I'd like to take this moment to brag. I don't do it often but, honestly, I'm damn proud of myself so I'm going to brag. I passed all my classes my first term back into college! Now I don't know what my GPA would have been because I took all the classes as Pass/Fail. Why did I do that? Because I hadn't gone to school in ten years, and since I'm trying to get into medical school I didn't want to be freaking out about my GPA while trying to learn how to study and balance family life. I gave myself room to screw up. Not only did I do that but I also took the following classes: College Study Skills (3 credit), College Survival and Success (3 credit), and Managing Test Anxiety (1 credit).
The first thing I learned was how to organize my folders, something I've always been horrible at. This worked out fantastically at the end of the term in my Math class when my teacher was willing to give anyone extra credit if they turned in their corrected tests. Since I had all the tests in my folder under Tests and Quizzes it didn't take much work to get that turned in. I heard several students stressing because they had no idea where they had put those. Also since I always kept papers that were handed back to me it allowed me to maintain an accurate accounting of my grade in any class.
The next thing I learned was how to set a study schedule and the importance of doing so. Instead of just winging it and studying when I remembered, this allowed me to structure and plan my actions so I could keep on top of things. I also started tracking my assignments in a program on my phone that had things like reminders, importance and several other nifty features.
I also learned how to study. I can research and I can wing it but I've never studied before in my life. I skipped homework and aced tests because I listened in class but I never cared and I never studied. Things are different now and I want to make sure I'm not just passing the class (a C-D average does NOT get you into medical school no matter how cool you think you are), but instead mastering the class. I learned how to preview my textbooks, take effective notes, use coping techniques to manage my ADHD, how to prepare for a test, and how to relax before a test. I also learned how to use the school resources like the Student Resource Center, The Women's Resource Center (yes there should be a Men's Resource Center but that's a debate for another time), Counseling, Academic Advising, and several online tools I wouldn't have touched before. I also learned about the site ratemyprofessor.com and how important using it, and the people on campus, to find a good match for your professors really is.
Then, through both school and life lessons, I learned how to better balance school, health, family, and friends. Through my classes I learned of good places to study and ways to set up a good schedule, as well as being reminded of the importance of Interdependence vs going it alone. Through life I learned that I study better if I'm not at home, that Fridays need to be left for volunteering until I can get my equilibrium in the ICU waiting room, that I need to set aside time to spend with my friends, even if it's just studying together, and that I need to take all my classes at campuses closest to my home (at least while I'm living in my current place).
Once it came time to pick my classes for next term I was able to use this information to create a well balanced scheduled that would also allow for interdependence. I set up my schedule so that I am taking Calligraphy with my friend Tonia (who reminds me A LOT of best friend Mel) and, for two Saturdays, Dennis and I are taking Stress Management together. I've also got good blocks of time built in for studying and I'm flexible enough to be able to set more aside as needed (I haven't blocked out any night or weekend study time until I get a feel for what I need during my first week). I'm taking Yoga to stay active as well, and this class starts later than my dance class did because I learned that being there by 8:30 was just too trying on me twice week, especially when I then had to be physically active.
All this planning, analyzing, and buffering really paid off. As the term was just passing over midterms I was starting to slip. My morale was low and my stress was high. I was getting homework done but just barely and I was constantly exhausted. I barely spent time with the girls, and while I was fairly certain I still had friends, I hadn't actually seen their faces recently enough to remember what they looked like. I felt completely disconnected from everyone because what was I was doing was so different than what was going on in most of their lives. Then as I was struggling to keep my plates from crashing down, and to keep getting A's in all my classes, I got sick. Not a cold or even a bad flu. No, at the end of my period, my IUD slipped (something it had apparently been slowly doing over the previous three months, unbeknownst to me), and in fact that little piece of bent, pointed metal ended up resting on my cervix. So when my end of period cramps hit they cramped around a pointed piece of metal. I cannot begin to describe the agony that caused. After an ER visit, and subsequent OB/GYN visit, the IUD was removed and I was placed on pain meds and antibiotics. My pain went down but then plateaued so then I had to be put on more pain meds and more antibiotics. All in all it two weeks to recover, a week of which I was unable to do anything but lay in bed doped up.
By the time I got back to class the focus had shifted to final exams and final projects. While I was stressed and depressed because I had to miss school and my volunteer shift, I was able to take comfort in the fact that I could focus on just healing, instead of doing homework while sick, because since I had worked hard to maintain an A in the classes before and I had set my whole schedule up as Pass/Fail, I didn't have to worry about maintaining my GPA. I was also able to pivot my focus from health to finals more quickly since I didn't have to worry about a huge backlog of homework that needed to be caught up on.
I can say now that I passed all my classes and that it looks like I may very well have ended up with a 4.0 GPA or damn near even with all that happened. I believe that taking things Pass/No Pass allowed me to cut my losses when I was sick thus allowing me to heal more quickly, and then study more effectively once I was better, which meant I got a high grade even though I didn't do all the work. I came to appreciate the occasional need to cut your losses and stay focused on the future, as I could have obsessed on turning in all the assignments I missed but instead chose to sacrifice them and focus harder on the finals.
In the end my plan to take all my classes as Pass/Fail, take mostly college prep courses, and then working like my classes still counted towards my GPA, was phenomenally successful. I was able to learn a lot of valuable information, and I successfully over came the many challenges I faced both at home, and in school. I believe that going forward the lessons I learned here will help me build the structure and support I need in the terms to come, when I will need to have most, if not all, my classes counting towards my GPA (which needs to remain high if I want to be competitive enough to get into medical school). That structure and support will provide the buffers needed to allow me to succeed in all my classes even when I face serious challenges at home. Life isn't going to stop because I want a 4.0 GPA so I needed to learn how to roll with the punches without having to take a lot of hits to the head. I think I did that very well.
Go me! I nailed it!