Peer Mentors Blog

Peer Mentors for First-Year Students

  • Advice on Taking Summer Courses

    by Zachary Hecox | Mar 31, 2014

    As the end of the semester looms, what better way to avoid thinking about finals than to contemplate taking summer courses? To help you with your decision, the Peer Mentor Program offers the following pros and cons of extending your college experience into the dog days of the summer.

    First, the pros:

    • The classes will be smaller. It’s not at all uncommon to see classes that usually have 250 students being offered over the summer with only 25 students. Avoiding the monster classes at ACPHS is a real plus. You could actually be able, for a change, to see and maybe even get to know your professor really well. Now, that’d be a first.
    • Summer courses have a more relaxed atmosphere. Everyone tends to loosen up a little during the summer, ever professors. Some might shed their tweed jackets or pencil skirts and show up in shorts. Whether these are fashion faux pas or not, what’s not to like about a more lad-back instructor?
    • You’ll get a more intensive study of a subject. Summer courses run for six weeks, which is fewer than half the number of weeks of the regular semester, with classes meeting several hours every day. As a result, you get a rare chance to truly concentrate on the subject you’re studying, which is great if you’re really interested in the topic of the course.
    • You can tame requirements that are difficult for you. Some students who have trouble managing the math and science requirements find that it can help to take summer courses. That’s because students usually take only one course per summer session and can have an easier time learning the material when they don’t have to get their mind around other subjects at the same time.

    Sound great? Ready to trade in your summer in paradise for the lecture hall of the Student Center? Now consider the cons:

    • It’s too intensive. Summer courses are very compressed: They almost always meet three hours a day, three days a week. For some people, having class and homework every day as well as quizzes and tests due at more frequent intervals is just more than they can happily swallow.
    • You might not get the regular faculty. Many faculty members, especially the well-paid ones, don’t want to be bothered teaching summer courses. So it’s quite possible that there are folks teaching summer courses that aren’t on the regular staff—and might not be as qualified as the regular staff (think faculty from other colleges in Albany).
    • Summer school costs extra. You’ve already paid thousands and thousands of dollars for fall and spring (and, at ACPHS, can take as many courses as you like then). So why pay extra? Tuition is $973 per credit hour and housing is $840 per session.
    • You deserve a break today. After two long semesters, you may be much in need of some R&R. In this case, you may want to give summer courses a pass. Don’t worry: No one will hold it against you. And you’ll still finish in the six years you had planned.

    For more advice on taking summer courses, please contact your respective Peer Mentor or any Peer Mentor Coordinator. Thanks in advance!


  • How to study actively!

    by Apryl Jacobs | Feb 19, 2014

    When it comes to pharmacy school, it is imperative that you learn to study actively. In order to retain the information in your long term memory, you need to do more than just read your notes. I found a really helpful article on the fundamentals of active studying and I would like to share an excerpt of it with you.

    “Four active processes will be used in the steps of any active study pattern and any study time that does not involve one or more of these steps is almost certainly passive and inefficient!

    1. Identifying the important information – answering the eternal question of “what’s important here?”

    2. Organizing the information – start with the “big picture” to create a framework that facilitates memorization and access appropriate for differential diagnosis.

    3. Memorizing the information – this requires frequent review to keep it available for use!

    4. Applying the information to more complex situations – practice questions, quiz questions, clinical applications, etc.

    Everyone will develop their own “high volume” study methods eventually, but the majority of medical students benefit from a starting strategy – and one generally successful starting point uses five basic steps:

    1. Finding the "big picture" by skimming the information before lecture – identifying and memorizing the four or five major topics will keep you on track during lecture.

    2. Creating a complete rough draft of the material by annotating the lecturer's slides  – notes emphasizing the lecturer's context are supplemented as needed from other reading materials. Don't rewrite this!

    3. Creating summary charts, lists or diagrams that organize the needed material to emphasize patterns that facilitate memorization.

    4. Actively memorizing the charts, etc., as they are created, then incorporating quick and frequent review during later study to nail the information down – you'll still need the fundamentals after finals are over.

    Practicing application using practice or quiz questions during the study process – and not to test yourself just before the exam.”

    I found this article to be very insightful, so you should take a look at it too!

    Here’s the link:

    I suggest printing out the four fundamentals of active studying and taping them above your desk. That way you can review them before you start studying, so you will really master this approach! They will help you succeed in all of your years here at ACPHS!

    I hope you all are having a wonderful spring semester!

    Good luck :)

    Apryl Jacobs

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