Tag Archives: Millenialls

Everything Wrong With College

It’s been another busy week of medical school for me. We are preparing for our comprehensive pharmacology exam, along with finishing up final exams in toxicology and microbes. There is plenty of studying to be doing, and I have also been busy working on a final presentation for my clinical elective. Yesterday, in fact, I spent my last day at the dermatology clinic. It just isn’t a Wednesday until I help the resident freeze genital warts. Too much info? That’s medical school for you ūüôā Thankfully, I gave an “superb” presentation (on a subject that isn’t even a tiny bit interesting, so I’ll leave that part out) so it’s safe to assume I earned at least a¬†letter of recommendation from her. Sweet. I take the time tonight to write about education, specifically college, so that I can piece together a short narrative¬†describing not only the problems with college education today, but also what it means to Americans as a whole.

Like most twenty somethings, I grew up with a pretty clear picture of what success in life looked like. It came from teachers, parents, school counselors, and other adults, but the message was the same: successful people went to college, got a degree, and then earned more money and were happier because they did. The not-so-subtle indication was that I, too,¬†should¬†go to college if I wanted to be happy in life. Smart people went to college, I was told, or at least college made people smart. I don’t know when this idea was perpetuated on Americans, but I suspect it was around my parents generation. My dad didn’t go to college, although the pressure to get a degree certainly existed when he graduated high school.

I played the game very successfully. After graduating top of my high school class, I took a full ride scholarship to a good state school. According to the “rules” I was taught when I was younger, I had won the game. I was virtually guaranteed four years of education and a degree of my choice (with no debt upon graduation). Of course, I started college in 2009. This was not a good time for the economy, and college graduates suffered for it. I spent my college years reading news stories about how hard it was for grads to find a job, and feeling secretly glad that I had a few years for the economy to turn around before I graduated. Despite this, my university set enrollment records for all eight semesters I attended. Of course, now I am in medical school and have nearly a decade of school still ahead of me, so take that with a grain of salt.

So now I wonder why people still rush to take out loans and attend school for degrees they may never use. I watched many friends amass huge debts and drop out after 3 years. I saw people waste huge amounts of time, money, and energy, and now they have nothing to show for it. I saw friends take a semester off and 4 years later wish they had stuck with it. So here are some of the things I wish people would really know about college.

1) Colleges Are Businesses

dollar for dollar

We are coming up on the time of year when high school seniors everywhere begin posting acceptance letters on Facebook, listing the college/university they plan to attend. That’s great for them, but it perpetuates a myth that sucks people in every year: that colleges are somehow exclusive. To put it another way, University of _______¬†actually wants you to attend their school.¬†There are a small handful of uber elite schools that are competitive to gain admittance (MIT, Harvard, etc). The other 99% of schools want you to attend because they need your tuition to make money. It doesn’t stop there, either. They need your fees, parking passes, textbook purchases, and other expenses as well. I’m not saying that these schools aren’t trying to give you a stellar education. Just know that they want to give you a great education¬†and also make money. But mostly the money.

2) College Is Not About You

This will be shocking to anyone who has seen any marketing materials for any school anywhere, been to college, or even heard anything about college, but I think it’s crazy that it goes unrecognized. Think about any university advertisement, and it’s usually some combination of the following ideas:

“Follow YOUR passion, pursue YOUR dreams”

“Create YOUR OWN major”

“Classes that fit YOUR schedule”

This was the third result after Googling “University Brochures”.

It’s like the whole school is expressly designed to help you along in life. False. The school wants you to pay money to them, or at least do something awesome later so they can get the publicity. Of course they’ll let you take a semester off. Of course they’ll let you do your degree in six years instead of four. Of course they offer online classes. They are a business and they’ll do what it takes to earn your tuition dollars.

