A while back, I did a post for Brittany at PA Fanatic on 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting PA School. When I was working on that article, I found it difficult to come up with only 5, so here are 5 more!
- Don’t worry about loans, but be aware of them.
For the majority of PA students, loans are a fact of life (unfortunately). There's no need to dwell on your loans while you're in school because there's really nothing you can do about them at that time because most PA programs do not allow working while in school. And honestly, I think you would be crazy to try because PA school is a full time job. While you don't want to let your impending debt weigh on your shoulders too much, don't go crazy. I had classmates who ate out for every single meal (using loan money), and then promptly bought a new car after PA school. If you've read my story, you'll know that I worked as hard as possible to pay off my loans after I graduated, but I also tried to be frugal throughout school. Here's some tips to help you save money while in PA school!
- Don’t be afraid of your teachers or preceptors
The faculty of your program should be part of your support system. Whether it's an advisor, teacher, director, or preceptor, find that person you can go to if you're struggling. And be honest about any challenges you may be facing. If you're finding a particular section difficult or not sure how to study most effectively, ask for help! This goes for undergrad too. Your teachers and preceptors are the people who will be able to help you get a job in the future and they'll be your best references. I would frequently visit my advisor for advice or even just to decompress and talk about how stressed I was, and it was nice to talk to someone who had been there and understood what I was going through. You'll also want to keep in touch with these people after school.
- Make time for yourself.
This is something I was terrible at when I first started PA school. I would go to school, study constantly, and basically never do anything else. I was living at home for the first year, and even if my parents asked me to go grab a quick dinner, I refused and stayed hoe to study. I was also supposed to be planning a wedding at that time. About halfway through didactic year, I loosened up a bit. I started going out to eat and doing some fun things (like going to see Taylor Swift with my classmates), and my grades actually improved while my stress decreased. The lesson I learned is that 30 extra minutes of studying when I'm tired or hungry won't make a huge impact on my grade. I also never read a book for fun while I was in PA school, and I love reading! Why did I do that?
- Be honest about what you want to do.
Somewhere during clinical year, I decided that to get a job, I needed to tell every preceptor that I wanted to work in their field. Basically, I was trying to suck up. In my heart, I knew that I had a passion for surgery or dermatology. Once I started being honest about that with my teachers and preceptors, I actually started hearing about the open jobs in the area and getting more valuable information that would actually help me find the job I wanted. If I could do it again, I would have taken this approach from the very beginning of school.
- Always be professional.
I feel like this should go without saying, but as a PA student and future PA just always carry yourself in a way that exhibits professionalism. Whether that's in class, on campus, when you're having fun on the weekends, or certainly on rotations. Just always keep in mind that you are representing your school and the PA profession.