering, etc. With all due respect to pre-pharmacy students, in pharmacy school those die-hard competitive students are gone, for the most part! I actually was ready to apply to medical school because I was confident in my academics, but medicine is not the same as pharmacy.

    On average, the performance of students as a whole will be better in pharmacy school.

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