If the version of success I learned in school is to be believed, your degree should show that you are qualified, diligent, hardworking, ambitious, or some mixture of those. If your degree is four years long and you are going to “normal” college (not night school or a non-trad), get it done in four years. Chances are that a marketing degree is not your passion, so don’t pretend like it is. Work hard, get your degree, and spend your extra time pursuing your other hobbies and interests. Those are also qualities that define your character, and while they may not be on your CV they will certainly impact your chances at landing your job/achieving your goals after school. This leads me to…

3)  College Can Be a Huge Waste of Time

College is not hard. You may hate me for saying that, but I’m telling the truth here. My degree was in Molecular Biology and a little bit of Chemistry, and I know that my four years of college were significantly more difficult than any of my peers. How do I know that? Well, I lived with them, and I know I spent way more time in class and studying than they did. So how hard did I work during school? Not that hard. Each semester I attended class for 20 hours a week and studied about 10 hours, sometimes 15 hours. That adds up to less than a normal work week. Also take into account that I lived on campus, so I had no commute. I also ate dorm food from a cafeteria that was 30 seconds from my room. We also went to school for 32 weeks of the year. I spent lots of time exercising, playing video games, and doing lots of whatever I wanted. It was great.

Fact is, college classes should not keep you busy. My class schedule was about as bad as undergraduate schedules can get, and I still managed to work all eight semesters, get married, earn my EMT certification, and complete an Ironman triathlon. My most memorable moments from college have nothing to do with school.

In this sense, I think college is actually bad for many young adults. As a country and a society, we are taking our most energetic young people and forcing them into a 4-year holding pattern. The 18-24 age group is full of young, talented, motivated, technologically competent, people who are the future of our nation. We are bright enough to have terrific ideas, and naive enough to not know when something can’t be done. But we¬†have to attend classes for just long enough each week to not actually get a real job, but not enough class that it’s truly “full time”. Those classes can range from being interesting (wine tasting) to being totally useless (most of my humanities courses), and after 4 (or more) years of sitting through classes, they will finally graduate into the real world, often with crippling debt.

This is the hardest part for me. I am (or at least I was) a perfect candidate for college. I’m naturally curious, enjoy learning, and am prone to obsessively mastering new hobbies and subjects. Yet after four years I had only one or two good professors who actually made the class worth attending, and honestly I was a little burned out. I have thought long and hard about what I could have done with those four years if I could have them back.

4) You won’t learn much during college

This might seem like a continuation of my last point, but it’s not. College classes are still largely taught in a lecture format, often in huge lecture halls. One of the few things I remember from Abnormal Psychology was that students typically remember only 5% of the material presented in lecture format (10% if multimedia graphics are used). This is a bad situation, even if you assume that the professor is awesome and the students care. Small wonder that employers are struggling to find qualified applicants among graduates that they interview. What happened? I thought that undergrad degree was the key to landing a good job? Now that everyone seems to get a degree, I guess not.

College has become like bonus high school. More and more people seem to be going to college, and it hasn’t been working out like we thought it would. Maybe this trend will reverse itself in the next few decades. I will certainly think long and hard before I help my future son finance a $80k degree. I get that college will always be required for some professions (hello medicine, law, etc), and that makes sense (sort of, I will someday write about that too).

It’s not that I’m too good for college, or that our generation is too good for college. It’s just that college isn’t good enough for what it costs. It’s not just the huge debt, it’s the years and time being lost as well.

If a college degree is the vehicle for success, it’s a taxi. It works great for getting you directly from one place to another, but if you just jump in and ride around for four years you’ll be broke and lost.

I need to stop writing now, and this seems like a good place to do it.

Thanks for reading!

As always, feel free to comment below or directly to my face at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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Diversify Me

Several weeks ago I was given the opportunity (med school speak for “required attendance”) to sit through a lecture and small group activity on diversity. Many companies and schools do training like this, so you know about how this went. We listened to about an hour of lecture on how ought to be diverse, and then completed a few worksheets on what we learned. It was a total joke.

Medical schools are artificially diverse. The admissions committee selects each class that way on purpose. Exactly half of the class is male, and there is a fairly even distribution of race and ethnicity among each gender. What they later noticed, thankfully, is that the class doesn’t usually function that way. By the second week of lecture, most of the students were sitting next to people much like them. I did it too. I sit in the white guy section. Many of your daily interactions are with people much like you (except for small group activities, where they pick the group members for us).

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of diversity. Simply making sure all of the ingredients are present doesn’t equal a magical diversity cookie (pictured below, if you’re curious). In fact, I think this process is the very opposite of diversity. So I now present the Basically Useless Road Map to Diversity.

Step One: The admissions process goes blind. Ideally, this would mean that a medical school could admit their best 100 applicants, and then look around in August and be surprised that every single student is from India. Fine by me. The very act of sorting through categories of students to make sure we are balanced out is, by definition, discrimination.

