Editor’s Note: We’re welcoming Justine back for a guest post! Check out all her previous work on the blog from when she was a student!
Even though I can hardly believe it, I have completed my first year of doctorate degree in physical therapy. The year has gone fast and with this post I will share a few things I found helpful throughout my first year in the program.
Get to know your classmates
Once you have made it past the application process, your acceptance into a grad program marks the end of the competition with your fellow peers. Getting to know your classmates has many benefits beyond forming friendships. Each of my classmates shares a common interest in physical therapy but our backgrounds and past experiences make us each unique. Some students with an athletic training background are more familiar with sports injuries while others have a background in geriatrics. You can learn from your classmates as they may be able to share ideas or explain concepts you have difficulty with.
Set up a study schedule
Another benefit of getting to know classmates is to find other students who have a similar study method as you. A big part of physical therapy is patient education which requires not only that you are able to understand a concept but are also able to explain it to your patients in terms that they will understand. Due to that focus, I would frequently get together with a few classmates before or after our classes to go over lectures and break down the more complicated concepts so we could fully understand the material. Find classmates who have similar study methods as you in order to make your study time the most effective for your learning.
Learn to manage free time
This one isn’t much different from an undergrad piece of advice. However, once I started school again I became a bit jealous of my graduated friends working full time jobs without an extra homework load to do in the evenings. This was a change from my undergrad days because at that time all my friends were in school and had times where they needed to study as well. Someday, I will be able to relate to a 40 work week without homework (and a paycheck instead of loans!) but until then I will be spending a little more time with my nose in my textbooks. For the time you are in graduate school, make it a priority to get comfortable with a study schedule, with a few study breaks squeezed in for the occasional social outing or get-together with a friend.
Maintain the knowledge
This is going to be your career field. One of the big switches I had to change in my brain from undergrad to graduate school was commitment to the material. I can confess that in some of my undergrad classes I would hold onto the material until the exam and then it would fade away. Now it’s much easier for me to see the application of the material I am learning, it will help me to understand my patient better and allow me to answer patient questions when they arise. Finding the right career path for you will make learning much more meaningful and purposeful and eventually support a career in a field that you love.
One of the most rewarding aspects of grad school is that I’m being taught by physical therapists, in a classroom of students who want to be physical therapists, who will one day be working in a field with people who need physical therapy. It’s a very welcoming environment and after making it through my first year, I know that this is the right field for my future. To anyone else who is starting or continuing within a graduate program, I wish you luck and hope that you find success in all that you do!