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10 Lessons for Undergrads: #4 – Surround Yourself with People with the Same Goals

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

When I was in undergrad, I had 5 good friends who also wanted to go into medical school. All 6 of us eventually got into medical school. I didn’t know any of them before I started undergrad. They were all people that I randomly met somewhere in undergrad, most of them were in my classes. Still, what are the chances?

Of course, that’s not the whole story. All 6 of us were well aware of our shared goal of getting into medical school. But we didn’t act as rivals. We didn’t see each other as competition. Instead, we kept each other up to date on medical school news and deadlines. We discussed our trials and tribulations with the MCAT. We helped each other with essays and interviews. We worked together towards our own individual but identical goals.

The fact that we all go into medical school is honestly a statistical anomaly. It was by chance that I met these 5 people. But what wasn’t chance was that we chose to motivate, encourage and support each other towards our shared goal. It wasn’t chance that we chose to remain in close contact. And I am sure all of us would agree that these relationships, in some way or another, helped us towards our goal of getting into medical school.

You are the product of the people you surround yourself with

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10 Lessons for Undergrads: #2 – Start Exploring Career Options Now

Many of us are raised with the notion that we “go to school and then we find a job”. Sounds pretty simple, but it’s not all that helpful either. It makes it sound as if everyone just goes to school and automatically gets a job after. While I have many pet peeves with this mantra, one that bothers me the most is the lack of emphasis on obtaining a job we truly like. I really believe that much of a person’s happiness is derived from having a livelihood they truly enjoy doing.

One of the things I dream about most is having a career that I love – one that I would genuinely be excited to go to everyday. To make that easier to understand, let’s do a thought test. Take any job, and imagine you had to wake up at 4am everyday to go into work. How excited would you be?

I want a career where I would fall asleep, excited to get up at 4am to get to work. To me, that’s the dream. Of course, I understand that’s not for everyone, and 4am is a bit too early for many people. But the main point still stands – if you’re going to need a job anyways, why not strive for one that brings you genuine meaning and happiness to your life?

Finding your dream job isn’t easy. Many of us growing up wanting to be this or that, but really, how the heck do you find out and when should you start learning? That’s what today’s article is about.

How going to university relates to pursuing a career

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10 Lessons for Undergrads: #1 – How to Pick Your Premed Major

How many times have you thought to yourself, “I wish I could go back in time and tell myself X?”? Sadly, I think about this a lot, perhaps far too much. The cons of wishful thinking like this is that you become full of regrets, and you might spend more time fantasizing about “what ifs” instead of focusing on what you can actually change in the present. The pros of reflection are that it means you are capable of recognizing mistakes and hopefully will learn from them for the future.

Knowing what I know now, there are lots of things I wish I did differently in undergrad. In this article series, I will share with you key things I would tell myself if I could go magically back in time. This won’t really help me now (obviously), but hopefully it will get you to stop and think about where you are right now in your educational career, and whether or not you are on the path you really want.

I admit some of these thoughts will be quite radical and go against lots of traditional thinking. Perhaps you will vehemently disagree with me. But that’s good – because the only way we learn is by challenging the ideas out there and really thinking for ourselves. Far too often young people get well-intentioned misguidance because of old or unproven ideas constantly perpetuated by generations before us. But I digress. With that said, let’s get to Lesson 1: How to Pick Your Premed Major.

Biology, eh?

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Video: Science Expo 2011 Talk

On Saturday, May 11, I delivered a keynote talk at Science Expo: a conference aimed at encouraging youth to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities.

At first I had the talk recorded as a video, but I wasn’t happy with the quality of how it turned out, both in my speech and in the quality of the video. So I decided to record the talk on my own and show it here.

I hope to keep producing some more videos like this in the future, including both full length talks as well as short, random thoughts on my mind. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Interested in hearing me speak?

I’d love to do more speaking and I’m open to sharing my experiences and doing talks on a variety of topics. If you’re interested in having my speak at a conference, workshop, school or anything of that nature, send me an email at and let me know!

The 30 Posts in 30 Days Challenge

It’s been almost exactly a month since I last posted – what’s going on? Fortunately, last week was March break for me, which means I can use this transition period back to school as a fresh start.

I always keep saying I want to post more but have never really lived up to it. So here I am making a challenge for myself: to post 30 times in 30 days. I’m not placing any rules on myself beyond that. It can be one word or a thousand words, but I have to post 30 times. What do you think? Have something you want me to write about? Let me know – I could use some writing inspiration!

Anyways, on to post 1 of 30…

Science Expo

I’m excited about an upcoming speaking opportunity. I have been invited to be a keynote speaker at Science Expo, a conference that aims to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to high school students in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area. I’m being asked to share some of my stories and motivate high school students to consider pursuing STEM fields.

Whenever I have the opportunity to speak, there are four key things I want to do no matter the topic I am speaking on. I call it the (IF)2 approach (actually I just made this acronym up, but it’s all true!):

I: Inspire – I want to the audience to leave the talk feeling inspired and motivated to go out and do something themselves. Maybe it’s related to my message and maybe it’s not, but I want to move people and see them move afterwards.

I: Insight – I want to share ideas and thoughts that the audience may not have heard before. I want to challenge conventional thoughts and get the audience going “HMMMM”. Because if I’m just saying what you already know, what’s the point?

F: Fun – I want people to smile, laugh, and have a good time. I know how boring talks can be. I want people to be moved, but I always want them to enjoy themselves, and humour is one of the best ways to do that.