How does this happen? Fairly easily, actually. Incoming students will no longer indicate their race/ethnicity/socioeconomic status on their AMCAS, for starters. This places more emphasis on your achievements and abilities, effectively eliminating race as a determining factor. Next, the interview process could be blinded as well. Instead of seeing your whole application, your interviewer is given a sheet containing pertinent facts (MCAT, GPA, EC’s) and instead of your name, he sees a number. He will obviously see what color his applicants skin is, but he will submit his evaluation of this random person along with other interviewers for a composite score.

This probably sounds like a step backward to the members of MSHRIG (Medical Students for Human Rights Interest Group, co-sponsors of diversity day), but it’s not. If your goal is to treat each person equally, how can you possible support a scenario where admissions committee members are turning down qualified applicants of ________ race to increase the amount of _______ race.

Step 2: Teach students to get over themselves.

A main activity from Diversity Day was filling in a worksheet to describe our identities. We got to choose from categories like religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, political stances, etc. Their lesson was that we first understand ourselves, so that we can then understand others. By understanding our identities, we can better understand others. Did you catch the implied message there? By better understanding ourselves, we can better understand¬†how others are different than us.¬†I had a few problems with this exercise. First, we only attached labels to ourselves. People are more than 12 adjectives in a column (11 for me, I put white for race and ethnicity). Second, why not focus on the reasons why we are the same? Despite all of our differences, most people have the same desires, hopes, fears, and dreams. That’s the fabric of what makes us human. Let’s focus on that stuff and not on the small stuff that we can describe in one word adjectives.

Step 3: Don’t Make it a Big Deal

Diversity training was a big, hairy ordeal. We have to know it to work in today’s culture. We have to understand diversity to be a medical professional. This city is a melting pot with lots of racial polarization. Etc Etc. Bla bla bla. Guess what? You just made diversity a problem. You got a bunch of really different people here, showed them all of the ways they differ from each other, and then stressed repeatedly that they pay lots of attention to these differences in the name of diversity. One extra twist is that as medical students, we are more alike than we even realize. We can bond over our OCD tendancies, lack of social life, and fascination with disgusting diseases.

The ironic part is that we may not even need diversity training. My generation (20’s and below) has the potential to finally beat racism. In 7th grade I had an amazing English teacher. She was fun, loved her students, and even managed to teach us at the same time. I told my parents for weeks and weeks how much I liked her, all of the funny things she did in class, and the way that the class responded. Years later they told me the rest of the story. In November they went to parent-teacher conferences and were a little surprised that this teacher was black. This was highly unusual for my suburban white junior high school. But never once in months of class did I describe her to my parents as black. Why? It wasn’t worth describing. I don’t describe people as white for the same reason. I think enough people in my generation share my view to beat racism, I just hope we can do it after we do all of our diversity training.

Thanks for reading! sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

The World Is Hilarious and Sad

NOTE: It’s been a week since my last post. My bad.

I made an honest attempt at reading my entire inbox today. I get exactly 3 million emails a day on my medical school email, as well as a surprising amount of emails on my undergrad email (which I am slowly cutting off) and my personal email. Having gone most of the weekend without checking any of those accounts, then not catching up during Monday and Tuesday, I finally made an effort to catch up. See, while a majority of the emails I get are blasted to my entire class, and are mostly advertisements for events, classes, socials, etc, there are a few IMPORTANT emails that have to be detected. So I missed the one telling me NOT to come to my small group workshop today because the faculty member was sick. Just great.

So, faced with an unexpected afternoon off, I had several options. The most logical choice would be attempting to catch up on the library of biochemical pathways thrown at us during lecture this week, in a last ditch effort to pass Friday’s quiz. More attractive options included going home and sleeping, perhaps later followed by a run. Instead, I found myself reading the newspaper on a bench, enjoying the gorgeous weather outside today. While I may be a millennial, I do have this habit of reading the newspaper every single day (especially the comics and crossword). And so, ironically, I am more caught up on current events than I am lecture material, a situation medical students rarely find themselves in.

This happens all the time, actually

While I have the same chance of beating the average on Friday’s quiz that the Jaguars do of beating the Seahawks on Sunday (less than zero, for my non-NFL readers), there’s a lot going on outside the walls of my medical school that is ridiculous/tragic/interesting enough for me comment on. I promise this will be interesting even if you don’t follow the news or current events.

