Approaching any quarter in PA school always carries that moment when the excitement of new courses and information is suddenly crushed by the overwhelming expectations of what is required throughout the new quarter that accompanies- whether that’s getting new syllabi, marking up your calendar with deadlines, exams, long days of classes- it’s exhausting. Trust me, I totally get it

But if there’s one thing I learned by my 4th quarter of PA school is that you CAN do it and you can have fun doing it, too!

I mean, what’s better than learning from another’s mistakes and victories?

Before we dive in, let me preface the very simplified tips below with a background from the arduous quarter that I continue to reference and to give you more transparency of who I am and this post so you can get a glimpse of where I find my so-called “insight”.

So, Quarter 4... A quarter that was 10 weeks long with 33 exams, 6 classes, and 83 of us trying to get through it together. THIRTY THREE EXAMS. Thirty-three mornings (give or take) to wake up before the sun/make sure I don’t oversleep my alarm again (as if that’s not already a regular occurrence), thirty-three pre-exam cram sessions with elevated BP (blood pressure) praying that this isn’t the morning you blow your grade out of the water, and thirty-three post exam frenzies comparing thoughts with classmates to see if yours were valid. But top that with 8-9 hours of class a day, 4 days a week (sometimes 5), learning new information, and getting out of class just to reenergize to conquer studying for said exams before the next day. Oh, and then you kind of have to sleep. This was quarter 4.

But what makes this more of a victory story worth sharing is this: I had below average grades in more than just one of the six classes for the majority of the quarter—yes, that’s a bummer… working so hard to only fall below average. My point of telling you that is this, I still survived, I still learned for my patients, I still had fun, & I still pulled the grades I needed. That’s why I know you can, too.


Here are the Top 5 things to know when trekking through the hardest semester of your life:


1.     Staying organized & keeping a diligent work ethic will go longer than you may think: Getting caught up in what seems like the impossible will only waste the time you should be spending staying on track. I struggled with this big time. The personality type that is attracted to the PA profession is typically Type A, this meaning that we typically want to perfect everything & achieve all that there is to achieve- so, when things don’t fall in to place accordingly it’s hard not to become distracted by the circumstances. But don’t let this be of distraction, line up your priorities & pick an assignment/reading and do it.

2.     If you aren’t being effective or productive, you need to be sleeping, eating, or resting your mind. Period. Studying effectively is a refined process and an awareness you must hone in on when trekking through school- don’t waste the time you don’t have! Put Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat away...if you can't do this, create a goal to reach before scrolling through your news feed & make set a timer of when to put the phone away. 

3.     MAKE TIME FOR FUN! Quarter 4 was the first quarter I can honestly say I made time amidst an insane schedule to ditch the books and just have fun. Doing this will help clear your mind and realign your sights to your subject matter at hand, and most of all - relieve some built up stress. As much as we might want to believe it, life is not 100% school – there’s life beyond the library doors!

4.     WHY are you here again? REMEMBER THIS. If you haven’t already heard, PA schools don’t just pick anyone-- you’re here for a reason. It’s imperative to remember why you’ve been placed here & just how bad you wanted to be here before you got in. PA school acceptances are such an accomplishment in itself and the programs are made rigorous for a reason. Think back and be thankful for being placed in an amazing position to learn how to make an impact in so

5.     BE POSITIVE & don’t be so hard on yourself: Have you ever heard the quote “hold yourself to a standard of grace, not perfection”, yeah…do this. As students we try the best we can, but when those efforts aren’t shown through grades- ITS OK. You did the best you could & it’s time to focus on what’s ahead. Don’t let the negativity you may feel when receiving the grade you didn’t want penetrate into your attitude when studying for your next exam or the next subject matter. After all, it’s not about grades, it’s about your future patients & the type of provider you will be at the end of all of this.


Chin up, you’re here for a really good reason. 



MedicalAshley MunnsComment