Advice For Undergrads with Angela Brooks

Let’s take a minute and talk about college. Did I go to college? Nope. However, someone very close to me is an undergrad looking to pursue a career in the medical field. Even though I chose not to go to college doesn't mean I'm not supportive and interested in the topic. For someone like her and for what she wants to do, college is definitely the right path.

The college students I meet always seem stressed and under pressure. I cannot even imagine pursuing a degree while in a pandemic because it adds additional factors and that’s why I decided to write on this topic as many people can relate to Angela aka my sister!

When I meet someone who's in college I'm always curious as to what they are studying and why.

So I asked Angela just that…”what are you studying and why?”

Her response: I am a senior Biology major. I changed my major junior year from medical imaging to biology because I had a strong intellectual curiosity about the human body and the functionality on an everyday basis. I first realized sophomore year of high school that it was something that was challenging but worth learning because I was so interested and a bit of a challenge makes me want to understand the topics even more! The autonomy between the body and mind and how the body is so connected makes me very fascinated. I want to enter the PA(Physician Assistant) profession because the work environment of every day being a new experience, on my feet and constantly with people is where I thrive best!

In my opinion, college isn't for everyone and that’s coming from someone who did not go that route. So I was curious to hear Angela’s thoughts on college and if it was always something she wanted to pursue.

Her response: Going to college was always something that I had considered. I did not know what exactly I wanted to do, but my education has always been a priority and was never an obligation. Doing my school work always seemed like a choice and I chose to put the time and effort into it. College just seemed like the next reasonable step for me to continue my education! I do not believe college is for everyone. There are so many different ways of acquiring an “education” besides in a classroom. I am a strong believer that experiences will always benefit you and your education whatever that field may be. For example, if someone is pursuing a trade because they find that working with their hands is easier than having a more cerebral or logical workflow then college is unnecessary. In general, a goal for everyone is to continue to learn about the world around you because that is the best way to learn about yourself. Never stop trying to educate and question yourself because the moment you stop is the moment you become complacent.

Now let's get into today’s world and education. The transition from offline to online schooling in the midst of COVID-19 is a big one for all students. Whether you are in elementary, middle or high school. However, I’d like to know the transition for a college student. Her response: Online education has significantly worsened my education. In other words, the mental toll that virtual learning has caused created a disinterest in the content. My ability to focus and retain the information has significantly decreased and as a senior Biology major looking into a masters program this information is pertinent for me to understand! I 100% prefer commuting to school and dealing with 5:00 traffic than attending virtual class from 8 am to 6 pm. My advice to conquer the virtual platform is to still get ready and change out of your pajama pants. Even if it is in sweatpants, getting ready as if you were in person is a huge way to mentally stay focused. Waking up 5 minutes before class and opening your laptop will not help you retain any information! I learned this a bit too late and played catch up for the last half of the semester. Next semester is online and hopefully I will get into positive habits from the beginning and have a successful last semester before I graduate in May.

When I meet college students who are going to school full time and working a job my first thought is “How do you balance school, work and your social life!?”

Her response: I swear by a planner. I have never been much of a procrastinator because there is too much anxiety around that pressure. I just invested in a customizable planner called Goldencoil. It was pricey for a planner, but being able to choose the layout and format is incredible because I get so much use out of it. I have weekly assignment pages with due dates and to do lists that it is making me excited to go back to school just so I can manage time. I have always worked during school. At times multiple jobs such as being a tutor, or working on Sundays then another part-time job during the week. I find that I produce my best work when I have a busy workload. However, you need to know your own limits because if you feel like you are behind, education comes first hands down.

I feel like everyone experiences pressure, especially college students. How do you handle it?

Her response: Pressure can sometimes fuel you to produce your best work. However, don’t push yourself studying for 7 hours, pulling an all- nighter and pouring yourself a second coffee! That is not an effective way to utilize your time. Studying small increments throughout the week will 100% alleviate that pressure and the mind needs a break, just like any other muscle. Let’s say you used to run, but it has been a while since you laced up your running shoes. You go for a 2 mile run and you feel great, but the next day you can hardly stand up straight. You would not go for another 2 mile run, right? So why push your mind to its limit, then push it some more?