Let’s start small. My medical school is hosting a “poverty simulator” in a few weeks (I actually read that email). Some faculty noticed that most medical students have no experience living in poverty or low-income situations. Really? Gee, who could have known that a bunch of 20-somethings attending a private medical school likely came from middle class families? I picked up on that in my first week of medical school, before I even knew where the cafeteria was. To help us gain empathy for those with lower income, we will do a simulation where we have to pay bills, find childcare, contact agencies, and arrange transportation to a job (as well as maybe finding a job) based on scenarios that are given to us. So how long does the scenario last? 60-90 minutes. The sad part is that many patients in our city are living in poverty, but the best our school can do to help us learn to help them is a 90 minute class on a Friday morning with free breakfast. I’ve spent enough time in free clinics and outreach centers to know that there’s more to poverty than a lecture, but I will still probably go because there will be free food.

Next topic. There was much discussion among my iPad wielding friends last week about a certain article published in the New York Times by one Vladimir Putin. While many were impressed at the open tone of the article, I found it hilariously hypocritical and misleading. He references our alliance during World War 2 as if we were pals back then.¬†We may have been allies, but we certainly weren’t friends. Allies of convenience, if anything, but mostly we shared a common enemy. He also references that the conflict in Syria is fueled by “foreign weapons”.¬†And just who could possibly be supplying weapons to Syria? Who gets implicated every time North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or other unfriendly countries begin acquiring weapons? RUSSIA! Despite this article, we are not friends with Russia. Period. The list goes on, but I will cut to the chase.

He makes one last point that will help me transition to the broader context of this article. He says that it is “dangerous” to encourage any people to consider themselves exceptional. Specifically, he means the idea of “American Exceptionalism”. In my mind that’s an adjective, not a theory. To argue that we aren’t exceptional is a little bit silly. Everything we have done in the last 100 years has been exceptional. We put men on the moon, won a bunch of wars, and provided the driving force for progress in science, medicine, technology, and civilization as we know it. Even things we do poorly are done horrifically. Not only are we the fattest country in the world, we are getting fatter FASTER than any country in the world. Not only are we spending our money quickly, we are spending MORE AND MORE money FASTER than other countr- you get the idea. Even Assad himself said in 2009 that there was “no substitute for the United States of America”. True story. There are very few countries in the world that can blow something up anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours, and no countries that could spend more money doing it.

When you step back even more is when it gets even weirder. It becomes more and more obvious that Obama is terrible at foreign policy. This second term has caused him to wade into the shallow end of international diplomacy, and he is already in way over his head. I like to think of his strategy lately as “leading from somewhere”. First, he declares that we will certainly do something about Syria. Then, he decides to ask Congress first (reversing a 150 year old precedent). Then, when he goes to Britain for help, they say no. Mind you, this is the first time since 1782 that Parliament has said no when the government asked for a declaration of war. That’s crazy! England has a long history of invading countries because there wasn’t anything good on TV.

The countries in red are ones that have NOT been invaded by England

The next step of hilarity came when an accidental remark turned into serious policy. Kerry (or maybe his hair) mentioned that Syria could just give up the weapons, and suddenly Assad (and suspiciously Russia) seemed ok with it. What? What? Since when has any country ever stockpiled illegal weapons against international law, then decided to just “give them away”. What is going on?

That’s really the crux of the issue. There’s a lot happening here that we don’t know. Lots of the intelligence is classified, and so the reasons that various governments have for making their decisions can’t always be public. It’s in situations like this where we need to be able to trust the people we elected to weather this storm and protect our interests. The problem is that I don’t trust Obama. I have seen enough in his last five years to doubt his motives and ability to handle a situation like this. If he would have appeared on the news in June to announce that Syria was stockpiling chemical weapons and we knew it, so we went in and blew them up, I could have supported that. I could also have supported a similar press conference two weeks ago where he explains that we won’t blow anything up in Syria, but that we will be watching closely and actively working to confiscate the weapons. I have a hard time supporting whatever Obama is trying to do right now. Side note: Putin used to be the director of the KGB, which is a nastier, meaner version of our CIA. Obama was a community organizer in Chicago. Who do you think will out maneuver the other?

