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KeyzerSoze

University Was Not Supposed to Be Like This

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Everybody told me university was supposed to be a balance of academics, hobbies and social relationships but man did I muck up that formula. I came into university thinking that I wanted med school, and grades were all that mattered and I'm now in my second year, and I'm doing great academically. But I haven't made a single friend I can hang with outside of class. Haven't gotten anyone's number that I'm close enough with to ask to hang out. Not a single person I can call friend in a school of tens of thousands. I spend weekends in my books while others must be out doing something fun. I chose a path I thought was right and damn, I never thought this level of loneliness was possible. Worst part is, the value of academic success is now so ingrained in me that I'm afraid of developing social relationships, for fear that they might distract me from my studies. I'm doing well in school and I have great ECs, but it's so debilitating. I don't know if I can keep this up.

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Super GPA ! 

Many of your pre-med peers have the reverse problem. They over-rotated in first year on hobbies, sports, social life, or "ECs"  and are now wondering how they will bring up their < 3.7 GPA.   You are doing OK.  You have figured out how to study and how to achieve a great GPA which you do need.

That said, you do need to live healthy without burning out. You also need to learn how to engage socially.  That is a skill in its own right. 

In January,  start by picking 2 things that you are interested in.  

Pick one physical activity.  You need to keep your body in shape and it is both a  great way to meet people and it gives your brain a break.   You don't need to be a jock to be on an intramural sports team or use the school gym.  An Intramural game a week or 2-3 times at the gym fits in easy.

Then pick one EC related to your medical school application. Think Can-Meds.  Look for something that you would both enjoy and can see yourself doing for a longer term commitment.   Ronald MacDonald house, Helplines, Food banks, peer tutoring, or one of the many clubs on campus that do things to support people.  Go see whats involved and how you can help. 3-4 hours a week is easy to carve out of your schedule.  These are also great ways to meet other students.  

Just start with 2 things.   The social aspect will come from there.

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Hey OP,

A great majority of med students, residents, fellows, and practicing physicians will tell you that they themselves wished they studied less and enjoyed life more in every stage of training. You're only in undergrad as a 18-22 year old once. Undergrad as a mature student is whole different experience, so you really have to cherish the present. Making real, genuine friends become more difficult as you get older!

I think the key is acknowledging that a social life and academics are NOT mutually exclusive. You can have a social life in academics, and academics can be an aspect of social life. For instance, you can make friends with people who have the same ambitions as you do and plan fun study dates/pot lucks. Even having another person across the table from you, studying, makes you feel less lonely. And you will inevitably have bits of side conversations and get closer to each other. These friends can be found in tutorials/lab, in your EC's, and in your home (i.e. roommates).

That's just one personal example - Get creative! 

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19 hours ago, KeyzerSoze said:

Everybody told me university was supposed to be a balance of academics, hobbies and social relationships but man did I muck up that formula. I came into university thinking that I wanted med school, and grades were all that mattered and I'm now in my second year, and I'm doing great academically. But I haven't made a single friend I can hang with outside of class. Haven't gotten anyone's number that I'm close enough with to ask to hang out. Not a single person I can call friend in a school of tens of thousands. I spend weekends in my books while others must be out doing something fun. I chose a path I thought was right and damn, I never thought this level of loneliness was possible. Worst part is, the value of academic success is now so ingrained in me that I'm afraid of developing social relationships, for fear that they might distract me from my studies. I'm doing well in school and I have great ECs, but it's so debilitating. I don't know if I can keep this up.

Real talk--I would waaaaaay rather be in your position than have a shit GPA and lots of university friends.  If you can make friends/socialize on top of getting a great GPA that's a bonus.  If not, fuck that, get a good GPA and do ECs in the summer.  I also had a fairly "non-social" undergrad (I basically socialized in the summers and occasionally during the school semesters).  I regret it zero.  The people who have a great time in uni at the expense of their grades have sacrificed 35 years of their career for 3-4 years of partying with people most of them will lose contact with anyway.

I made tons of friends in med school and residency, and now in my career, and so will you.  Be proud of your badass gpa and don't feel bad.