F: Forward – I want the audience to leave knowing exactly how they can move forward from the talk. A lot of times you finish an awesome talk, but you’re left wondering “err… now what?”. I want to close with a resounding, clear, and insightful message. I want the experience to be enriching and motivating and forward-moving. You’ve heard my speak and you know exactly where to go from here!

I’m currently putting together and outline for the talk and I hope I can accomplish all of those (IF)2 goals. If you’re interested in attending the conference, check it out at Hope to see you there!

Hey MedHopeful, how do you cram for exams?

I am still exhausted after my 3 hour med school exam yesterday morning which covered topics ranging from cancer to pregnancy.

I’m exhausted not so much by the exam (it was only 3 hours after all), but mostly because of all the work leading up to the exam. For this exam, we covered 6 weeks worth of lecture material – Shelly calculated this to be ~3200 slides. I learned 80% of this material for the first time over the last three days. Yes, you read that right.

My cramming session culminated with me waking up at 5:30am in the morning on less than 5 hours of sleep, where I proceeded to do more cramming right until the exam started at 9am.

I admit this isn’t the first time, and it is unlikely to be the last.

Now, I’m not here to preach cramming to you. I wish I didn’t do it, because it is so damn stressful. 12 hour+ studying days? It’s crazy and exhausting. And there’s no worse feeling than not wanting to fall asleep because you know waking up will only lead to another 15 hour study session.

That being said, cramming is efficient. The less time I spend studying, the more time I can spend doing other things I like. Like writing blog posts! 😉

In any case, whatever your reasons are for wanting to learn how I cram (curiosity, out of time and need tips, lazy by nature), I’m going to tell you straight up what I do. It isn’t pretty and I wouldn’t wish 3200 slide procrastination on anyone. But hey, if you have to do it, then this might help.

Wait Long Enough to Start

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How To Get That A+ In Every Course

Shelly here. Hello medhopeful readers…! First of all, I apologize for not posting at all this summer. To make up for it, I promise to post regularly, starting now.

School has started up again, and seeing the first year medical students in our building definitely makes me feel like an old school veteran. Next year will be the start of clerkship for me and I am very excited to be out of the classroom. As this will be my last year in full-time classroom and lecture (hurray), I wanted to summarize a few lessons I’ve learnt through my many years of class, from high school to university to medical school. In this post, I will share with you a mish-mash of all the things that, I think, helped me get the 90+ (A+) in my courses. Hopefully everyone will gain at least something from reading this post and be able to use any of my strategies/tips to improve their grades, if that is what they wish to do.

First off, you might ask: in which courses did I get the A+, or more importantly, which ones did I fail to do so? The simple answer is that I was able to pull off the 90 throughout high school till now, with a few important exceptions such as grade 9 gym and art (I like to blame it on the facts that I’m short and artistically challenged, respectively, haha), three courses in the second term of third year (I think I was too busy with medical school interviews and burnt out from school), and more recently, a couple of tests in first year medical school (the material was too much for me to handle and I have to admit that didn’t allocate my time properly).

Time, time, time

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What do I want out of my university education?


About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article on my thoughts about what to keep in mind when applying to university, using my personal experience as an example.

In that article, I focused mostly on figuring out which university fits you best based on program, location, opportunities, etc. However, there is one more important question you need to ask yourself when thinking about your education that I completely failed to mention.

In short, that question is: what do I want out of my education?

At first glance it may seem like an odd question to ask, but it’s really not. It seems odd because many of us have our own ideas about what the purpose of your educational experience is or should be – but the truth is that your educational experience is whatever you want it to be. There is no one right way to view your education, and it’s important to always realize that, despite what people may argue.

Some people just want to learn. Very often they are genuinely and strongly interested in the topics at hand, and want to sponge up as much as possible.

On the other hand, some people go to university purely for the degree. Usually this in terms of job prospects or further education requirements (e.g. professional schools, graduate schools, etc.).

Of course, if you’re applying to professional school (such as medical school), marks matter. So some people go to university primarily to get the grades required to move on to something else.

In my opinion, these are all legitimate. It bothers me when people try to act as if there is some universal agreement as to what we should want out of our education (e.g. “You shouldn’t be picking your school just for the sake of getting good marks!” There are reasons why doing so is often not a good idea, but it has nothing to do with a right or wrong way of looking at education). Quite often, what we want out of our education will be some combination of 2 or 3 of these views, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When you are thinking of where you want to go to university, you need to reflect on all of these issues, because different undergraduate programs will be more conducive to one of these aspects than the others.

So take the time to figure out what you want out of your university education – it’ll save you a lot of head ache down the road!

Why GPA Should Matter and Learning the Way You Learn Best

This past Monday I took my Metabolism and Nutrition mid-term (I think I passed…) As usual (and as expected) the weekend was a major cram session, and I finally turned into bed at 4 am (where I proceeded to roll around in bed with my mind constructing random thoughts about hypokalemia which made no sense whatsoever). Basically my whole weekend was spent between phases of studying and whining about studying.

In undergrad, I usually only spent one or two days studying for a test or exam. Here, I had to start like 3-4days in advance. So basically, the amount of material I needed to know for my medical school exam was 2-3 times as much as for an undergrad exam. All that said, the exam questions weren’t any harder than any undergrad exam.

If you ask any medical student about whether medical school is challenging, I’m sure they’ll say yes, but I’m sure they will also tell you that it’s not intellectually harder (though I guess it depends on what their undergrad major was. But I would say this is probably true for any student with a science background). Rather, the reason why academics in medical school is more challenging is simply because you have to learn a significantly greater volume of information in a shorter period of time.

Why is Your GPA Important to Admissions Committees?

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