A year ago I was eagerly and nervously awaiting my first day of the Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program. Today I got to meet the new intake of Med Lab students, and it all came back. The excitement, the questions, the uncertainty, the fears. So with that in mind, and now that I’ve had time to reflect on my first year, I thought I’d compile a list of tips for success at BCIT.
Work hard. Very hard.
BCIT is a tough grind. If you don’t put in the hours, you may not make it.
To give you an idea, we put in around 30 hours a week at school. That’s just classes and labs, studying aside. On average, I put another 30 hours a week into studying, assignments, and preparing for labs.
Much will be asked of you. At some point, you will think you have given everything you’ve got. Then it will get harder, and you’ll realize you were wrong.
Make friends, support each other
Having a support group while attending this program is essential. There will be moments where you’re so overwhelmed, you’ll need a shoulder to cry on. Or at least pass out on. Plus, you will learn much more by seeing how others understand the subject matter.
Don’t give up
There will be days you think you can’t get out of bed. Where you’ve been giving 110% for too long and you’re on the verge of burnout. The feelings will come and go. No matter what, keep going. Don’t give up, because you know what you’ve chosen to do is worth it.
Strategize your study time
It’s normal to gravitate toward a couple subjects that interest you more than the others, or that are easier. But make sure to spread your studying across all subjects. Know your weaknesses and don’t avoid working on them.
Make sure to give everything you’ve got early on. If you don’t, finals hit hard, and it’s quite hard to recover if you haven’t done as well on the midterms. We don’t get a break between our last class and finals. We learn new material right up until the Friday before finals. Then we have a weekend to study. A final a day, sometimes two, all crammed into one week. Keep up.
Pay attention in Level 1 of Medical Laboratory Science
You are being taught what you are for a reason; much of it will be built upon in Level 2, which is much, much, much, much, much harder. Did I mention Level 2 is much harder? There is no time for catching up, so putting your maximum effort into Level 1 will pay off.
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Bring your memorization A-game
There is a lot to memorize. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. I found using visualization techniques worked well for much of the content. The amount of information you’ll encounter is staggering, so the better you can remember things, the further ahead you’ll be.
Let go of being a perfectionist when learning MLS
This career attracts perfectionists. Striving for high grades comes with the territory. It’s a good thing, but in the learning environment an unhealthy focus on good grades can become a problem.
For example, early in the program I would freeze up in labs because I didn’t know how to proceed on small details. But I wanted to do things perfectly, so I would agonize over and delay decisions, which would ultimately get me behind. It’s funny how being a perfectionist in that environment really backfired on me. Freeing myself to make small mistakes meant that, even though I didn’t achieve a perfect grade, I could accurately identify what needed work and what I truly understood, all while saving myself a lot of stress. Plus, mistakes are excellent teachers; we remember our mistakes.
Keep your sense of humour
I am lucky to be part of a set that can laugh even when things are tough. Once enough people get entrenched in negative thinking it becomes reinforcing, and group dynamics can spiral. I’m not saying you can’t acknowledge that things are hard – we do all the time – but bringing playfulness and lightheartedness to everyday interactions with the teachers and your classmates diminishes stress.
Keep the end goal of a lab technician in mind
This is an amazing career. The pain and personal sacrifice are worth it. You will be working every day to make a difference. And you won’t be bored, because this technology-driven profession is always evolving.
Interested in the Medical Laboratory Science full-time diploma program? Join the next online info session at BCIT.