The shock of just how different PT school would be from undergrad is something that hit me hard and quick. Throughout grade school and high school, I was always a pretty smart kid. I enjoyed doing homework and learning, school was never very difficult for me. I ended up graduating from high school just a few credits short of earning my associate’s, I was one of those students. When I got to Florida International University for undergrad, there was a bit of adjusting. I found myself studying more and having to apply myself more than I ever had previously but I still did well without putting forth maximal effort. (In hindsight, I should have taken it a bit more seriously and because I didn’t, I retook some classes before my acceptance to UMPT. But hey, I ended up just where I wanted to be so I’m not stressing it!) But then, I started PT school and anything less than high gear wasn’t going to cut it! Settling into PT school was something I didn’t quite perfect until about a year in, and that’s still debatable, but I surely had to make adjustments quickly!
So, what was so different?
Free time doesn’t feel like free time
Until anatomy, I never had felt so guilty turning Netflix on ever in my life. A new season of Orange is the New Black came out on Netflix the week of our second exam, I told myself I was allowed only one episode a day and only if I had completed “X” hours of studying before it. I would literally watch the episode with a constant little voice in the back of my head reminding me of all of the productive things I could be doing…even if I had been productive ALL day! It took me some adjusting to allow myself to enjoy free time, and plan time into my busy weeks where I could just sit back and turn on Netflix. This became a lot easier once I started to feel like I was doing better in my classes.
Free time might not actually even exist
So unless it was a break between semesters free time never truly existed. Yes, I made sure to give myself time blocks to be as unproductive as possible but by no means was that synonymous with free time. In my program, there was never a time where my to-do list was blank. There was always another quiz coming up, a daunting week of midterms/finals lurking ahead, or housekeeping kind of things to do. But just as I scheduled time for myself to grocery shop, cook, eat, workout, and sleep I scheduled myself “free time.” I may or may not have had days where I binge watched Grey’s Anatomy for 5 hours just because it was a rough week. But hey, I earned some fake free time!
Studying is not a night before kind of thing
Unless you’re trying to make yourself miserable or you’re a super genius, studying the night before just won’t slide anymore at the graduate level. I personally found myself studying practically every day! And when a big test was coming up the studying turned into high gear a few days prior and an all-out stress fest the night before. In undergrad, I was such a last-minute studier! One specific time I recall is going out to a Halloween party, making it home around 3 A.M., taking a shower and 2-hour nap then waking up to cram for an 8 A.M. exam…. Yeah, I can’t say I’m not proud of the fact I still did well on that exam but I could never and would never try to pull that off in PT school!
The content wasn’t unbearably unrelatable, finally
At last! Class wasn’t just a place to sit and scroll through social media anymore. It’s such a nice change to finally enjoy what’s being presented to you. No more microbiology of a plant or statistics. Seriously, who thought we’d need two courses of statistics to become a physical therapist? Or physics… do not even get me started. But yes, finally the content of our courses was relevant, interesting, and challenging in a way that made me want to understand everything. There’s something so much better about learning when you’re passionate about the subject. I complained a lot about all of the studying I had to do and some pretty dry lectures but everything I learned in PT school was so much more interesting than undergrad! Now out on clinicals I can actually see a lot of the things I’ve learned come to life. How cool!
Motivation blossomed out of me
And naturally, with all of the above being said I was truly motivated. Motivated to learn, to understand, to do well. I have always been one to set high standards for myself and do well in school but the stakes got higher. I was motivated to understand everything so that I can go out there and be an amazing PT that represents “The U” well!
The transition from undergrad to PT school wasn’t something that happened over night after the first day of classes, or after the first semester even. I spent a lot of time toying with my schedule, study habits, and work-life balance to ensure I was giving myself a fair shot at doing well and not becoming an insane homebody. Looking back, I think I did a pretty decent job! Now… how do I balance my life as a real adult with no school when that time comes?! I guess I’ll just have to settle in again.