College Prep Advice
I’m gonna send this out to two readers. Dr. Danny Fulks is a College Professor. He asked that I post some stories from my youth. When he sent this request, I had just started to work on this post.
I also send this out to my young blog friend msslightly. I began to write it with her in mind, but after Dr. Fulks wrote in, I thought it would be good to get input from both ends of the spectrum; Professor after years of experience and bright but young student.
So, I send this out to both the Professor and the student.
Somehow I don’t think msslightly needs the advice, but I suspect she will have some new friends in college who might. So msslighlty, if some of ’em run aground tell them to read this first, and then you can help them out. Maybe if I prep them a bit, they will be ready for the teacher.
Before you think I am too self righteous, let me confess my sins first. In high school, I was downright lazy. I did O.K. but was not aware you were supposed to take the books home. Every Friday I left them in locker, and got ’em back out Monday morning. I paid attention in most of my classes, but that was it. It was all girls, guitars, pizzas, and golf.
I was lucky in that I did like to read outside of school, though. My Mom was an English teacher, and she took me to the Public Library every week. I checked out as many as they’d let me get, read ’em all, and go back the next week and repeat the process. This went on for a long time. I guess Mama snuck up on me; I was learning and didn’t know it.
My junior year a man changed my life. It was my Chemistry teacher. He was a young, cool guy fresh out of Carolina. I guess he knew me by reputation because he pulled me aside the first day. “Son,” he said. “I know you think you are smart, and you probably are, but I want you to know if you don’t study in my class you will make an ‘F’.”
I didn’t say much, but he got my attention. To that point I had been the stealth student. I didn’t do anything of substance, but somehow got away with it and never drew any wrath from my parents. My life seemed pretty good, and I didn’t want all that to change. I figured I’d study for the first test, and see what it would take to get by this cat. Part of my problem to that point in life was I had never done any suffering. (still haven’t done much)
Then there was a magical transformation. I made an ‘A’ in a class with a reputation as the toughest one in school. When the Homecoming Queen asked me to come over to her house to help her with Chemistry, I decided being smart might not be such a bad gig. I became at least somewhat of a student. The most important transformation, though, was it became fun to learn.
I still read and study to this day. It isn’t out of obligation; I get plenty of CME hours. It is because I still enjoy it. I could probably get by with less, and my patients would never know the difference, but I would. It is the same with professional musicians. If Darin Aldridge and Wayne Benson never practiced their mandolin again, most folks in the crowd wouldn’t be able to tell, but they would know and would not be satisfied. I promise you they still work at it every day.
When I entered college, it was a rude awakening. Everyone was a student and many were far more practiced than I was. We took a French placement exam in a big auditorium. I has been exceptionally lazy in High School French. The teacher liked my music, and I learned far too little. (It is now a regret, what a beautiful language) When everyone laughed at the jokes told in French, I realized I was in trouble. I tried to catch up, but I was too far behind. I made a ‘C’ and it hurt.
It was a different game in Chemistry, though. I was way ahead of everyone and made ‘A’s’ without fail. When we started out we had hundreds of kids who thought about medical school. By my senior year about 25 of us applied. The ones who went by the wayside were plenty bright and deserved a chance as much as I did. I was just lucky; I had a tough high school Chem teacher, so I had a good background in the very subject that weeded folks out.
It didn’t take long in college before I was a professional student. (It became even more true in med school) I went to class, and after supper sat down to study every night. When we took Organic I would finish my preparation at ten o’clock; just when the others were getting ready to pull an all-nighter.
I’m ashamed to admit it now, but some of that was to psych out the competition. “Damn,” they’d say. “Bibey ain’t even gonna study. SOB went to watch Johnny Carson.” Of course I had already finished. I don’t have a competitive bone left in me, and now I wish I’d done more to help my friends. I think college should be a collaborative and not a competitive effort. I hope it is more like that nowadays.
There was one boy I did help at lot. One night I came through after my night’s study and this fellow was watching Carson. You remember all those old Carnac the Magnificent routines? Hilarious.
Anyway, I noticed my pal was flipping through a book. “Whatcha doing?” I asked.
“Studying. Got an exam in the morning.”
“When did you start?”
“No I’m not. In Jr. College I just read the chapter summaries the night before. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re gonna make an F.”
When he failed, he came to me for advice. “Man I can’t believe it,” he said. “An F. What happened? My Dad is gonna kill me if I don’t get out of here.”
“Brother, you’re in the big leagues here. You gotta follow me wherever I go. If I eat, you eat. If I play golf, you can play golf. But if I study, you study. It’s your only hope.”
It was a proud day when he graduated. I learned a lot of of golf from him too, he was a player.
So, my point? I believe that success belongs to the persistent more than the brilliant. (I made it, huh?) It is the regular routine of daily study that transforms you, not the one all-nighter. It was that way with college, it is that way with music, it is true in golf, and it sure is for a Doc. You want your Family Doc to be boring, steady, and predictable, and to make as few errors as possible. I hope that’s me.
It ain’t a bad strategy for a college student too, but don’t forget to have have some fun. You’re only young once, and I don’t regret all the good times one bit.
More than anything else, my best advice is to go to school for the sheer pleasure of the opportunity to learn. Once I got started, I’ve never quit. My only regret in life was I didn’t catch on to the concept sooner. For a long time, I was just a big kid. In fact, I still am. Now, though, I’m just one who likes to learn.
I hope the College Professor and the student will both chime in. I bet the English Professor and mschili have some good thoughts on this, too. I suspect they all have better perspective than I do on this subject; all that was a long time ago for me.