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25 minutes ago, goleafsgochris said:

Real talk--I would waaaaaay rather be in your position than have a shit GPA and lots of university friends.  If you can make friends/socialize on top of getting a great GPA that's a bonus.  If not, fuck that, get a good GPA and do ECs in the summer.  I also had a fairly "non-social" undergrad (I basically socialized in the summers and occasionally during the school semesters).  I regret it zero.  The people who have a great time in uni at the expense of their grades have sacrificed 35 years of their career for 3-4 years of partying with people most of them will lose contact with anyway.

I made tons of friends in med school and residency, and now in my career, and so will you.  Be proud of your badass gpa and don't feel bad.

Well I'll be damned, this post made me feel better.

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34 minutes ago, KeyzerSoze said:

Well I'll be damned, this post made me feel better.

Happy to help haha.  I'm 31 now, and have a better social life than all my non-medicine friends (and I def couldn't say that at age 20).  I can also make more money in 2 days than some of them can in a month.  People have different experiences, but it can help to look at the big picture.  You know how some people romanticize high school and it ends up being the peak of their lives because of it?  The same thing can happen in undergrad.  Like enjoy the parts of it that you can, but I would consider it a means to an end more than some life-fulfilling experience in and of itself.  

Seriously if you ever have any doubts about this ever again go read the non-traditional forum for 10 minutes.  There are people on there who would do anything for the GPA you've had, and theyre literally willing to fuck up 3-4 years of their adult like to go back to undergrad and MAYBE get it haha.  Remember that life is not an American sex comedy, university isnt actually that fun/exciting for most people even if they have less stellar grades

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9 hours ago, SunAndMoon said:

what does that mean?

Very subjective statement I guess that means different things to different people.  I go out more and have more people my age I'm in regular contact with is how I'm kind of defining it here, but for sure its personal interpretation.  

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On January 1, 2018 at 7:29 PM, KeyzerSoze said:

Everybody told me university was supposed to be a balance of academics, hobbies and social relationships but man did I muck up that formula. I came into university thinking that I wanted med school, and grades were all that mattered and I'm now in my second year, and I'm doing great academically. But I haven't made a single friend I can hang with outside of class. Haven't gotten anyone's number that I'm close enough with to ask to hang out. Not a single person I can call friend in a school of tens of thousands. I spend weekends in my books while others must be out doing something fun. I chose a path I thought was right and damn, I never thought this level of loneliness was possible. Worst part is, the value of academic success is now so ingrained in me that I'm afraid of developing social relationships, for fear that they might distract me from my studies. I'm doing well in school and I have great ECs, but it's so debilitating. I don't know if I can keep this up.

I'm speaking from my own experience only, but I think university is supposed to be about finding out who you are, what you want to do, and how you fit into the world. There is no right or wrong way. If by doing what you have been doing, you are growing as a person and you have already figured what you want to do in life, keep doing that. If not, I think there has to be a better, perhaps more balanced, way. 

You don't have to have friends from school only. You can meet people from other walks of life you can be friends with. You mentioned that you spend your weekends in your books while others must be out doing something fun -- what does that mean anyway? Facebook fun isn't real fun. What's more important is that you should do something fun for you too -- having a social life doesn't have to mean going out, parties, and drinking, but if you want to do a bit of that, you should. If you want to go rock climbing, go find a local gym. If you follow hockey, join a fantasy league... Not everything has to do with med school applications and checking off ECs. 

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22 hours ago, goleafsgochris said:

Happy to help haha.  I'm 31 now, and have a better social life than all my non-medicine friends (and I def couldn't say that at age 20).  I can also make more money in 2 days than some of them can in a month.  People have different experiences, but it can help to look at the big picture.  You know how some people romanticize high school and it ends up being the peak of their lives because of it?  The same thing can happen in undergrad.  Like enjoy the parts of it that you can, but I would consider it a means to an end more than some life-fulfilling experience in and of itself.  

