What it feels like to take the MCAT

The Medical College Admissions Test has long been considered the crucible of medical school. Let’s say it all together now: the MCAT is hard.

Great, now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk about all of the things no one tells you.

Randolph-Macon College has a great early acceptance program with Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Washington Medical School, and Medical College of Virginia. In the spring semester of my sophomore year, I applied for the program with the Medical College of Virginia and was accepted!! That acceptance, of course, was conditional. The program involves a certain number of medical exposure hours, high GPA standards, a list of required classes, and an MCAT score of their determination. DUN DUN DUN. Yes, you read that right. Get the score, or have the acceptance taken away. No pressure here.

I began researching my test prep options and wasn’t too thrilled with what I saw. Classes were upwards of $2,000 and private tutoring was $3,500. I didn’t have a couple extra thousand dollars laying around so I asked for the six book Kaplan set for Christmas. Santa delivered and I had committed to self-studying. I know, I’m absolutely nuts.

I took a full 12-credit hours, but I tried to keep up with the pacing guide I had set for myself. I had to read six chapters a week (one in each book) for 12 weeks in order to stay on track. That was all fine and dandy until I realized reading each chapter could take 2-3 hours. Needless to say, I didn’t have a spare 12-18 hours a week either. I did the best I could to keep up throughout the semester and began studying full-time once school let out.

Quickly, life looked something like this:

You think I’m joking…

If you’re taking the MCAT this summer, here are some things you might want to keep in mind.

  1. Self studying IS possible. There are so many resources available online for free! Kaplan offers free bootcamps and diagnostic tests. The AAMC practice tests are affordable. Amazon has great deals on the content books. Just be honest with yourself, what do you need to do to stay focused?
  2. Do what it takes. I recommend three hours studying, two hours off, then another three hours of studying a day. That means that during your two hour break you can do life things, like laundry and showering. It also means you get to watch excruciating Snapchat videos of your friends having fun at the beach while you sit inside and read.
  3. Try not to agonize over the wait. After you finish your exam, you will have to wait a full 30 days (sometimes more!) before you get your score. In that time, you will want to pull your hair out. Not knowing is so much worse than ripping off the bandaid. Nonetheless, it is out of your control at that point. Take some time off and recover from the stress you just put your body through.

Have you taken the MCAT? What was your experience?

IMG_0941

Advertisements

DIY Spa Party on a College Budget

Who knew that Girl’s Night only gets more fun as you get older?!

For my 21st birthday, I worried about celebrating in a way that would include everyone. Plenty of my friends are not yet 21, so regular 21-year-old-things, like going to the bar, were off of the table. I thought about what 7 year old Laura would want to do and I decided on a grown-up (kind of…) spa party! Here’s how I did it:

img_4053

Menu: This was easy. College kids are basically toddlers. Pizza and an ice cream bar were no brainers. Giant tub of ice cream, Hershey’s syrup, maraschino cherries, chocolate chips, blueberries, & raspberries. For my guests of age, mimosas were a must.

img_4054

Target garland and ice cream cups from the dollar aisle. Sugar Shack donuts in the back were definitely crowd pleasers. 

Face masks: Each guest brought their favorite face mask in addition to the ones I provided which made for a really interesting mix. Make sure you have enough face cloths and access to a bathroom for when these masks need to come off.

img_4051

DIY Sugar Scrubs: At first I was wedded to the idea of making bath bombs, but news flash college dorms don’t have bath tubs, hence the sugar scrub. After face masks, we all sat down to see what the Pinterest rave was all about. I looked at several different recipes and chose a few I thought everyone would like: warm vanilla sugar, coffee, and oatmeal. I also picked up a pack of small, plastic containers from the Dollar Store so my guests could take their creation home with them.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Brown sugar

White sugar

Coconut oil

Old fashioned oats

Ground Coffee

Honey

Vanilla Extract

img_4052

This would be a really easy, cheap party to throw at an apartment or as a sisterhood/recruitment event at your sorority house.

What do you think? Sound like fun?

