You were accepted to PA school, now what?
Oh, the feeling when you receive the phone call that you’ve been accepted for PA school! Arguably, one of my most favorite memory. I remember I was in the checkout line at the grocery store to pick up a redbull. I was on my way from my house to the library to study for a biochemistry exam. I picked up the redbull, waited in the line and felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. It was an out of state number. I answered. On the other line was the director of admissions. “Congrats, you’ve been accepted to _____ PA school!” And immediately, I strongly remember this wave of endorphins hitting my body, genuine happiness running through the body. “I’ve been accepted!!”
This is a goal you’ve worked tremendously hard towards. This is a goal some work for 4-10 years. It’s a massive achievement in your life, one that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. It’s a feeling you will try to emulate again in your life because there was nothing like it! So, for those who have been accepted this cycle, congratulations and welcome to the field.
Now that you’ve been accepted, you’re probably wondering, what now? How do I possibly prepare for what is about to hit me. I imagine most of you already are aware that PA school is no-joke and you’re likely preparing to be ahead of the curve now that you’ve been accepted. Don’t worry; There are somethings you can do to prepare yourself for the hurricane that is about to hit your face.
Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard of this from others. It really is true. PA school will come with everything that you’ve ever thought of. You will be studying from 7am-12am. You will be in constant deprivation of food, sleep, friends, family. This can and WILL cause physical stress, emotional stress and it will feel like the perfect storm. So, before you go through this storm, relax. It is imperative that you get away from all the stresses of life for a week, rewind, kick back and appreciate yourself for what you’ve accomplished. You deserve that much.
2. Enjoy the company of your friends and family
You won’t have friends in PA school, well, except for the ones who are in the trenches with you. It’s really hard to have a social life. So, just as I mentioned above, take the time to see your friends, your family. Make sure you have solid foundations in your relationships, so they don’t breakdown when you don’t have contact with them. Plus, remember, when you break down in PA school, you’ll need to call these people for help. Okay, I’m just making PA school sound like prison now. Sorry. But, you’ll know when you know!
3. Learn stress coping skills
Are you noticing a pattern here? I remember when I started the first month, the amount of things that are thrown at you are beyond your wildest imagination. This is truly a sink on swim moment in your career. Many in my class panicked. Some chose exercise and meditation, some chose cooking, some chose drawing. All of these are great coping methods. Do what works for you.
What not to do: Most of us weren’t gifted and didn’t have photographic memory. This meant we had to study, study, study and repeat just to get things in our heads. When you have to study for 18 hours a day, caffeine becomes your best friend. This is fine! However, some weren’t able to fall asleep after 18 hours of straight caffeine and drank alcohol to sleep. Please, do not take this route! Nothing good will come from it. Just a side note :)
4. Sharpen your critical thinking skills.
Typically, in undergrad, you’ll have your critical thinking skills develop significantly due to the difficulty of classes. However, most of your exam questions will be 1st or 2nd order questions. When you get to this level, critical thinking is turned up a notch. Exam questions will be 2nd or 3rd order questions, which means you need to know your subject materials in and out! This comes from a personal experience. I was terrible at taking exams my entire first year. I did not learn how to take exams critically until 2nd didactic year. If there is one thing I can tell the future PA-S’s is sharpen your critical thinking skills before school. It will take you a long ways and you’ll be able to avoid all the frustration.
5. Medical terminology
I assume for most, your first exam will be medical terminology. This is essentially a medicine and latin exam built in one. They will test you on prefixes, suffixes, common abbreviations, and common medical terms that one should know prior to beginning PA school. Remember the PA profession is traditionally made for those who are already in the medical field. So, if you’re not that student who has been an EMT, paramedic, nurse, PT etc. learn some medical terminology over the summer before school starts. Obviously, you don’t have to go crazy, but an hour a day doesn’t hurt!
You’re about to enter the hardest and the most exciting part of your lives. Take everything in, enjoy every part, because believe it or not, it’ll end before you know it and the next thing you know you’re writing a blog post about it.
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