Seriously if you ever have any doubts about this ever again go read the non-traditional forum for 10 minutes.  There are people on there who would do anything for the GPA you've had, and theyre literally willing to fuck up 3-4 years of their adult like to go back to undergrad and MAYBE get it haha.  Remember that life is not an American sex comedy, university isnt actually that fun/exciting for most people even if they have less stellar grades

Thanks man. I definitely agree with the romanticizing. People keep telling me that these are supposed to be the best 4 years of my life and like if I'm not out doing drunk hookups every weekend then not only am I missing out, but there's something wrong with me.  And I don't even really enjoy partying.  I hope that if I do get into med school, the community will be as tight-knit for me as it was for you.

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p3fy97z.jpg

 

This thread reminded me of this meme, haha. This opposing extreme of delayed gratification, in which one perpetually puts off attempting to develop some sort of balance is not particularly healthy either (as contrasted to the more instant gratification "university party life" referenced in the original post).

--

Seriously though OP, it's all about finding the right balance for yourself. 

I didn't decide on medicine early on as you have, but I can relate in that I have always been very self-motivated and taken my academics seriously. Consequently I didn't socialize much in the first few years of university and it didn't help that I felt pretty run down at the time as well. Lack of socializing in combination with chronic stress and sleep deprivation is something I certainly do not recommend as I know I haven't prioritized self-care and making time for things like socialization much in the past, and it definitely can be harsh on your sense of well-being over time.

Looking back, I probably could have been less intense about academics as well as ECs later on in university, but I did manage to achieve my aim of matriculating to a Canadian medical school within the short time period I set for myself once I identified it as my goal.

As an aside, I think a big part of things is dropping whatever "societally-informed" expectations we may have about an experience (ex. that university should be a balance of academics, hobbies, social relationships, binge drinking, constant hookups, etc.) and instead turn inward to engage in self-reflection and identify our own values and what we deem important to supporting our own well-being, with the next step then being identifying ways in which we may live in congruence with those values on a daily basis.

For instance, if you deem regular exercise as something you value and find important to your well-being, then you would naturally need to identify ways in which you can manage your time and prioritize exercising in your own life, so as to live in congruence with that value. The same can be said if you would like to prioritize getting better sleep, socializing more often, etc. This is part of the pathway to living a life where you feel more satisfied.

Another part of this equation of finding your personal "balance" is also being selective about what commitments you choose to take on. So with regards to ECs, you may elect to focus only fewer ECs with a longitudinal nature that put you in leadership positions and have a larger impact while demonstrating CANMEDs competencies, rather than spreading yourself thin with many discrete EC opportunities. This is a fairly rudimentary example, but I hope the point comes across nonetheless. You may similarly choose to focus on nuturing a few close relationships with friends, rather than having many more friendships that are less close.

To wrap this up, I too remember not enjoying second year much as I felt quite similar to you, so I made some changes that briefly lasted the following year and was much happier for it. Then ended up doubling down and aiming for medicine (full courseloads, working part-time, multiple volunteering commitments, while also being at or near the top of all of my classes, no socializing outside of these things, an already long commute, using my free time to study, not exercising, not sleeping enough) which really did not support my mental, emotional or physical well-being at all, but it was temporary. That being said, the poor health effects and habits do tend to linger afterwards unless you make it a priority to improve upon them. All in all, much of the past number of years of my life have been spent in varying degrees of burnout (ex. low mood/sleep deprivation/social isolation/chronic stress), but you do learn to operate at a decent level within that mental-emotional headspace. I don't recommend it however, haha.

Lastly:

-GPA >> MCAT > ECs (so your focus on GPA is great and puts you miles ahead of most people trying to dig themselves out of a poor GPA)

-Friends will come in time (get involved in clubs/leadership positions on campus, make time to check out events that interest you). I made many friends in my latter years of university when I got very involved on campus.

-I definitely spent many late nights turned into early mornings as well as weekends and summers studying...it's fairly routine for those pursuing medicine but I think avoidable with attention to better study habits and choosing to take summers off if you feel burnt out.

-I can't deny that I would have a much more interesting social/dating life if I were less academically inclined as I neglected a lot of friendships in order to focus my attention as much as possible and turned away many relationship opportunities throughout the process for the same reasons, but I will say that with your really close friends from prior you can certainly reconnect with them after years and pick up just like you've never been apart. I will also say that being in medicine is a tremendously rewarding and privileged position, considering the close patient contact, funded conferences/other learning opportunities, financial/employment stability and the positive impact that you can have in your patient population/community.