When posting on The Brooks Journal story on instagram, I received this question,“What is your best time management/studying tip?”

Her response: My best time management tip is to honestly stay busy and truly plan out your day or week giving yourself time to study, do assignments, relax, and see my family and friends! Just like anything there needs to be a balance and when you feel an Imbalance between all aspects of your life then re evaluate your strategies! Also, I swear by a planner but even using google calendar, reminders or post-it notes to keep you on track, go for it!

One of my favorite controversial questions is, “Do you feel social media is a pro or con in today’s society?”

Her response: I feel that social media can be manipulated to benefit or harm you. Social media has allowed me to network and meet people with similar interests or even humor- we all love a good meme of Dwight Schrute. However, some accounts can truly warp the mind and make you feel like if you do not have lulu lemon leggings, a juicer and a bunch of plants in your house you are not doing it right. That is just ridiculous, but we have all been there. Knowing which accounts to follow and limiting the hours spent is very important!

In my opinion, self-doubt can really take a toll on us and is easily experienced. I feel like you’d be lying if you say you haven't experienced it. I’m interested in knowing if self-doubt resulted in wanting to drop out of school and pursue something else?

Her response: Absolutely! There are times, actually just today, that I felt that I was taking too big of a risk. The anxiety around applying to become a PA and the requirements behind it makes it seem impossible and way too competitive! Yet, if this is what I am passionate about then no time frame or limitation should keep me from the hustle of going for it. I know I can only do my best and take it one step at a time, but it can be discouraging when you study for 3 days, 6 hours each day and still manage an F on an exam. That disappointment in yourself can be depressing. However, I have learned and continue to learn that one grade can not define me, it is how I will change how I study and start planning on getting a better grade.

It’s so impressive that Angela accumulated about 350 volunteer hours in a course of 3 years on top of her busy life! I feel that says a lot about her character. She is selfless, passionate and motivated. I’m wondering, what influenced her to become a mentor?

Her response: My role on campus is to mentor and guide freshmen into getting involved on campus. Making the students aware of what my college has to offer in order to fully take advantage of their resources and support system. Also, we try to engage the students and facilitate friendships that can give them a new support system on campus. Everyone goes to college not just for academics, but to find new friends and relationships. My first college friend is now my best friend and I owe it to my school for having her in my life.

Speaking of freshmen and now being a mentor to them, what would you tell yourself if you can go back in time to when you were a freshman? Her response: I would tell myself to take in any piece of advice and start preparing now because time will fly past. The unexpected can happen. 4 years ago(before college) my life had no resemblance to what it is now. At certain moments all I could do was wish I could go back to when life was easier. Now that I have almost conquered college I cannot imagine anything except looking at my future and what those goals are!

Lastly, please share 3 tips for current undergraduates:

  1. Everyone in college has the same 2 goals. The first is to make friends & the second is to get good grades. Do not hesitate to introduce yourself because I assure you that it will be easier to connect with your peers than you think.

  2. Constantly check your mental health. Do things that make you happy. For example, every semester I do a Harry Potter marathon. I pick a night once a week that I watch a Harry Potter movie. There are 8 movies total so if I start in the beginning of the semester, by the time I finish I am already halfway finished with my semester. That movie is a destressor that I can count on for just a few hours set aside so that I can relax, light a candle and watch Harry Potter.

  3. What is your why? Why are you going through college? Keep asking yourself that to motivate you and to evaluate your expectations. If you do not know your why, college can be difficult. why is what makes you want to get those grades no matter if you miss out on some of your social life.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Don’t hesitate to reach out so I can share with Angela. As you all read, she is a mentor to so many in regards to academics and would love to answer any questions you may have. You can follow her at @angelaa.brooks