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?”

       “Just now.”

        “You’re doomed.”

        “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.”

        “No way.”

        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.

Dr. B

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21 Comments on “College Prep Advice”

  1. […] Learning From Mistake Of Last One Velvet Assassin Review: Lie Back And Think Of England Atari College Prep Advice – 05/25/2009         I’m gonna send this out to two readers.  […]

  2. Billy Says:

    You hit the nail this time. A mature person is a lot like a truck driver. They know the goal and they go steady day in day out. They don’t take short cuts, but they might take a new road because they know their goal.

    Life should be a lot like driving a truck. It has a serious purpose.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Right on. I think all of us need to figure out what we do and do it the best we can.

      I have a favorite patient who retired after many years with the Highway Department. He used to say, “Doc, I don’t know all them big words like you do. But every day I do my best for my job. If I’m going to church and see a stop sign down, I get out of the car and put it back up. I figure if someone don’t run that stop sign and kill some baby riding in the car, I’ve saved a life just as sure as you have with them books. The Lord didn’t give me the ability to do what you do, but I do the best I can at what I was put here for.”

      I thought his perspective was as profound as anything I’d ever read.

      Dr. B

  3. Aw, shucks, Dr. B. You made me smile, having this post dedicated to you. Let me tell you something, though, if you think you’re boring, you’re in for a disappointment – I don’t think anyone could describe such an engaging, entertaining, straightforward but emotional guy a bore.

    I’ve got to agree with you – learning a lot and learning well doesn’t have much to do with brilliance. Let me give an example: I finished high-school math at the highest level here when I was in 10th grade instead of 12th. I was in a special program that did this. Some of the kids there were brilliant – they had an instinct for math and logic. I have the logic, but I’m not brilliant with the number theories. What I AM good at is studying and studying hard, so while some kids breezed pass classes but didn’t do well in tests because they didn’t study, I was the one asking endless questions in class, willing to look dumb in order to understand. I passed my exams with flying colors. I don’t mean to brag, and I sure wasn’t the only one that did this, but I know it was due to determination and good study-sessions that I succeeded. I’ve been out of school a while, and I’m nervous about getting back into a rigerous studying regime, but I’m also extremely excited about it.
    I’ll remember to have fun though, Dr. B. I promise you that. How can I not when I’ll be so near New York City?
    My boyfriend, incidentally, reminds me of you – he passed through high-school making good enough grades but he never enjoyed studying. Suddenly, his first year of university, he’s having fun, he’s doing his homework, he’s enjoying every minute and he’s sad that his semester is almost over. Amazing what boys can do when they put their minds to it, eh? 😛

  4. […] News Sources wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI’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 s […]

  5. drtombibey Says:


    I knew it, I knew it, I knew it! I knew we were kindred spirits. I also knew you were very smart from your writing; just like my daughter is.

    Yeah, sometimes guys are slower to get on board with studies. I am glad your boyfriend has found that joy.

    You will do well, and I look forward to following your journey.

    Dr. B

    • Felix Miller Says:

      That is the best college prep advice I have ever read, Dr. B. I found out the deep truths you have summarized, but it took failure, going to actual work for a few years, then a second try before I completed college.

      The second time around I treated it like a job, clock in early in the morning, finish your work by the end of the day, THEN enjoy yourself. The second go-round at college was the best year of my life.

      Thank you,

      Felix Miller

      • drtombibey Says:


        What you say is so true. It is one reason nowadays med schools do not only take students who are right out of college. Often they opt for students who have worked a while and understand some of the real world.

        Dr. B

    • I knew it too 🙂 Kindred spirits we are! I really am thankful and overwhelmed at the thought of you writing this post partly for me 🙂

      I will definitely share some of my college experience on my blog as well 🙂

      • drtombibey Says:


        I am fascinated that your thought process has so many similarities to an old (O.K. just past middle aged) Doc.

        To think that my brain works somewhat like yours makes me feel like I’ve still got a bit of young’un in me.

        Dr. B

  6. Cindy Carter Says:

    I agree with you all too. I have always enjoyed reading. My grandma was a school teacher in a one room schoolhouse. She helped alot too.

    I am a history buff and had a teacher in high school and one at Furman who made history personal. They told you stories rather than made you remember dates and names.

    I never did well in math but plodded through. I had to just follow the formulas. When I started asking why the formulas worked, I was told that I shouldn’t question just use the formula. So that is what I did.