-Ultimately, it's all about prioritizing what is important to you.

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1 hour ago, freewheeler said:

p3fy97z.jpg

 

This thread reminded me of this meme, haha. This opposing extreme of delayed gratification, in which one perpetually puts off attempting to develop some sort of balance is not particularly healthy either (as contrasted to the more instant gratification "university party life" referenced in the original post).

--

Seriously though OP, it's all about finding the right balance for yourself. 

I didn't decide on medicine early on as you have, but I can relate in that I have always been very self-motivated and taken my academics seriously. Consequently I didn't socialize much in the first few years of university and it didn't help that I felt pretty run down at the time as well. Lack of socializing in combination with chronic stress and sleep deprivation is something I certainly do not recommend as I know I haven't prioritized self-care and making time for things like socialization much in the past, and it definitely can be harsh on your sense of well-being over time.

Looking back, I probably could have been less intense about academics as well as ECs later on in university, but I did manage to achieve my aim of matriculating to a Canadian medical school within the short time period I set for myself once I identified it as my goal.

As an aside, I think a big part of things is dropping whatever "societally-informed" expectations we may have about an experience (ex. that university should be a balance of academics, hobbies, social relationships, binge drinking, constant hookups, etc.) and instead turn inward to engage in self-reflection and identify our own values and what we deem important to supporting our own well-being, with the next step then being identifying ways in which we may live in congruence with those values on a daily basis.

For instance, if you deem regular exercise as something you value and find important to your well-being, then you would naturally need to identify ways in which you can manage your time and prioritize exercising in your own life, so as to live in congruence with that value. The same can be said if you would like to prioritize getting better sleep, socializing more often, etc. This is part of the pathway to living a life where you feel more satisfied.

Another part of this equation of finding your personal "balance" is also being selective about what commitments you choose to take on. So with regards to ECs, you may elect to focus only fewer ECs with a longitudinal nature that put you in leadership positions and have a larger impact while demonstrating CANMEDs competencies, rather than spreading yourself thin with many discrete EC opportunities. This is a fairly rudimentary example, but I hope the point comes across nonetheless. You may similarly choose to focus on nuturing a few close relationships with friends, rather than having many more friendships that are less close.

To wrap this up, I too remember not enjoying second year much as I felt quite similar to you, so I made some changes that briefly lasted the following year and was much happier for it. Then ended up doubling down and aiming for medicine (full courseloads, working part-time, multiple volunteering commitments, while also being at or near the top of all of my classes, no socializing outside of these things, an already long commute, using my free time to study, not exercising, not sleeping enough) which really did not support my mental, emotional or physical well-being at all, but it was temporary. That being said, the poor health effects and habits do tend to linger afterwards unless you make it a priority to improve upon them. All in all, much of the past number of years of my life have been spent in varying degrees of burnout (ex. low mood/sleep deprivation/social isolation/chronic stress), but you do learn to operate at a decent level within that mental-emotional headspace. I don't recommend it however, haha.

Lastly:

-GPA >> MCAT > ECs (so your focus on GPA is great and puts you miles ahead of most people trying to dig themselves out of a poor GPA)

-Friends will come in time (get involved in clubs/leadership positions on campus, make time to check out events that interest you). I made many friends in my latter years of university when I got very involved on campus.

-I definitely spent many late nights turned into early mornings as well as weekends and summers studying...it's fairly routine for those pursuing medicine but I think avoidable with attention to better study habits and choosing to take summers off if you feel burnt out.

-I can't deny that I would have a much more interesting social/dating life if I were less academically inclined as I neglected a lot of friendships in order to focus my attention as much as possible and turned away many relationship opportunities throughout the process for the same reasons, but I will say that with your really close friends from prior you can certainly reconnect with them after years and pick up just like you've never been apart. I will also say that being in medicine is a tremendously rewarding and privileged position, considering the close patient contact, funded conferences/other learning opportunities, financial/employment stability and the positive impact that you can have in your patient population/community.