IMG_0941

 

New Year, Less Wardrobe: The 333 Challenge

In the spirit of a brand new year, I decided to watch a documentary my sister-in-law recommended. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are known as “The Minimalists”  for their crusade to teach people that less is indeed more. Their Netflix documentary “Minimalism” features incredible stories about leaving corporate America and living the real dream. I had heard this term thrown around before. There are new shows about Tiny Houses where families leave behind material goods in exchange for freedom. When you first watch the documentary, you may think this kind of lifestyle is unattainable. Could you throw all of your possessions away and live in an intentionally built camper? I don’t think many of us could. So I turned my attention to something in the documentary that seemed more feasible: The 333 Challenge.

In 2010, Courtney Carver wrote about her journey. For 3 months, she wore the same 33 articles of clothing. This is how she describes the rules of her challenge:

“When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.”

I liked the idea, but I have to agree I was nervous to give it a try. Over the month of January, I was interning and I decided to give it a try. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Getting ready in the morning is so much easier because you’ve eliminated distractions.
  2. NO ONE noticed. Never once did someone say “I thought you wore those boots Tuesday” because the truth is, people are paying way less attention than you think.
  3. I’m a total wimp and could not be successful for three months, so I stuck to one month.
  4. Every day I got to wear my favorite clothes! When choosing 33 items, I chose all of my best pieces.
  5. I only wear the same 1/3 of my closet anyway.

Want to give it a try? Here’s what I recommend (I apologize for the low-quality photos in advance. It was 5:30 am and I was trying not to wake my roommate up) 🙂

  • Balance simple pieces with statement pieces. This black and white striped dress is boring and so are my solid black boots, but a cool cardigan and belt were really easy ways to make this outfit more interesting. FullSizeRender 2.jpg
  • Well-tailored items help balance out more utilitarian pieces. These clunky boots are lined, no slip, snow boots. Not exactly high fashion, but this girl had to get to work somehow. Yet, you almost didn’t notice because the blazer has 3/4 sleeves that add more definition to your fram. The V-neck was a better pick over a higher neckline for the same reason. FullSizeRender 3.jpg
  • Pick seasonally appropriate colors. This eggplant-y color was big this winter so these pants were a good pick. Chunky booties and a neutral, swingy sweater made the bottoms more professional, while the scarf was just a statement piece. This scarf was one of the only patterned pieces I included in my 33 items and I did not regret it. FullSizeRender.jpg

What do you think? Could you do it for a full 3 months?!!

IMG_0941

Planner Planning: Making Your Planner Work for You

Time management is hard. Time management without a planner is impossible. Even with a planner, I found myself struggling to keep up with the little things. An email here and there would slip through the cracks or I would forget an event on campus in which I was interested. I also found I was accomplishing the minimum, but I was never getting ahead. That all changed when I got this Academic Passion Planner.

I’ve had my eye on the Passion Planner for a long time, because of it’s focus on progress. This small, leather-bound book is completely devoted to making you successful. All you have to do is spend 15-30 minutes planning out your direction for the week.

img_3900

Limited Edition Stay Classy Burgundy Academic Passion Planner ’15-’16

Step One: Put in the mandatory events first. For me, that means classes, meetings, or any other recurring commitment.

Step Two: Then, pop down to the bottom of the right hand side or the “Space of Infinite Possibility” and sketch out whatever it is you want to do this week outside of those things. Last week, mine included submit and application for a club on campus, make a new budget spreadsheet, and plan out my new product order for Mary Kay. The beginning of this planner has a great place to devote some time to thinking about your 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, 1 year, and lifetime goals. I plan to do that over Thanksgiving Break when I have some time to really think.

img_3903

Number One Priority: Classes!

Step Three: Pencil in (or highlight, in my case) everything that needs to be done. Don’t go crazy if you don’t know exactly when you want to do something, just jot it down at the bottom of the page so you don’t lose it. Moving on, please excuse my abbreviations, my rushed handwriting, and the fact that I’m neurotic enough to schedule my meals. On a more serious note, highlighting chunks of time really helps me see which classes I’m spending more effort on and which commitments I might be neglecting.

img_3905

This is what last week looked like for me. Maybe I’m excessive?

