Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kaplan MCAT Prep & Teachers :)

Yes, I know some of the instructors read here; Google Analytics does a great job of tracking people's footprints in the bytes and I'm pretty good at using GA.  Win-win.

Actually, Win-Win is the Kaplan course instructors.  (No, I'm not employed by the company nor am I sponsored in any manner.)

During the summer of 2014, my butt got kicked again to take the MCAT and apply to med school.  I'd given up on becoming a physician and thought I'd just work, retire someday, and be satisfied.  My cousin, an adcom at a med school somewhere in the US, suggested otherwise.

The story is buried elsewhere in here, so I won't belabor how I got back to taking the MCAT and going forward into the 2016 app cycle.

Getting to that point has been with the guidance, assistance, and support of my online Kaplan instructors (and a few others along the way - namely my son, and my genetic's class peers).

During the fall of 2014, my onsite class had an undergrad teaching the course who got mixed up in the physics details.  He then got mixed up on basic gen chem and I switched to online, live classes.  Worried as I'd never taken anything online, my apprehension was quickly put to rest.

Amit was that instructor.  The old MCAT prep was very content detailed, very equational and mathematical.  Amit did everything to prep us, to make sure we knew the tricks to getting to the right answer without having to use a TI-85 graphing calculator with LED screen.  He used funny quips and examples to enhance the ideology behind the material.  He made fun of himself; made fun of the ambulances that often screamed by his house during class; made fun of his midwestern roots often saying an answer choice is "hinky"; that was solely his, though, I'm from the midwest and I've never heard the word.

However, now I see an answer choice on the new MCAT prep and think, "HINKY" ...  Amit also could read my concern in the private Q&A.  As bold and confident as people think I am, underneath I worry what people think (a little) and really worry when I tick off people in the admissions world.  I've been told throughout my life that I'm very polite, very understated, and very kind.  But, I'd irked some adcoms online and thought, "I'm doomed."

Amit's comments were: "Eh, no."  then laughed and said, "No."  Followed up by some sage wisdom and email.  I never looked back.  (Coincidentally, that adcom is now a supporter of mine, and I can see how my first post back then could come across as arrogant; which was certainly not my intent).

Did not sit for the 1/15/15 exam. It was the last date for the old MCAT.  In April 2015, the new MCAT was administered.  Less physics, more biochem = win.  In prep for that, I re-enrolled in Kaplan and got #TeamEli.

Make no mistake, he is the best that there is.  Make no mistake, he knows his stuff and so well, he can integrate other aspects of the MCAT areas into a question and make you think.  I had him for the online class and then with Kaplan there are MCAT channel sessions which are specific focus areas.  So, I don't get into trouble with the company, I'll only say that the areas are the most commonly tested on the MCAT.  And very detailed, comprehensive and complete.  Eli taught those, off and on, as well.

Through those channel sessions, I got to see the other instructors: John, Tami, and N.  They are talented, engaging, funny, using anecdotal quips to reinforce concepts.  Throughout all of the courses and sessions I've taken, each one of them has contributed to many of us as we prep for the beast known as the MCAT.

On 1/23/16, I will slay the beast and be thankful I got the best in the business from Kaplan.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Last Days - Moving On

My contract came to a close a few weeks ago.  Sixteen months after I started, 16 months after it was inferred that I was a hooker or a prostitute, 16 months after ... I am done.  For the record, I'm neither a hooker or a prostitute!  I will be always thankful for the executives that hired and retained me for without them, their support, I could not have continued on this path.  Med school would be all but dead.  I'm not sure, but Lazarus only got resurrected once!

In the midst of closing out the contract, looking for a new opportunity, and resigning up for Kaplan's MCAT course, I had a genetics test.

Genetics is my worst subject.  I still am fuzzy on some aspects of it but am eeking out an A right now (seriously, how does one do that?).  Eeking is the appropriate word.  What I'm finding in preparing for the genetics tests is this:

1)  preparing for the tests is a lot like the MCAT prep I do
2)  the stress I encounter is managed by tips and tricks that I have worked on over the past summer
3)  I have learned a s@#$-ton this semester

So, let's start in how I study for genetics and how that is similar to the MCAT

The AAMC has an official guide that is about 65 pages long.  Within the guide, is every single topic listing of what COULD be on the MCAT in some form.

That guide is here:  MCAT Topics Listing

I downloaded the document, printed it out, 3-hole punched it, put it into my binder called MCAT Prep.  In one section, I have it.  In another section, I have my Kaplan online course screen shots (things like the kidney, liver, parasympathetic, sympathetic systems, nerves, optics, electrostatics, etc).

