5 Things to Do Before PA School

How to Make the Most of Your Next 27 Months
February 27, 2019

By Brian Palm

PA school is right around the corner and you want to make sure that you don’t end up a “statistic.” The truth is, about two students per incoming class will be academically dismissed due to poor performance1.  While it’s no secret that getting through PA school is one of the most difficult tasks you’ll ever accomplish, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you pass with flying colors.

  1. Have a strong support system.

One of the most important things that can help you in PA school is a strong support system.  The next two years are going to be some of the hardest years of your life, so it’s important to have people you can rely on to help get you through it!  That could mean having a Sunday night phone call with a friend or family member, or knowing exactly who would be willing to meet you for coffee at a moment’s notice.  You will probably develop great relationships with your classmates, but they are going to be going through the same stress-inducing situation that you are. Having a handful of trusted friends and confidantes outside of PA school will make your experience better.

  1. Refresh your anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology.

Most incoming PA students haven’t seen anatomy and physiology since their sophomore or junior year of undergrad. These are two of the hardest courses you’ll take in PA school, so it’s important to revisit your foundational knowledge. You’ll want to hit the ground running since PA programs only have a short amount of time to teach you the graduate-level curriculum. They don’t have time to refresh the undergraduate portion of your training so you may want to consider taking a prep course.

[Check out AAPA’s Student Resources – everything you need for your didactic year and your clinical rotations.]

  1. Fine-tune your study skills.

You will likely have different study habits than your fellow classmates, but it’s important to think about which study method works best for you before classes begin.  Are you a hand-written notetaker? Or do you prefer to type everything out?  Or maybe some combination of the two works best for you. Do you prefer to study individually or in groups? It’s common for students to form study groups within the first few weeks of school, but think about what works for you before making any commitments. You want to be studying the right way for you from the very beginning.

  1. Ask your program if there is any pre-assigned reading.

Oftentimes PA programs will have preferred reading to complete, even before the first day of classes.  And some programs even conduct pop quizzes to see if your work ethic is where it needs to be (but you didn’t hear that from us!).  If your program has assigned reading that needs to be completed, be sure to do it so you’re not caught off-guard.

[PA School timeline and checklist.]

  1. Improve your lifestyle.

Your physical and mental well-being are just as important as your grades in PA school, so it’s important to get into a healthy eating and exercise routine. Will you have time to work out every day during PA school?  Probably not.  But even if you need a study break after hours and hours of reading, exercise is much more beneficial than accidentally binge-watching Netflix.  You can also develop your go-to list of quick, easy, and healthy meals to help fuel your brain on those long nights of studying. You won’t function as well in PA school if you’re not also taking care of your body and mind.

Becoming a PA is no easy feat, but plan carefully and use your time efficiently. You’ll be a newly-graduated PA in no time!

Brian Palm, PA-C is the founder of www.myPAresource.com, helping pre-PA applicants with their PA school personal statements.

1. PAEA Program Report 33, Table 54.

More Resources
9 Reasons to Become a PA
How to Accrue Healthcare Experience and Patient Care Experience
Student Resources

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