MCATs and other Standardized Tests

Ask any pre-med what they believe is the hardest part in becoming a doctor. Some might say maintaining a high GPA. Others might say conducting an excellent interview. But I think the one thing that every pre-med fears the most is the MCAT!!

The MCAT, also known as the Medical College Admission Test, is a required examination for any student pursuing medical school (or related graduate schools: apparently podiatry schools also requires MCATS). It is an 8 hour exam that covers biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and much more!!! After months of preparation, I finally took my MCAT this month and am so glad to be over with it!!

Now you might be wondering why I might be writing about an examination that only really pertains to pre-medical students. The truth is I am not really going to be talking about the MCAT particularly (also because AMCAS forbids I discuss about the content of my exam with anyone else). The MCAT is one of the many types of exams that so many students take near the end of their college careers. To name a few, students find themselves takings PCAT, DAT, GRE, LSAT, and OAT just to name a few (feel free to look up those exams and see why would one need to take them. In this blog post I wanted to talk about the general preparation and training one should take in order to successfully face these standard examinations.

  1. Reserve the time! The thing about these exams is that they require large amounts of time to study for. Since they usually contain large quantities of information tested, it is of utmost importance that you plan the upcoming months/semester so that you can maximize the time spent preparing for such exams. Personally, I decided to take a relatively lighter Fall semester so I could concentrate my time on the MCAT instead of school work. 
  2. Make some sacrifices. You are going to realize real quickly that you are going to have a little-to-none social life. That means you probably will have to skip out from parties and social events. But that’s the thing about time management. You need to rank your responsibilities and duties and figure out what requires the most of your time.
  3. Figure out a study schedule! Now while it may be simple to say that you are going to study for the MCAT for the next 3 months, it’s important to figure out how you plan to study. Now for some people, a class or lecture is the best way for them to learn. Today they are many well-known test preparation companies out there to help you. However, if you learn best by yourself, that’s also fine! But make sure to stay focused since no one will be holding you hand or pushing you forward if you self study.
  4. Find resources. Thanks to the World Wide Web (and Reddit lol), there are so many free resources just a click away. A lot of these resources have helped tons of students before and it may as well help you.
  5. Stay healthy! Studying for an important exam isn’t just study study study all day long lol! You need to keep yourself active as well. Proper nutrition also goes a long way. Studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can play a major role in preparing for standard examinations. You have higher stamina and greater endurance for hour long sections. 
  6. Practice Practice Practice! A lot of testing companies as well as private test preparation companies have plenty of practice exams or old real exams available for you to use. Utilize these in order to keep track of how you are doing.

The moment you exit your exam realizing that you don’t have to worry about it anymore is such an amazing feeling (I am literally so relieved I don’t have to study 8 hours a day for MCATs lol). And even if it might have not went so well, there is always a chance for surprising good news when you get your results back. But worst case scenario, don’t give up if things don’t work out. If your passion for the field/profession is strong, there is always hope that you can do it!!

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Snow and the Holidays!!!!

My favorite part of winter is finally here!!! And no it’s not the frigid temperatures. It’s the….SNOW!!! Ever since I was young, I love snow. I used to always go out with my family and friends and build snowmen and have snowball fights. And the best part was winter used to last longer on my front lawn because the sun was never able shine on it haha! So while the rest of my neighborhood have their grass and trees nice and dry, my house is still in that winter wonderland phase lol!

The one thing I think I really love about snow is how much it lights up the environment. Even at night, the light reflection off the snow causes your surroundings to be brighter than usual. This is perfect for this time of year especially when the days are shorter. Lol you can probably tell I am not a fan of daylight savings, especially when the day ends at only 5pm!! (seriously I enter my 4:40 pm class with lots of light outside and afterwards I come outside to nighttime. And I still have 2 more classes left for the day!! I feel going to bed now!!!)

But now that I think about it, besides brightening up the surroundings a little, another main reason I love the snow is because of the holiday season it usually brings along with it. Around this time of year (since the past 10+ years lol), you can find me watching on Freeform (or ABC Family when it used to be called that) the 25 Days of Christmas Movies Season. The two movies I think I always watch every year is Elf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Polar Express.