    So many people don’t think they use math when they do so daily. But, when you ask them to do a math problem, they may not be able to do it. Give them a job to find the area of a room to put down a wood floor and they can do it without an issue.

    And, I put myself through Furman. I only had to answer to me if I did not make the grades. I graduated smack dab in the top third. I graduated cum laude…but it should have been lawdy, lawy, how come….LOL

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms Cindy,

      Furman is a tough school. To work your way through AND finish with honors has my highest respect.

      One or two excellent Professors along the way sure can make a difference, huh?

      Dr. B

  7. […] Read the original post: College Prep Advice « Dr. Tom Bibey's Weblog […]

  8. MandoGrin Says:

    Wonderfully nostalgic and full of horse sense. This is my first time to comment but you can count on my faithful readership in the future. Keep the good medicine coming.

  9. drtombibey Says:


    So good to have you visit. One of my goals with my writing was to find all the mandolin players in the world, and one by one I’m getting there.

    I have found that it’s not just that mandolin players march to a different drummer, they ARE the drummer!

    Dr. B

  10. Danny Fulks Says:

    Liniment-old spelling demon, me, hereby trying to improve my spelling, my “editor” was busy. The thing that took me down many roads was the troublesome pre-teens when I began to think, maybe there is another way, another idea, another side, many sides to the information the teachers and others were trying to pour into our heads, not knowing that our heads could never be filled as the ancients thought. The more knowledge we let in, the more possibilities open up. This became my metier but it is not a comfortable road because it is easier to accept quick truths than it is to exercise our brains and wonder whether the other may be right or even have better points than we were hearing and seeing and feeling. As I went from farmer, bus driver, truck driver, college student, Air Force veteran, school teacher, school principal, college professor, professional writer, father, son, grandfather, brother, colleague, fan, neighbor, friend, I continue to wrestle with knowledge, seek truth through science, experience, mysterious neutrons that live in black holes. Then in reality I walk on new grass through a graveyard and see a tombstone and wonder what that person knew and didn’t leave behind in some way, his thoughts and skills lost forever, the way he dressed a squirrel for supper. Dead: 1921, a big war over, cars coming into the area, farming with horses, a blacksmith who knew hot steel, pounded it into blades, made a hillside plow able to, with the help of a man and a horse, turn the poor dirt of new ground into a soft mass where Stone Mountain watermelons could flourish in deep summer.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Dr. Fulks,

      Without any doubt you have the most interesting career path of any University Prof I know. The only real job I’ve ever had is country Doc.

      I too have wondered so many times about folks in graveyards and what they were like. When I see an old house falling in I always imagine what it might have been like years ago when children were playing in the yard.

      My agent always says we should write to try to find the truth. I have found it to be a convoluted journey also. I have not arrived, but I too continue to seek it out.

      (For my bluegrass folks who read my blog and don’t know, Dr. Fulks (Dan) is University Professor with a true love for bluegrass music. He has written some fine articles for BU, and I especially like the work he has done for Kristin Scott Benson.)

      Dr. B

  11. Mrs. Chili Says:

    We’re trying to impress upon Punkin’ Pie the need for application in school. She’s reached her pre-teen apathetic stage, and it’s all we can do to keep beating it back…

    • drtombibey Says:


      Please tell little Punkin’ old Doc went through that and it colored the rest of my life. I overcame it, but it took so much more effort than what was necessary if I had been better prepared.

      When she gets to the boy stage, tell her all the best guys want to go out with the smart girls. The ones who are intimidated by a smart woman are often no good and tend to be controlling.

      Dr. B

  12. Martin Waddell Says:

    You and I are very different, Dr B. Third year at secondary school in Scotland (around 14-15 years old), you have to make a choice – concentrate on sciences, or languages? At that age, I had discovered that, if I were to do sciences, I’d have to work really, really hard. But for me, doing languages was a lot easier. So I chose languages – French and German – because at heart I was (and still am) a thoroughly lazy so-and-so, and in my fifth year exams (the really important ones in the UK) I managed straight As. Couldn’t avoid doing Maths – hated it and just about managed a pass – but discovering that I could flannel my way in languages without having to to too much studying was a bonus. Shame on me!

    • drtombibey Says:


      It’s a good thing they didn’t make me choose too early. I woulda tried to be a rock star, and I would have surely failed.

      I loved the Beatles. When I wanted to grow my hair out my parents said, “I’m afraid he’s gonna grow up to be one of those Beatles.”

      Dr. B

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