Well that went longer than expected….and I’m not even done. If you are still reading this, perhaps I earned a like? Tune in later today for the rest of this long post.

I love this show.

Late to My Own Party

A few weeks ago I had the chance to sit down and talk with a friend and mentor of mine on a nice summer morning. This guy is articulate and insightful, and our conversations are usually fairly interesting. On this particular morning we talked about work he was doing for his masters program, specifically studying changes in the attitudes of young people as generations have gone by. Because he works with young people, his focus is on the Millennials, or Generation Y. The milleninals make up most of our teenagers and twenty-somethings in America today.

I am a Millennial. You are likely a millennial as well, if you are reading this. We were born after 1980, and most likely before 2000. Generation X came before us (1960is-1980ish), and this would be my parents generation. The baby boomers came before them, and my grandparents are likely best represented in this category. Before them comes the silent generation, one that was raised during the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, and returned home to shape much of what America is today. 

If you haven’t done so, you can read an interesting article from Time (a few months old) here, or do credible background reading here (citation needed). To summarize, Millennials tend to be characterized by confidence, optimism, and idealism, despite coming of age during tough economic times. We are the most highly educated generation. Most millennials are tech savvy, liberal, less overtly religious than previous generations, frequent users of social media, and generally friendly with their parents and respectful of elder generations (I didn’t make that last bit up. Pew Research Group backs me up here). Critics of my generation call us lazy, narcissistic, overly confident, and entitled. There is truth to all of those descriptions.

At first I felt as though I didn’t identify with Millennials. By lifestyle, religion, and values I am often distanced from my peers by those very decisions. I began to list in my head all of the reasons I may not fit well in this Millennial grouping (of course by writing about it on my personal blog I fall right back into that Millennial stereotype. Oops). To run down the list from the Pew article, there are tons of differences. I married at a very young age (20). I have no tattoos. I have strong religious beliefs, and make no efforts to conceal them. I have been gainfully employed for the past six years during high school and undergrad (this will change in about 4 days when I move to begin medical school). My Facebook profile is very private, I don’t have Twitter, rarely take selfies, don’t have cable TV, and spend much of my free time reading.¬†

Armed with this notion in my head, I headed to the Internet to prove myself right (the fact that I turned to the Internet should have been a great clue here). Sure enough, Pew research has a quiz you can take to see how Millennial you are. The scale is 1-100 (not 1-Millennial, as I was hoping). After 15 quick questions my results popped up. 

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You can find an online quiz for almost anything these days…

Shocking, right? I started the quiz so confidently, checking off questions. No piercings, yes I’m conservative, no tattoos, etc. Other questions seemed silly. Of course I spent about an hour online yesterday. Do I have a house phone? Heck no! How many texts did I send? Hmm…around 40. It was a slow day. Did I play an hour of video games yesterday? Well, I did happen to spend 90 minutes or so on the amazingly addictive time sink called Minecraft (seriously though…I start on building something cool, then next thing I know it’s 2am!!)

So I’m definitely a millennial. It’s official, the Internet said so. I still have to hold on to the hope that I’m an unusual millennial, since that makes me sort of special. There is some truth to that idea, I think. I already talked about some of my non-Millennial traits, but there’s more to it. At a medical school interview this past year, I learned that the median age for fist year medical students was 26. I’m 22! By the time I’m 26, I’ll have either a) graduated medical school or b) died of a sweet tea overdose.¬†

Worth it

Once a practicing physician, I will be about as young as a new doctor can be, without being some sort of prodigy. In fact, the first millennials were born in 1980, so the oldest would be around 33 today. This means that millennials are just now finishing residencies and becoming physicians, entering a field currently dominated by Generation X. I’m interested to see how we change medicine in the next twenty years. Will our confidence, idealism, and optimism usher in a wave of reform and growth, riding the momentum handed to us by a wave of medical breakthroughs in proteomics, epigenetics, and gene therapy? Or instead, will our spirit eventually be destroyed by the grind of life? We were all told, while growing up, that someday we would change the world. Will we wake up in our forties, with debt and family problems, and realize that won’t happen? In that case, the idealism we currently hold may change to a characteristic cynicism in two decades. Only time will tell.

I’m curious what my kids will be like. I’m young, but I can remember not having the Internet. Maybe our kids will end up being the Networked Generation? The Wireless Generation? Let’s wait and see.

Thanks for reading!