Along with fun and festive movies, I always enjoy the amazing lights and decorations on people’s houses everywhere. New Jersey folks do a splendid job! But nothing ever beats going to NYC and seeing the wonderful lights and the tree! My friends and I went a few years ago and that was honestly one of my favorite moments with them, besides the part where I led them in the wrong direction for a couple of blocks lol (but that is another story).

I guess, even though I am going to be 21 soon, I still have that childlike self inside me. The things that bring young kids joy such as snow and festive lights and classic movies still bring the same joy and happiness to me. But, unlike when I was a kid, I guess only few differences is now I have to shovel the snow instead of playing. And don’t get me started on driving in the snow….THE WORST!! (Speaking of which, please read up on some Winter Commuter Tips blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago).

Well, it has been a great Fall semester and I hope you have a wonderful and well-deserved winter break. Even though we get a break from school, always try to stay productive and use your time wisely. As for me, I am going to be spending 10+ hours everyday studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) I will be taking next month. Wish me luck!! And finally remember to always stay safe and push your friends into snow piles when they are least expecting it lol!! See you in the new year!

Winter Commuter Tips – Safety

Here in New Jersey (and I guess most of the Northeast region), the long, cold winter months are almost upon us. And while some weather websites are predicting a warm winter (please, oh please), we commuters need to prepare for these cold and shivering car rides we are about to face. These colder months, there are many risks that we need to be careful of. So here are a few tips that have helped me over the years:

  1. Start your car 10-15 min before you leave home. There is no worse feeling than sitting in a freezing car (okay maybe there are worse; I definitely would not want to be sitting in a car that just rear ended a police car). I have found out from many winters that 10-15 min is the optimal time of starting your car and heating it up before you leave.
  2. Pack a windshield de-icer and a snow brush. These come especially in handy when after a long day’s work at school, you come to the parking lot to find your car buried in snow and ice. Yeah you can use your hands…if you want to freeze them off!!
  3. Pack jumper cables or a jump starter. While at Rutgers, we are very lucky that the RUPD can come and jump-start your car if needed. But when you are off-campus, jumper cables or a jump starter will save you in the most unexpected times!
  4. Have enough gas! I admit I am one of those people who fill up the gas when I have only 5-10 miles left till empty. But in the winter, I try to make sure I have enough gas at all times. You do not want to experience pushing your car to the gas station in freezing temperatures!!!
  5. Always wear winter/ rain clothing or keep them in your car. Again I am one of those people who step out of my house at 1pm and say “Ah today is a warm day it seems. Don’t need my heavy jacket”. And then I find myself shivering to the bone at 6pm lolol. Learn from my mistake; pack warm clothing!!                             
  6. Always have a support system. It’s never a bad idea to let family or friends know that you are leaving school or home in bad weather. If anything goes wrong and you don’t have any communication (a dead phone for example), they will know something is wrong if they don’t hear from you.

I am really hoping we don’t have a horrible winter. A few inches snow here and there and cool weather I don’t mind. That’s my favorite kind of weather. But please, no below  zero temperatures and black ice (every commuter’s worst nightmare). After checking some more weather sites, it seems we will have a warmer winter than usual. But always keep these tips in mind whether you are facing snow, rain, or cold weather. And remember always keep your safety in mind. If you think you are having a hard time driving, just pull over and relax. Tensed driving can lead to worse problems.

Managing your Life

So if you remember from my last post, I talked about how junior year is when responsibilities increase and life starts feeling more “adult” like. Well these past few weeks, all those responsibilities started to quickly and quietly pile and pile up! From exams to managing an organization to scheduling all my other extracurricular activities, I started to get real swamped with too many deadlines and things to complete. Luckily today I finally finished most of the major tasks in my calendar. But I realized a lot of things especially about time management that we need to keep in mind so we don’t go crazy.

