Top 4 Mistakes I made as a New Pharmacy Student…

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Top 4 mistakes I made as a new pharmacy student…and how you can avoid them!

Looking back I can clearly see mistakes I made as a new Pharmacy student so I’m here to share them and hopefully you can avoid them.  Most of them boil down to habits.

Good habits I didn’t have and bad ones I did.

You’re probably reading this because you are starting Pharmacy school soon, or you are already a Pharmacy student.


I started my first year of Pharmacy school at the University of British Columbia back in the Fall of 2004.  ( A long time ago…)  But looking back at my 4 years at UBC I can clearly see mistakes I made as a student.

Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and it’ll make your university experience smoother.

So lets jump right into it.


MISTAKE #1)  Lack of consistently scheduled:

  • Sleep
  • Study time

If you look read biographies of successful people you will find they have positive habits built into their day, and they intentionally set up their day for success.

This means scheduling for success.

Sleep – The need for sleep is obvious but is often neglected by students.  Erratic bedtimes and awake times leaves you running on a mental “half-tank” of energy.

Go to bed at regular times and wake at regular times.  This will make the MISTAKES #2 and #3 easier to avoid.

Study time – If you give yourself a week to study for the exam you will find yourself doing nothing for 6 days and then trying to study it all the night before.

Avoid this by setting regularly scheduled study times.  Put a reminder into your phone. Have an alarm go off before every scheduled study period to remind you “TIME TO STUDY.”   Treat it like you would work.  If your boss expects you to work from 4pm – 6pm you show up and do your job. You don’t make plans with friends during that time, you don’t fiddle on your phone during that time: you work.

The more time you spend THINKING about what you’ve learned the deeper it will be ingrained in your brain and less need for cramming before exams. So put the time in.



MISTAKE #2)  Poor eating habits

Its commonly known that students eat Ichiban noodles and macaroni and cheese all the time right… well hopefully not, but due to a time crunch students can get into the habit of reaching for quick, nutrient-poor foods.

I used to eat very little during the day and then finish off a large, rising crust pizza by myself  at night.  Just imagine what that does to energy levels and blood sugar levels!

Its no wonder I made MISTAKE #1 repeatedly.

In western medicine we often compartmentalize and try to separate our brain from our body…as if they aren’t connected.  But how we treat our body will directly affect how our brain performs. If you feed your body crap your mind will suffer.

Top mental performance requires nourishing your physical body.

Try to avoid the “quick and easy” processed food and reach for more nutrient-rich foods.  Fruits are like nature’s fast food – wash and eat.  So plan ahead and bring some fruits and cut-up veggies with you to stop you from reaching for crappy foods when you get hungry.


And you’re going to be learning a whole bunch of new things, and one important thing to learn, if you don’t already know how, is to cook.  Its something you’ll be doing the rest of your life so learn now.  You’ll be able to plan ahead, cook larger meals and have some for leftovers.

I used to hate leftovers, but that is so stupid. Its like creating your own fast food for subsequent days.


MISTAKE #3)   No exercise

Just like I mentioned above, if you don’t take care of your body your mental performance will suffer.

Exercise has been shown to have many benefits including boosting mood and can make you feel better about yourself.

But more than that, I think the discipline it takes to establish and stick with an exercise program can make you believe you are somebody who “gets stuff done” and it’ll carry over to other aspects of your life: such as eating better food and being more structured with study time.

And after a good workout when your body is tired you sleep better. (Just don’t workout too close to bedtime or you may be too stimulated to sleep…still feeling the high.)

Do you see how these are all connected?  I sure see it now, but I guess I was too overwhelmed at the time to see this.  I made the mistake of thinking “I’m so busy…I don’t have the time to exercise, or eat properly, or sleep well.”  Not realizing that if I would have put some structure into my day and treated my body better I wouldn’t have been so overwhelmed, so stressed, ‘so busy.’



MISTAKE #4) I should have lightened  my 1st year Pharmacy school course load.

Speaking of overwhelmed…my first year at Pharmacy School was ridiculous.  I had something like 8 or 9 classes my first term (if you include Organic Chem lab). I can’t remember the exact number because I think i’ve blacked those terrible memories out.

But of these, probably only 4 or 5 were directly from the Pharmacy program.

There were several classes that I should have planned ahead and taken the summer before entering Pharmacy.  I had a Statistics class, Organic Chemistry, Organic chem lab, and some weird 1st year Cell Biology class all packed into that first year. And during the second year there was Biochemistry and Microbiology, and somewhere smushed in there was 2 terms of Anatomy and 2 terms of Physiology.

I would have saved money had I taken some of those classes at my cheaper community college, and it would have seriously lightened my course load once I got into Pharmacy at UBC.

It is true you don’t know you’re getting into the program until about July before it starts, but if you’re serious about getting in, and you are confident you’re going to get in, then take the classes and get them out of the way. I was confident I would get into the program: I never doubted it, but I didn’t have someone telling this little bit of advice so my first year was  nutty.


BONUS TIP for  a New Pharmacy Student

If you have a class that is more than just memorization and if it requires problem-solving and practice then make sure you put in the time to DO IT.  Don’t leave that class until the night before an exam and expect that you’ll be able to cram it in.   Set up the scheduled practice time and work on it.  It may be a math class, a physics class, an organic chemistry class, etc… whatever it is, make sure you respect the time required and put in the effort.


After reading all these mistakes I made you’re probably thinking, “how the hell did you graduate?” and the answer is yes I did graduate with my mark hovering around 80% but I could have made the experience a lot more pleasant and less stressful had I known then what I know now.


I hope this helps and if you have any additional tips for studying, scheduling, etc… leave a comment below so other students can benefit too.