Step Four: Confession time. The weekly quotes in planners give me something to live for. Sad, I know. This sidebar helps you pinpoint exactly what you want to be working on that week and then keep up with things for which you’re grateful. At the end of the year, you can flip through all of these weeks and relive the memories. Not to mention, under every quote is an action item of some sort that pushes you to try something out of your box (seen in the next photo).

img_3906

Love this opportunity to be grateful. It’s like a highlight reel for your week with a little motivation below.

Step Five: Now, let’s tackle that to-do list. If you’re in college or taking classes, I always put assignments on these lists in chunks. For example, if I have a presentation that also has a written report, I’ll list “research presentation”, “write report”, and “make Powerpoint” as separate items. Yes, the list will be longer, but you get to check things off faster which is super satisfying. Also, if the project is due on Wednesday, “research presentation” and “write report” need to be on the week before. That way you only have to focus on the Powerpoint the week of. You won’t even notice that you’re doing it early, you’ll just be more relaxed. ↑Control = ↓Stress

img_3907

This work/life balance section keeps your two lives separate. Prioritizing also keeps you sane!

Step Six: Take your planner EVERYWHERE. Jot down expenses, rearrange meetings, scribble down a commitment you forgot while you’re in the line at McDonald’s.

img_3901

Never leave the house without: planner, highlighter/pen combo, and sunglasses

As always, thanks for reading! Leave any questions or comments below

IMG_0941

*All opinions are my own and are in no way a paid product endorsement*

J-Term: Pressing Reset

To all of my fellow students lucky enough to have a J-Term, I hope you’re enjoying it! To those of you who have no idea what I mean, J-Term, or January Term, is a shortened semester that only lasts the month of January. At Macon, taking a class is included in your tuition. Our professors manage to shove a whole class into four short weeks and teach about topics that students would never take for an entire semester. Some people have internships. Many study abroad. Everyone loves it!

If often gets the nickname “J-Term, Play Term” (read: only one class = lots of free time). Last year, I took a service-learning course that required an internship, in addition to a class, on top of cultural activities. Whew! This year, on the other hand, has been a breath of fresh air. If there is anything you should know about me, it’s that I cannot relax. Every fiber of my being and every hair on my head itches to be productive. After a rough fall semester, however, I finally slowed down and this is what happened.

House of Cards

Actual Sleep

Too many boxes of Kraft mac and cheese

Finally washed my sheets

Chapters were finished

SNOW DAYS

Despite my birthday (the 25th), January is everyone’s trial month. What makes you feel good? What could you do without? What do you actually want to accomplish this year?
Stay tuned for some goal setting tips for finally getting things done on your own time!

IMG_0941

Fumbling through my First Adult Decision

 

When I decided to go to Randolph-Macon, it was not for the right reasons. It wasn’t for the career center, or the one-on-one attention, or the lab time. It wasn’t about any of the features I’ve come to love, all of that came after. It was totally and completely about the money. I knew my father wouldn’t be paying for college which meant my mother would be carrying twice the burden. My sister and I have shared everything since the day she was born and money was no different. Whatever I chose to spend on my college career, was taken directly from her, as if she wrote the check herself. Now, I have fallen in love with Randolph-Macon and truly believe that fate knew better, but it took time for me to realize that.

So I did what anyone would do. I went where I was blessed enough to get a full-tuition scholarship and found outside scholarship money to cover room and board. And I had made yet another decision for someone else. Growing up in a big family, all choices are made by committee, for the better of the group and I’m completely okay with that. My sister will now, God willing, go to her dream school and I love being a part of that.

This fall, however, I made a life-altering decision completely by myself. No one knew what I had been going through, nor did I care to share. Naturally, when I did what I felt I had to do, I received substantial backlash. That’s the thing about making choices: you have to deal with the consequences. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t irrational. It was, on the other hand, very painful. I know what you’re thinking. If it was that horrendous, and you knew it would be ahead of time, why did you do it? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind. Why did you do it? What were you thinking?

While I won’t disclose the details of my situation, I wanted to share the things I have learned from my first adult decision.