  1. Just breathe! Sometimes when we are swamped with so many task and things, we start to spiral into a dark void. When we are in these situations, it sometimes is best to just forget about everything for a minute. Just take one moment to bring yourself to a calm state of mind. A calm mind is a productive mind. Once we are calm and at rest, we can think much more clearly about how to tackle each of our tasks and responsibilities. 
  2. Write everything down. This varies for people. Some like to use a calendar, some use a notebook, some even fill their Mac Dashboard with sticky notes! Whatever the way, just try to get your assignments and deadlines in writing. This way your mind is not busy remembering when and where your tasks and projects are due, but how and why you can and need to complete them.
  3. Prioritize. Sometimes we are going to have too many things to do or so many places we need to be at once. That type of cloning technology is not yet available for consumers yet. So we must sacrifice, compromise, and prioritize. It’s ok to skip that party if you have a essay due. You can hang with your friends anytime if it’s not today. For me for example, I decided to delay drawing up an agenda for one of my events because I had an exam to worry about. You must decide what is important and what is not. You also need to decide what is urgent and what is not.
  4. Don’t let the responsibilities pile up! AKA DON’T PROCRASTINATE! When certain tasks are spaces out nicely, it is easy for us to complete them. But if you allow them to pile and pile up, it will be much harder for you to complete all of them. Especially if you have two exams on the same day; try to start studying for them earlier. 
  5. Treat yourself! One of the best ways I have found in my life to prevent the stress from building up is to frequently let yourself relax and enjoy. Now this doesn’t mean take a break every 10 minutes haha! But if you finish one task, maybe give yourself 20-30 minutes of relaxation. Your stress level will go down and you will feel much more energized when you resume your work again.

And remember Rutgers has a bunch of resources if you are ever feeling down. RU CAPS is a great resource that you can recommend to others. And always remember you can count on your friends and family if you ever need someone to talk to. Life is only as hard as we make it.

Junior Year…A Year Where Things Start to Get Real

I can’t believe it but I am actually a junior! It seems like it was only yesterday I was attending the SASHP Summer kickoff, meeting my peer mentor, and starting to make new college friends. Being a junior in college reminds me of all the shenanigans I dealt with in junior year of high school (which now seems like an eternity ago). But now, entering my third year at Rutgers University, I have begun to realize things are going to be very different than my first two years. New responsibilities and tasks come with being an upperclassman.

One of the most important things being a junior is (in my opinion) finally choosing a major to spend the rest of college studying. Because of the SAS Core, it is easy to delay choosing a major and focusing on the Core in freshman year. Even sophomore year, it is possible to still delay your major and maybe finish up the SAS Core and the SASHP requirements. But junior year is the time that where you need to choose what you want to study and major in college, and ultimately, where you want to go in life. College is almost over and that means real life work is about to begin. Lucky for me, I knew from high school I wanted go into medicine, so I was able to focus on my pre-med requirements as well during my first two years of college. Now finally I decided after 2 years, I am going to major in Genetics!

On the same topic of the future (lol), junior year is also the time when you start thinking of after college plans. For a lot of us, it is starting a full time job somewhere in our desired field. In order to do that, it is important to use the resources that Rutgers offers and obtain valuable internship experience and work experience. A lot of companies want previous experience when they look for new employees.

Another route a lot of us take is graduate school, ranging from medical school to PA school and including master’s and PhD degrees. For those people (including me haha), we need to start studying for our respective standardized exams, including MCAT, DAT, or GRE.

Even though junior year makes you realize college is almost over, don’t forget you still have two years till it’s actually over!! Two years is plenty of time to do things you may never have the chance to do again in the future. You could decide to do a semester abroad or maybe get into any new exciting clubs you missed out in your first two years. Being a junior also has its perks. You have two years of experience to help you in case you get RU Screwed. You know all the secrets on how to get around campus, places to eat, and classes that are fun and interesting. No longer are you a freshman on campus or a “wise fool” (Greek definition of the word Sophomore haha). You are a junior and still have some time before this fun rollercoaster ride called college is over!

 

Road Trip!!

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to go on a nice long road trip with family or friends. Whether you are at the wheel and cruising on the highway at 60 mph or just relaxing in the passenger seat while enjoying the awesome views, road trips are relaxing and fun for all (of course not if you get car sick!).

