The 6 things you NEED to know before you start PT school

From Marymount PT Professor Skye Donovan

Congrats you made it into PT school. you definitely cleared a huge hurdle. Many of your will be starting in the coming weeks and there are some things you can do to assist your transition into graduate school.

1- Figure out your learning style – Are you visual, auditory, writing or kinesthetic? There are several online tools that can help you determine how you best learn. The VARK questionnaire is a great one.It may sound simple but I have had many students who don’t figure out how to study causing unnecessary stress, angst and a lot of times wasted time and energy.

2- Buy the books – I know this sounds controversial and a plug for publishing companies but lectures and labs are only samples of the information you need to know; it would be like using Cliff’s notes to learn information you need for the rest of your career. The texts will have more in depth explanations, figures, tables and references. Many of them also have question banks and online content which can be invaluable when trying to understand a concept.

3. Find the best scheduling tool- Time management is essential in graduate school. Too often I see students struggling with this very basic executive skill. Explore different apps, online tools or maybe the trusted paper planner. The key is finding one that you will actually use and is easy to manage.

4. Embrace the idea of making mistakes – No one in graduate school knows all the answers, in fact the best students are the ones who know how to ask for help. Try to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, I know it sounds silly but the sooner you can do that the better your experience will be as a student and a clinician.

5. Prepare and engage your out of school support team- While forming bonds with classmates is one of the best parts of PT school, it is critical to maintain a life outside of the classroom.  Your family and friends will have no idea what your day to day is like but they can offer great advice, comfort and solace from what can sometimes feel like a pressure cooker. It’s a good idea to try to set the stage and verbalize and remind people that school is a priority and you are going to need help staying on task and their understanding and support when things get tough. You can always sweeten the deal by offering free PT services upon graduation.

6. Get in shape- physically & mentally – Take these few weeks before school to get enough sleep, exercise daily if possible, and reflect on your journey that got you here. If you enter the program as your best self it will help you to not only focus but also to combat stress. I recommend students reading an inspirational book, or watching TED talks or listening to podcasts that help them to get excited about what lies ahead.  PT Pintcast is already giving you a leg up!

Skye Donovan is a professor and chair of the Marymount University Physical Therapy program. Her areas of practice include orthopedics and sports medicine. She has a very active research agenda, presents her research at national meetings (e.g. APTA, ACSM and Arthroscopy Association of North America) and publishes in a variety of peer-reviewed rehabilitation and health care management journals.