We're back with more of Farrah Fong's STEM and medical school stories and advice for you! Keep reading to discover her insights on how to study and overcome study guilt!
Image courtesy of Farrah Fong
Evolvher: What were the biggest challenges in med school and how did you overcome them?
Farrah Fong: The biggest challenge for me was probably the sheer volumes of information we were expected to learn in a very short amount of time—something that our professors often referred to as trying to “drink water out of a fire hydrant,” a pretty accurate comparison.
Developing an effective study method and schedule was absolutely crucial, and learning to be adaptable also helped a lot. There will likely be times where study methods that have previously worked might not be as effective, so learning to roll with the punches makes a big difference. I experienced a lot of study guilt (feeling guilty whenever I was doing something that wasn’t studying), but taking periodic breaks is also extremely important! Having a great support system was also key—I went into study hibernation before taking my boards, and am very thankful that I had such understanding and supportive friends and family!
Evolvher: Many high school students think they need to decide on a career before they graduate and go to college. Advice for them?
Farrah Fong: I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary for you to know what you want to go into before you go to college—I feel like college is where you get a wealth of opportunities to explore your interests so you can figure out what you want to do with your life. In high school, just try to do well so that you can get into a good college.
Evolvher: If you work hard and have stellar grades, does it matter if you don’t go to a top-tier/Ivy League school?
Farrah Fong: I definitely think it absolutely does not matter whether or not you go to a top-tier/Ivy League school. Medical school is expensive enough as it is—there’s no need to add even more to that debt early on. Go to a decent school and do your best to get great grades and a competitive MCAT score. Get research experience if possible, and find professors, physicians and/or mentors who can write you strong recommendation letters. Find a cause you’re passionate about and volunteer for it. Shadow physicians so you can get a feel for what life as a physician would be like, and try to get some volunteer experience involving direct patient care if you can.
Evolvher: After 4+ years of hard work, many seniors in college feel burned out. Advice on how and when to pursue a graduate degree?
Farrah Fong: By all accounts, I probably should have felt burned out during and after college. I talked my deans into eliminating my unit cap so that I could take as many classes as I wanted. In my four years, I took over a hundred courses, was the officer of two clubs, worked 2-3 part-time jobs, and also volunteered at 1-2 hospitals and a clinic. Music was my “de-stress” major (which isn’t to say that it never stressed me out, but it was a great outlet), and I used my extra-curriculars as breaks from studying. (This is why I’m such a big advocate for finding a balance—my extra-curriculars helped to keep me sane.)
I took a gap year in between undergrad and graduate school to do an informal postbac program because I was trying to save money. I enrolled in my local community college to retake a few classes I didn’t do very well in in college, and also took a number of other science courses to raise my science GPA. I continued volunteering and working, and also used that time to study for and take the MCAT. However, getting into the classes I needed was pretty difficult (community colleges are unlikely to give you any priority at all in registering for classes if you already have two degrees) and I had no research experience, so I decided to enroll in an accelerated master’s program.
To read more of Farrah's advice, read her first Student Insider here.