For many of us premeds, grades are the core of our college life. We strive for the A-pluses, putting in our all in every test. We scrape and scavenge for those extra points here and there, hoping that those extra points will the ones that bump us half a letter grade up. After all, that A-minus could mean the difference between a 3.7 and a 3.78. Frequently, we neglect the beauty of the subjects that we cram into our hopeful brains.
However, let us step back into history and really understand the meaning of education. Back in the days of the Greeks, colleges and universities were the pinnacle of learning and knowledge. They were for scholars and philosophers, those who strive for the sake of learning, not for the sake of a grade. They learned anatomy and biology for the joy of it.
Nowadays, colleges and universities are only professional schools. Of course amazing research takes place here and new things are discovered everyday, but the essence of love for knowledge has disappeared. However, the beauty of the subjects of our study has not disappeared, it’s still there. However, because we pull all-nighters staring blankly at the biology textbook, the beauty of biology, the beauty of the study of living things, is swamped under the burden and anxiety of the next biology test. It’s like travelling across the U.S. If one takes a road trip across the U.S., one will see the deer living the forests, the towering mountains that look over the valleys, and the crystal clear lakes. However, if one decides to take an airplane, one will only see the clouds and maybe the occasional glimpse of some semblance of lakes, forests, and mountains. But, the natural beauty of the continental U.S. is always there.
Similarly, the natural beauty of our subjects of study still exist, we just need to slow down, and enjoy the scenery. Most of you readers at this point may exclaim: “How is this possible? Our courses move so fast, and so little time are dedicated to enjoying each portion of each subject!” I assure you that for us, slowing down solely means not to try to earn the grade, but earn the knowledge. By earning the knowledge, the grade comes naturally. Earning the knowledge is learning to enjoy the subject of study.
Here’s an example: Before I was in college, I had taken AP Biology in high school. The course was fast-paced, and the workload was dreadful. Pages upon pages of reading everyday. Tests every month or so. The information seemed so dry. However, afterwards, I was an AP Biology intern for my teacher. Here, to supplement my knowledge of AP Biology, I started to watch iTunes University lectures on Human Behavioral Biology lectured by Dr. Robert Sapolsky. I learned basically the exact same information as I did in AP Biology, but the way he lectured breathed new life into biology. These tiny nuances that were overlooked in AP Biology were brought to the foreground of study. I fell in love with biology. (I highly suggest all of you to watch the lectures. It’s free too.)
Another example: My AP Physics teacher in high school did not know physics. How she became a physics teacher is beyond my imagination, but I digress. The point is I had to teach myself AP Physics. I could not do it on my own though. Once again, I turned to iTunes University. I discovered Dr. Walter Lewin of MIT. His lectures were mind-blowing; they incorporated different experiments to prove the point of physics. I, like many of you, dreaded physics before. After his lectures, I loved physics. I am now a physics minor along with my major. (I also highly suggest all of you to watch his lectures in times of trouble.)
Many people dreaded organic chemistry, but I did not. Instead of being afraid of it, I tackled it straight on. I did not go straight into trying to memorize the information; I tried to understand it why things work they way they work. Why do aromatic ring hydrogens appear more downfield on an H1 NMR? It’s because the magnetic field used in the NMR will cause the electrons of the aromatic pi-system to move in a general clock-wise direction. This will generate its own magnetic field that will be in the same direction of the magnetic field applied. This means that essentially the magnetic field around the hydrogens of the aromatic ring will effectively be stronger as the magnetic field would be the summation of the applied and generated magnetic fields. This will consequently cause the hydrogens to appear more downfield. Of course, the aforementioned explanation is too long of an explanation for a textbook to cover. Hence, the textbook only gives a picture and the information that aromatic ring hydrogens will appear more downfield. All the beauty of the aforementioned explanation would be lost to interpretation and plenty of us premeds would not slow down and take the time to analyze the picture that describes the aforementioned explanation.
We premeds are prone to be cutthroat and grade-oriented. We must be above that. In order to become a great med school and become a great doctor, we must become great scholars. We must slow down, take sometime, analyze and enjoy the fields that we study. This will not only help us understand our subjects of study, but also naturally boost our precious, precious grades. So here, I challenge every premed reader to become a scholar, study for the sake of knowledge and learning, not for the sake of grades.