We all know that the best part of road trips is not the destination, but the journey. Even though people think road trips will be great once they start, they soon come to find themselves bored, tired, and regretting doing this in the first place! So here are a few ways you can make your road trip even better:

  1. Make an awesome playlist! The one thing all road trips have in common are nice energy-filled tunes. Songs that not only keep our adrenaline levels up after hours of tiring amounts of driving, but also that really set the mood of the environment. And of course songs you and your friends can all jam out to (even if you are a bad singer like me lol!).
  2. Pack snacks and water. The last thing you want to hear from your fellow road trip buddies is “I’m hungry”. Make sure to pack tons of healthy snacks and plenty of water for the trip. Not only will they keep your energy up but also soothe hungry passengers!
  3. Road trip games! Ok I take my words back. The LAST thing you want to really hear from anyone is “I’m bored”. There are so many ways you can keep people from falling asleep or buried in their phones. One of my favorites is guessing the make and model of nearby passing cars. So many cars you probably have never heard about. Another favorite is trying to spot unusual licence plates. You never know when someone is from a state all the way across the country from you or a plate that reads “ILV2EAT” lol!
  4. Chargers and gadgets! You do not want to end up in the middle of nowhere with no GPS and a dead phone! Make sure to pack a good GPS gadget unless you car has one and car chargers for you and your friends and family. If you are planning to drive in a very rural area or in the middle of nowhere, it would not hurt to pack a map of the area (assuming you know how to read a map haha!).
  5. Spare tire and car tools! A flat tire will not only delay your road trip adventure but also keep you stuck in one place for some time. It might be worthwhile to finally learn how to change a tire without having to rely on AAA or other tire changing services. It might also be handy to keep the tools to jump your car’s battery if it dies any time. Remember red is positive and black is negative!

Well that is just a few of my tips for anyone who is planning to take a road trip in the future. And if you have never done one before, no worries! You will find out yourself how much fun road trips are when you take your first one!! And of course remember to always stay safe while driving with or without other passengers. Don’t drive when tired, keep caution in hazardous conditions, and never text and drive!! And remember it’s not the destination, but the journey!!!

Spring Bloom…More like AH-CHOOO!!

You know what’s worse than sneezing six times in a row? Sneezing six times in a row with itchy eyes!! (Actually, I lied. Sneezing six times in a row with itchy eyes while trying to drive is the worst!). While the beautiful flowers and gardens amaze most of y’all, I’m here trying not to break the world record for most sneezes.

I have had pollen allergies since I was very young. That means every spring/summer brings about the sneezing and the itchy eyes. Over the years though I have tried to figure out ways that can help me the most. Here they are:

  1. Washing your face/shower: So whenever I’m experiencing bad allergies, I always try to wash my face, especially my eyes, with cold water. This really helps to sooth your eyes and removes any pollen on your face. Also whenever I come back home from an outside activity, I try to take a quick shower to remove all the pollen that might be on my body and hair.
  2. Stay indoors: Yah I know that might be tough. Great weather and sunny days. With school over you probably want to be outside every day. But I try to stay indoors especially when pollen levels are high. The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, and other sites can provide you with daily pollen levels.
  3. Medication: There are a lot of over the counter drugs that can really help with your allergies. My advice is to either ask your doctor for a strong medication that can keep the allergies symptoms low, or try out which over the counter drug works the best for you.
  4. Goggles: While I don’t really recommend it, I have actually worn swimming goggles to keep the pollen out of my eyes. When your eyes itch like mine, you will be asking for the goggles too!!
  5. Rain Dance Rituals: During the spring and summer, rain is your best friend. It washes all that pollen away and you can finally enjoy life! Even though my rain dance rituals have not yet been successful, I still try!!

Well, I hope your allergies don’t affect your daily activities too much. Remember to stay safe while driving if you do start a sneezing marathon! Good luck on finals and enjoy the summer!

To Hold a Heart….Literally

Over spring break, I got the opportunity to visit Rowan University of Osteopathic Medicine, one of the top medical schools in Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey. I am very interested in the school and, after talking to the Dean at Rowan and one of the school ambassadors, I arranged to drive down to Stratford, NJ and check out the school. I met up with both the Dean and the student ambassadors at Rutgers events (now you know the importance of those HPO emails and premed events).  Luckily I had chosen a special day to go visit the school. The student ambassador I was touring with had cadaver lab that day!