-Ultimately, it's all about prioritizing what is important to you.

I first saw this post when you had just posted the meme and nothing else and was a bit weirded out that someone had meme-ified my "experience", lol. But thank you for this seriously scintillating answer, and I'm starting to think that maybe everyone that heads down this path knows what loneliness and social sacrifice feel like at some point. You've all mentioned something that I was too immature to know back then; that self-contentment and moderation in all things (including studying) really are important. Sometimes I do get jealous of others' friends and close relationships and wish that I could have that, and admittedly my social skills probably do need a little brushing up after spending 2 years gathering dust on a shelf, but that's just something I guess I'll have to work on, and damnit I need to stop goading myself into believing that I have no time for social relationships, what kinda bullshit is that?

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I too prioritized my academics, treated them professionally, became a straight A student, was burnt out at the end of every semester, developed friendships with those of common interests while volunteering and doing ECs (but did not see them otherwise). Sure, it was lonely, hard work and I won the prize of med school on my first attempt. I lost all my prior friendships as they were party animals and I had no time for them. My true friends, only friends, are those I made in med school and if we see each  other once a year, we are lucky. As a resident, I have way less time than before, although I carry the responsibilities way better than in undergrad. Remain highly focused, motivated, prioritize as you are doing and carry on. :P Life is not supposed to be easy, it becomes more challenging with time, you are on track!
 

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On 1/1/2018 at 10:20 PM, BoopityBoop said:

Hey OP,

A great majority of med students, residents, fellows, and practicing physicians will tell you that they themselves wished they studied less and enjoyed life more in every stage of training.

That's easy to say for people who have gotten over the hump and are on their chosen career path. I could direct you to many more hoards of people who didn't get accepted into med school, law school, grad school, etc. who would tell you that they wished they had spent a little more time studying.

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1 hour ago, BTJJ said:

That's easy to say for people who have gotten over the hump and are on their chosen career path. I could direct you to many more hoards of people who didn't get accepted into med school, law school, grad school, etc. who would tell you that they wished they had spent a little more time studying.

That's exactly it.  Of course everyone would say "I wish I had enjoyed my life more"--who wouldn't want to "enjoy life"?  The thing is that's not the point at all.  They are really saying "I wish I had enjoyed my life more" GIVEN that I get into med school and residency and a good career path anyway.  Which is of course not a given; and we often don't "enjoy life" simply because we are trying to get that career path.  These people have, over time, developed a warped view of how difficult university can really be--they have forgotten the more difficult aspects and now have the mistaken belief that the good things would have happened regardless.  I would also mention that, even if unintentional, they are really giving potentially sabotaging advice to people in earlier stages of their careers, under the guise of "optimism."

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1 hour ago, BTJJ said:

That's easy to say for people who have gotten over the hump and are on their chosen career path. I could direct you to many more hoards of people who didn't get accepted into med school, law school, grad school, etc. who would tell you that they wished they had spent a little more time studying.

 

I think it's easy to say that you could have studied/practiced/anything "a little more" for anything. I could point you toward even bigger hoards of people who "failed" to be musicians, actors, or professional athletes and they'll give you the same excuse.  I could have spent "a little more" time training and became a professional athlete. I could have spent "a little more" time rehearsing for the audition, I could have spent "a little more" time rehearsing for the gig.

That "a little more" excuse is just as easy to say as the "I wish I studied/worked/practiced less" excuse. Let's not pretend it's exclusive to medicine.

TL;DR - Hindsight is 20/20.

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3 hours ago, BTJJ said:

That's easy to say for people who have gotten over the hump and are on their chosen career path. I could direct you to many more hoards of people who didn't get accepted into med school, law school, grad school, etc. who would tell you that they wished they had spent a little more time studying.

Even though we are using terms like "a little more time doing ...", it seems like we are actually speaking of extremes in this thread.

A little more time studying doesn't mean studying at home all day everyday and have no friends.

A little more time "having fun" doesn't mean partying every day and neglecting school.

 

There is no perfect recipe for success, whichever way you want to define it. 

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