Hi all! I’m Aashna, a PA student in her second semester of didactic year. I’m excited to be guest posting for Andrea and sharing a few things about my experience as a PA student. Last Friday my school was doing their second round of interviews for the class of 2019. I got to meet the group interviewing that morning and one of the girls asked me what surprised me the most about PA school. That question sparked the motivation behind this post! Here are a few things I wish I’d known before I started PA school:
1. You are capable of so much more then you ever realized. The amount of information your brain can learn and withhold is unreal. I remember how overwhelmed I was after our first week of classes wondering how on earth I was ever going to remember any of it. The thing is you won’t remember everything, but you’ll surprise yourself with the information you’ll be able to recall down the road. Your brain is capable of a lot more then you could’ve ever imagined, and I’m still constantly surprised by it almost every day.
2. Invest in a good computer and a printer. My laptop is my lifeline. If anything happens to it, my life would literally come to a halt. Make sure your laptop/iPad/Surface Pro is in good condition before starting school because you’ll need it basically for every hour you’re awake and studying. I also wish I’d known that I’d need a printer at home to print my study guides. All of our notes are given to us via PowerPoint but for all of our classes, I make a study guide / use my classmates’ study guides that we all share with each other and print them out. I remember things better when I see it on paper than reading it off of my screen.
3. It really is as hard as you expected it to be. PA school consumes almost every minute of every hour of my day. It is and will be one of the hardest thing I will ever go through. I’m glad I started school with that mindset and expected it to be really hard, so I wasn’t in a complete shock. It does get overwhelming at times, but you learn to manage it all. So if you are someone who just slept through your undergrad classes or didn’t have to study as much, I’d suggest starting to change your mindset to study to understand and remember things for long term, not just to pass an exam and then forget about it. Like I said here, study as if you’re already treating patients.
4. Study groups are very helpful and even necessary. I was never a group study person mainly because I need to do things at my own pace and look over things on my own first. But I was surprised by how helpful study groups were once I started PA school. It’s also equally as helpful if you just have one or two classmates sitting with you but you’re all doing your own thing and not really studying “together”. Studying alone gets too quiet and lonely sometimes and it’s very helpful to have someone’s company even if you’re not actively studying together. Take home point: be open to trying out new ways to study and see if something that you’ve not done before helps you.
5. Your sleep habits are about to change. I am not a big proponent of not sleeping enough even today, mainly because I don’t function very well on little sleep. However, there have been a few days where I’ve only gotten 5 hours of sleep (normally I need at least 8-9 hrs) simply because there’s so much to study and not enough hours in a day. I had to allow myself to do that in order to make sure I don’t do poorly on an exam, but I also limit the number of times I choose to sacrifice my sleep. Don’t let this become a habit because from experience, lack of sleep does more harm then help you. My point is that you will have to figure out when you study the best. It’s either waking up early (like I do) or staying up late and studying. Do what works for you, but expect to adjust your sleep habits.
6. Allowing others to take care of you is okay. I’ve been a very self sufficient person most of my life, so I’m not used to letting anyone do things for me, including my parents. Ever since I started PA school, I’ve learned to let my parents do things for me, even if it’s as simple as my mom doing my laundry and buying my groceries when I get to go home sometimes or my dad filling up my gas and loading up my car. I cannot imagine how I’d manage to survive if I didn’t have the constant support of my family through this journey. I know not all of you will be staying close to home when you start PA school, but allow your support system to take care of you in any way they can, because it does make a huge difference.
7. Doing non-PA school things is crucial. Step away from it all once every week, even if just for a few hours. Last semester, I took every Friday night off and it paid off so well. This semester is a lot crazier and while I may not get to have a “scheduled break”, I take any opportunity that I can to turn off my brain and go do something that’s not studying. Whether this is post exam burritos with my girls and wandering through T. J Maxx or catching up on Grey’s Anatomy and relaxing by talking to my best friend guilt free. Do whatever floats your boat but breaks are necessary to remain sane and renew your spirits.
8. Buy a bookshelf. I’m currently regretting my decision to not buy a bookshelf as I had originally planned. The amount of textbooks I own keeps increasing and so does the amount of study guides I make and print. I was under the impression that online books that are provided by my school would do, and that I wouldn’t be buying hard copies. That didn’t turn out to be true in my case and now I’m currently waiting it out till my thanksgiving break when I’ll have the time to go buy myself a bookshelf.
All in all, just keep an open mind about things and be flexible. Things change a lot once you start school and like the rest of PA students or PA-Cs will tell you, you will adjust in due time. It’s a big change, but it’s not impossible. Just remember to breathe, find the time to do things you love, invest in your classmates, and make new friends. This journey is a difficult one but it’s can also be so beautiful if you let yourself choose joy.
Thank you so much for reading! Feel free to leave any feedback or questions in the comments section or head on over to my blog if you’re interested in reading more. Have a great rest of your day 🙂