Nothing about life is Type A

If you have a Type A personality (where are all my OCD’ers out there?), you know the solace of order and organization. If you’re like me, before any encounter, you’ve practiced 291834 ways the situation could go and what you would say in each instance. Mentally practicing makes me feel prepared and being prepared makes me feel less anxious. Usually, this is a healthy way to reduce social anxiety by picturing yourself as successful. Yeah, I know, the visualization stuff all sounds a little too holistic for me, also, but it’s been proven to work. In my carefully constructed world, I have a plan for a plan that already was going to plan. I always want my words to be thoughtful, not emotionally driven. Real life does not care about my plan. Certainly, the universe finds a way to create a situation I didn’t think of, wasn’t prepared for.

Rules deserve rewriting

I have rules for just about everything. When to wash my hair. How to comfort an upset friend. The best way to write a paper. Ideal relationship guidelines. Again, my Type A personality betrays me, but it helps me feel like my day-to-day life adheres to some sort of code. As long as my values are at the heart of the rule-making, I feel safer in my comfort zone with a plethora of rules to keep people away. One of my biggest rules: you have one chance. I easily spot faults in others. I’m a very critical person, but I don’t do so in order to ridicule them. It’s like a coach who needs to know the batting averages of his players. I just want to be aware of what makes others tick. As a busy bee, I only have time for a handful of people and those who rub me the wrong way the first encounter typically don’t hear from me again. Harsh, I know. In this experience, I found my saving grace in a thrown away person. At the bottom of my low, I rediscovered a person I had previously written off and found a really special type of comfort in that. Rewrite the rules, just don’t throw out the book.

Gut feelings mean something

I like science because it has data. I like data because it’s impartial. I like impartial because therein lies the truth. ‘Gut feelings’ to me sound like emotion overreaction, or worse a blatant ignorance of wisdom. I attempted to collect ‘data’ in the form of advice from others. I decided if I collected enough advice, a consensus would exist, and that must be the right thing to do. But in the end, I did what I wanted. After all, prior experience counts as data, too. I’ve come to think now that those gut feelings are just a way of your brain telling you what to do without recalling all of the things that led you to that conclusion. A hint, without the pain.  Just make sure that your past is influencing your future in a positive way. Don’t let that one best friend who talked about you ruin friendships for life. That boss that fired you shouldn’t be the reason you don’t pursue another opportunity in the same field. Ask yourself where that gut feeling comes from and listen up.

 

In two and a half weeks, I’ll be 20 years old. I will retire this year knowing that I grew as a person and as an adult.

Good luck adult-ing 🙂

IMG_0941

Restaurant Reviews- The Boathouse, Short Pump Town Center

There is nothing better than a good meal, so on Saturday when I needed a pick-me-up, I grabbed a best friend and my mom and headed to The Boathouse for the first time.

IMG_1267

Atmosphere:

The original location, directly on the James River, set the bar high for atmosphere. This location, however, meets the challenge with it’s raw bar and sushi assortment. My brother’s company, Karn Custom Woodwork, did the design and, of course, I have to brag on that. The booths have the softest brown leather while the large circular tables are surrounded by luxe arm chairs. Blown glass pendant lights hang from the ceiling and  exposed white brick adds a more polished urban look. The front windows roll up, like a garage door, in the summer and make for a posh outdoor patio. The wait staff are attentive, and strive to give you the luxurious experience without the pretentiousness.

 

Food:

This menu has a little something for everyone. Sushi, steak, salads, and excellent seafood. While there oddly isn’t a pasta option, I’d say that the chef does a good job integrating different tastes. We personally sampled the cheese board, spinach crab dip, pie mussels, New York strip steak, pizzkookie, and apple cobbler. Both my mother and my best friends ate appetizers for their meals and were happy with the portions. The New York Strip was well cooked and topped with herb butter and onion rings while sitting on a bed of mashed potatoes and asparagus. It was heavenly to finish all of that with French press coffee and a half-baked chocolate chip cookie dessert and an apple cobbler. Prices are somewhat higher, but a very good value for the product.

 

Overall:

This restaurant is incredibly versatile. Some diners there were dressed for a fancy date night and others were casually enjoying their family time. With an urban, modern interior and a great menu, this restaurant will be on my personal favorite list.

IMG_0941