In the final section, I have my notes from each practice test or section I take.

With each question that I get wrong, I write it down.  What did I get wrong?  Why?  Then after the entire section or test is done, I go back to review those areas.  Doing this, I shore up where I'm weak and only review my strengths every few weeks.

My hope is that come 1/23 I will be more than prepared.

With Genetics, I do the same thing.  Our lectures are .ppt based so the fill in the blank on the decks, is done in class.  After class, I rewrite the notes that are salient, leaving out the easier topics and details.

Then, I do the homework problems to see if I can answer without the answer guide.  If I can, nothing gets written down.  If I can't, or my details are not enough, then I write what the guide has.

Finally, I take the quizzes and do them the same way.

It's only an A- at this time.  (Dad's heart attack, death in the family, contract ending the first time, + lawsuit loss - another story = did not care about 1st two exams).

However, I do believe by the time the end of the semester rolls around that minus sign will be gone.  And by the time, the MCAT test rolls around, I will do well.

Very well.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Austin, Old Boyfriends, Regret

Kate Hudson had tears in a photo taken after listening to the new Adele song, "Hello."

29 years ago, my little guy passed away.  Austin's story is embedded on here in places, parts and pieces; some longer, some shorter.

The day after he died, a set of my friends came to the hotel where I was staying.  I never went back to the apartment; never faced the horrors I'd found that morning when he died.

Anyway, the trio of three guys came to the hotel including the one whom I'd met through the other two.

We'd met in the spring after Austin was born but before I'd decided to keep him, before my friends had a chance to tell him, before ... John never met Austin.  But he'd met me and I presumed when I never heard from him he didn't want to be with a girl who had a baby.

This was the mid 80's.  Even liberals were conservative back then.

Anyway, John came with the other friends.  Asked me to go for a walk along the large lake that I'd grown up on.  Sitting on the bench, he held my hand and never said a word.  Tears streaming down my face, shame in my heart, he was the calm in my storm.

A few days later, he came to the funeral for a baby he never met and a girl he hardly knew.

Everyone has one, the one regret, the one that got away, the one.  Johns' my one.  He's always been my one.

We dated for many months, albeit long distance as I'd moved away after the funeral and burial, back home to my parents.

At 21, I was unsure what I was supposed to do.  Widows can talk about their deceased husbands, and vice verse; grandchildren can talk about grandparents, and kids can talk about deceased parents.

But a parent mourning the death of a child?  No.  Everyone shies away from that.  Except John.

He did not shy away from me, the now dead child, the mess of my life, the shattered dreams.

But I was a mess.  Emotionally, mentally.  Totaled.  He hung on as best as he could; I pushed hard because fear of losing something else near and dear to me was too painful.  Don't fall, just push away.

Like moths to a flame, we could not be anywhere with each other.  The love ... palpable to everyone that knew us and even those who didn't.

But like all good romantic stories, we did not end up with each other.  I had a child with another man, he married and had two kids of his own.

Last time I saw him, we were at Target at the top of the hill in the town that I grew up in.  In sweat pants and t-shirt, I stood there, embarrassed I looked like hell, Gman in the infant seat of the cart.

John asked if he could pick him up.  I nodded yes.  John lifted him gently out of the cart, nuzzled him against his chest, looked into my infant's eyes, and quietly cooed, "Please take care of your mom for me, okay?"  Then he put Gman back into the cart seat, gave me a hug and said he was happy for me.  I knew he was engaged and said the same.

I also knew I was a mess.  He deserved better than me.  He deserved to have the stability he craved and that which I could not give him.  Though I was damned determined to try back then.

If just for him.  If just to prove... he was the one.

26 years passed and a few months ago someone posted the Ulay Oh.  My eyes watered up.  The tenderness of the two individuals palpable through the video.

It's here, if you haven't seen it.

Over the years, I'd creeped FB to see if John were on it.  He was not.  I'm still friends with his friends but I never ask; it feels too intrusive and there's a part of me that does not want to know he's happy and has forgotten all about me.  There's the other part of me that hopes he IS very happy and HAS forgotten all about me... and my mess.

And then, after the Ulay Oh video - FB new friends popped up and there was John.  And instantly, I was 24 again.

Worse, or better, Adele came out with "Hello" yesterday.  In that song, he's moved on, she never did.  It's close enough to my reality.  As I sat in the library with my Kaplan Orgo book, genetics class materials, my eyes watered.  For all the hurt I caused him, me; for all the regret.