You’ve survived the long haul that is an undergraduate degree. This is a huge accomplishment for all, but I know you’re not done. You have your sights set on something more - an even greater challenge. And as if a bachelors wasn’t enough. Soon you will be entering PT school, perhaps your greatest challenge thus far.
As you prepare to conquer the next challenge in your life, I just wanted to let you in on some things - some things people have passed on to me and some things I wish I would have known before entering PT school.
Now I’m sure I don’t need to tell you it’s going to be hard. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you things are going to be coming at you at 100 mph. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you’re going to have no free time during test week. I’m sure you know these things and you’re crazy enough to proceed anyways. So here’s some info you may not have learned in your research, the important stuff you won’t be able to find on a school website.
1. Start by prioritizing
My first piece of advice is to prioritize. But not in the typical sense of the word. Not in the way the old wigs told you to when you were growing up. This type of prioritizing requires some self-reflection, looking deep, and figuring out what really matters to you.
I recommend you start with a few things that you can easily identify - 2 or 3 things you simply must have in your life, things you will under no circumstance give up, compromise, or push to the back burner. It’s important that no matter how stressed, crammed, pressured, or busy you are, if push comes to shove, you will not sacrifice these things. Work-life balance is important in PT school too.
2. Remember that school isn’t everything!
School is a high priority. After all, you will have committed 8 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to this endeavor. I get those things. Studying is important, test scores are important, GPA’s are important. But they’re not EVERYTHING!
This has been hard for me too and I recently received some advice from a professor during his consoling of the class before a final exam that was set to slay us. I’m paraphrasing, but he said, “This exam is not going to be easy, this is some tough content. But if you feel confident in how you prepared and you are comfortable with the information you’ve learned, have peace in that. Because 10 years from now, you’re not going to look back and talk about the grade you got, you’re going to remember the experience you gained and the people you met.”
This was a huge learning experience for me! Because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. And that takes me to my next point.
3. People matter
Now that we know school isn’t everything, I’ll tell you what is: people. People are everything. No matter how stressed or busy you are, always make time to build relationships! You’re going to be around some wonderful, brilliant people in school. Take advantage of that.
I should note that this one is especially hard for me. When making sacrifices, it is very easy for me to forfeit being social in pursuit of a higher grade or more studying time. So, my advice is, EARN IT. Earn yourself the ability to say yes to a friend that wants to go out for a beer. Earn the right to say yes without remorse. You earned it because you already put the time in, or you already scheduled the study time, or whatever the case may be. Just realize that you’ve probably earned the privilege to put people first and to take time to build new (or old) relationships.
4. Imposter syndrome is real, prepare for it
Next, I want to touch on something you’ve probably heard of and at some point even felt. I’m talking about Imposter Syndrome. In grad school, this is a very real thing. You are exposed to bright and gifted people at all times. You’re no longer the standout, you’re suddenly just average or arguably below it. First off, if you start to feel this way, it’s important to know that you are NOT alone.
Secondly, it’s critical that you recognize this feeling, investigate it, and leverage it for growth. Acknowledge that you’re feeling this way for a reason and use this feeling as a tool to better understand yourself! Figure out what situations, tasks, or people make you feel this way and dive into why this happens. What about these things triggers your thoughts of insecurity? Once you have identified these things, you can use them as a tool to catapult your personal growth and help conquer this uneasy feeling! Using Imposter Syndrome as a tool for personal development will be extremely empowering.
5. Keep moving forward
Lastly, never stop growing! Never stop striving to grow your being - beyond your education. Seek out knowledge outside of your niche, learn how to grow into a better communicator, girlfriend, boyfriend, brother, sister, counselor, or advice provider. I’m just shot gunning here, but whatever it may be, try to be great at it.
You will never know the person that you are destined to be until you start to push your limits and challenge the status quo. One thing I like to say is “Don’t just think outside the box, knock the whole damn box down!”
Villwock, J. A., Sobin, L. B., Koester, L. A., & Harris, T. M. (2016). Impostor syndrome and burnout among American medical students: a pilot study. International Journal of Medical Education, 7, 364–369. https://doi.org/10.5116/ijme.5801.eac4