So I thought I would elaborate on some of the points brought up in the last post. I don’t know about other med schools, but at mine, certain classes during the first two years of med school were met with pathetic med student attendance. It only makes sense that the less “useful” or not so well-taught classes would meet this fate since the limited amount of time allotted to freely studying for the USMLE Step 1 just never quite seems like enough to the frazzled med student. But is this trend an acceptable one? It is certainly difficult to find the right balance between time spent in class and time left aside for studying/having a life (okay, I’m just delusional…what life?). Unfortunately, we can’t have it all. So we’re left with choosing to do what works best for us, which for some of us means not attending class. As I saw fewer and fewer of my classmates attending class, I began wondering if I was missing out on some secret strategy for success. So I decided to try it out for myself one quarter. And it was nice. Sleeping in and staying home in my PJs all day. Studying. Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe I was supposed to not go to class but keep the same schedule. But it didn’t work for me. Well, it did in that I still passed all my classes. But it didn’t in that I didn’t feel like I really learned anything that quarter. As much as I didn’t enjoy sitting half awake in class wondering why I was there because I was too sleepy to absorb anything anyway, I actually (without consciously realizing it) did absorb a whole lot of information by just simply going to class. When I didn’t go to class, I didn’t have that “head start” in my studying and spent twice as long studying. Which was not fun. So I learned my lesson and went back to attending class even though a good majority of my class was not.

Of course, my experience with attending class only applies to me and my learning style. Everyone has their own learning style and what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. If my classmates learn more effectively by studying alone without attending class, then good for them, I’m glad they found a strategy that works for them. But what really irked me during my first two years of med school were the people who thought they were so far above the rest of us that they couldn’t even be bothered with showing up for our required classes. Honestly, if I had a choice, I wouldn’t have attended the majority of these sessions either, but I didn’t. Is it my fault that I follow the rules? What makes them think that they’re so important that they don’t have to sit through drivel while the rest of us do? Well, maybe the system is also partly to blame—if it weren’t so easy to get away with ditching required classes, it probably wouldn’t happen.

And just one more thought: what about the poor professors who spend a good amount of time that they could have spent doing something else preparing lectures for us? How do they feel when they walk into the lecture hall and see only 20% of the class in attendance? I know how it would make me feel and what I would do—I would make the test extra hard and focus on material only presented during lecture to reward those who did show up and/or I wouldn’t try so hard the following year if at all. And then there are the professors that try really hard to teach well but just can’t seem to satisfy anyone. Does trying not count for anything? Maybe these issues are just some of the drawbacks of being a professor. Because there really is no easy way to make everyone happy.

In the end, as super-stressed-out-spread-way-too-thin med students, we all choose to do what makes us happy (or whatever semblance of happiness we can experience as super-stressed-out-spread-way-too-thin med students). And that’s okay.

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