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Tips for Surviving PA School



Tips for Surviving PA School


Congratulations! You got accepted to PA school, now is when the real FUN begins.

And when I say fun, I mean the kind only your classmates will understand because no outsider would ever consider a sore bum from sitting in the classroom for hours, late nights of studying and fluctuating self-doubt any kind of fun. But seriously, when you get that letter (or email nowadays) you want to shout it from the rooftops you are so proud..and YOU SHOULD BE! But then you get that second email with all the orientation information, dates, times, supplies, and you become so overwhelmed you feel like your head may explode.  Remember, we are cramming what should be 4 years of medical training into 2 years, so the pace is fast and the information overload is even faster.

So I am here to tell you what I think are the most important things you need to survive this roller coaster we call PA school.



Take care of the rest of your life bullshit.  What do I mean? Any drama you have going on right now, settle it before you start school.  Broke up with your significant other, moving away from them (see how long distance relationship post), trying to figure out childcare, need to find a dog walker, whatever it is, as soon as you get that letter of acceptance, have a plan to have it settled before day 1. Sit down with your inner circle and have a discussion because they will feel the impact of this rigorous program even more than you do. Be honest about your feelings, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed. This is not a time to handle it on your own. You need to feel surrounded by people that will support you, force you to have fun, and not cause any additional stress during a stressful time.  Feeling inadequate compared to your classmates credentials? DO NOT. You got in too remember? You are all on the same playing field now so get over yourself and get started. 


Pulling the all-nighters you did in college will likely not be enough for this amount of information. At 25 when I went to PA school, that wasn’t even an option. I love my sleep too much. It is very possible the study techniques you used in college may not work here. Take a moment to understand what kind of learner you are. For me, I am visual. I like pictures so it all makes sense. I do not write a lot down, I prefer to type. Many others are the complete opposite. Show up with a bag full of different colored pens, highlighters and paper. I like headphones and classical music, you may prefer a loud environment or people around. Just know that you may need to adjust your study habits or create an environment that is conducive to your success.


BE THAT GIRL. Trust me, they give you most of what you will be learning before you even sit your butt in the chair. One way to decrease your anxiety and be more invested in class is to prepare in advance. You will be able to ask questions and know the material better in the long run. Full disclosure, I never prepared and still tend not to do that now even for clinic. There is something looking at it before hand that freaks me out, I would rather just dive in, but I highly advise against it.


For the love of God DO NOT buy the most expensive tuning fork in the world. After these 2 years unless your going into Neurology it will collect dust in your desk drawer.  Same goes for books, stethoscopes, kits, etc. I know it all looks so fancy and you feel so excited and official, but try to think practically. You do not need the latest model of everything, you just need a model. I have had the same stethoscope for 12 years, guess what, I can still hear heart sounds. So here are my recommendations on what you need versus what you want.


Student Loans, minimizing debt, planning for your financial future? This is not my forte but the average cost of PA schools during the 2020 cycle was as follows:


Resident/In-state tuition $50,289                                 

Nonresident/Out-of-state tuition $88,677


Standard tuition $91, 639

So how do I minimize debt, maximize payback and plan for your future while in PA school?

Plan for Your Debt. Find a financial planner, investigate scholarships, and income share agreements. AAPA has a list of scholarships available on their website, as well as the National Health Service Corp Scholarship.


Do they even require books anymore or is everything online? I am certain the classic books are still required, but you definitely do not need to buy them new. In fact, the ones I bought are still collecting dust somewhere because the truth is, most of your go-to info can be found online during practice on Up To Date, PubMed, Lexicomp, and others.  So here are my picks for how to get your books and save yourself at least $1200.


Time to put all that learning to good use! Be prepared to travel. It is becoming harder and harder for programs to find preceptors that are available to PA students with the number of medical students, PA students and NP students that require rotations, particularly in the local area. Be proactive. If you know someone that is willing to precept a student for your rotation, let your program know asap as there is required paperwork needed.  Email your preceptor ahead of time to get the skinny on where you need to be, what time and appropriate attire. Ask what resources may be good to review beforehand. When you arrive, ask what type of presentation your preceptor prefers and just know you will feel like an idiot for at least the first week maybe longer. Oh and be prepared for patients to tell you everything is great, and when the PA/MD walks in they have a million happens..ALL THE TIME. Don’t stress about it, patients sometimes are just more comfortable with the provider, or more likely, they just remember the 700 things wrong with them.  Be confident, but not overconfident. Ask questions and honor your role as a student. Arrive early and stay until you are set free. Smell clean even if you are not. Bring gum. PACK FOOD and water..see my post health snacks to stay on track or check out my recipe library on Pinterest for more ideas! You never know if you are going to have time for lunch or what is available, so BE PREPARED!! Lastly, its all about quick resources you can have in your pocket when you are about to get PIMPED by your preceptor. Here are some I consider must-haves for rotations!


You are all in the same boat. Do not compete with each other, feed off each other. Use each other for your differences. Work together, suffer together, have FUN together. Have a LIFE outside of PA school. You will have a bond with them forever whether you like it or not! You will go through this as an individual, but also as a whole. One of the most amazing things about this time in your life will be be creating a family of PAs that you will share memories with for years to come!


If you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you’re never going to be able to care of your patients. I know you “don’t have the time or money right now” to invest in your health and fitness. I know this is the last thing you think is important. Turns out it is the MOST important thing you can do to be successful. Exercise is one thing that highly successful people do EVERY DAY…seriously there is DATA to back this up. Exercise physiologically reduces stress and anxiety, as well and increases energy level and focus. There is no BETTER time to invest in you than when you start this rigorous program. I wish I had someone back then who could have kept me accountable and my head on straight.

If you feel like you are walking in my shoes and experiencing anything like I did in PA School, you can do 2 things about it…

1. Follow me on Instagram and feel free to reach out when you need me, we will see what we can do to make things easier.
2. Schedule a counseling session specifically for Pre-PAs & PA students now!!or email me.

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