After changing into a pair of scrubs (I was already seeing myself as a doctor lol), we went into the lab full of 20-30 cadavers. Most people don’t know that these bodies are donated for the scientific cause by people who have passed away. It is because of their incredible and generous donations that medical school students are able to study with real life human bodies (synthetic bodies are getting very popular nowadays; I definitely recommend that you all look into the technology behind them). Usually, I think most people would be fainting or vomiting because of the smell, but I was completely fine. I guess that’s a good trait for an aspiring doctor.

“Scrubs” is one of my favorite shows lol

That day, the medical students were studying the muscles and nerves in the arm and hands. It was very fascinating stuff. My student ambassador even allowed me to cut through some flesh to see how it really feels like. The first thing the students have to do is remove all the fat and tissue that surrounds the nerves, muscles, and other parts of interest.

Then out of the blue, my student ambassador tells me, “Hey Saad, wanna hold a heart?”. When he placed that organ in my hand, the first thing I thought was that it looks nothing like a heart! But seriously, it was amazing to feel and grasp (the cardiovascular surgeon within me was coming out). Looking at the four chambers, the superior and inferior vena cava, the pulmonary arteries, and the aorta was incredible. Gen Bio 2 was really helpful here!

Afterwards, he showed me some other organs, including the lungs. Out of this experience, my interest and curiosity for the human body increased ten fold. One of the first things we learn in Gen Bio is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The human body is so amazing and so incredible because all our organ systems work together to keep us functioning and alive. It is a wonderful and beautiful interconnected system.

My visit to Rowan included meeting professors, students, and the Dean. I loved the small campus and family-like community. It was a great experience to learn so much and witness so many new things. To all you premeds out there, I highly recommend you take many opportunities in your college career to learn about medicine and explore your interests first before you commit your life to medicine.

The Mind Twisting Puzzle of Sudoku

Recently, I became interested in the simple yet complex game of Sudoku. The simple looking puzzle can really strain the mind to great lengths. While many people think of this as a math game, Sudoku actually doesn’t involve knowing math at all and is mainly a test of your logic. The game of Sudoku is actually very straightforward. You start off with a 9×9 grid that is divided into 9 blocks (each block is a 3×3 grid). Each block must contain a number from one to nine, only once however. Each row and column must also contain a number from one to nice, again, only once.

Pretty simple right? Nope! What makes Sudoku so confusing is that there is only one correct number for each of the 81 boxes for each puzzle you work with –each puzzle already has a few numbers already included. So one mistake and you’re done!

So even though Sudoku might seem hard and confusing, here are some tips that can help crack the puzzle.

  1. Fill in the obvious boxes. If you see a row, column, or block that can only contain one number and must belong in only one space, you can instantly solve that box quickly. This step is very important because you are able to fill in several boxes and therefore lessen the real confusion that will soon begin.
  1. Take notes of possible choices. At this step, you need to scan each box individually and “pencil in” any possible choices for a number. Make sure you keep in mind the rules that every row, block, and column can only contain one of each of the nine digits. After completing this step, you will be able to see if there are any boxes with only one choice.

  1. Work off your notes. Remember how each row, block, and column can only contain one of each digit. Now scan each of these three features of the puzzle and see where there is only one option based off your notes. Usually this step will solve half of you puzzle if you are working with easy to intermediate level puzzles.
  1. Use logic to figure out other tricks. The reason Sudoku is called a logic puzzle and not a math puzzle is because most of the advanced tricks to solve this game are simply logic-based. One of the advanced tricks to help you complete the puzzle is commonly called “Naked pairs”. This basically says if there are two boxes in a row, column, or block that only contain two same digits from your notes, no other box in that respective row, column, or block can contain those two digits. Simple logic. For example, if two boxes in a row are the only ones that contain “2” and “5”, then if one box is “2” the other one must be “5”. Using basic logical thinking, more and more tricks to solve the Sudoku puzzle can be created.

Even though there are many more tricks and tips, you can now solve or nearly solve almost all Sudoku puzzles now. I highly recommend you print the puzzle if you can as most of the time you cannot take notes on your puzzle from your computer or laptop. Also, I recently learned playing Sudoku frequently can help improve brain activity, including memory and keeping you mind “fit”. Now you should be able to impress your parents when they see you completed that annoying Sudoku puzzle in their newspapers.

Now that you have learned these basic skills, test your skills by trying out this Sudoku puzzle.