What to Expect When Going to PT School

Everyone goes into their physical therapy program knowing that it’ll be hard work.  Knowing that they just spent the last 4 (probably a lot more) years preparing for admission and another 3 years of classes, studying, and exams. But no matter how much you prepare mentally and academically, you never really know what you’re getting yourself into.

Like many of my classmates, I took two years off in between graduating from college and starting graduate school. However, unlike many of those students, I continued to take classes during that period to complete any missing prerequisites.   I was still in student mode and in the studying mindset when I began graduate school.

As we prepared for our first real exam a month into our first semester, many students feared they had “forgotten how to study” and were very nervous about the quantity of information we needed to know.  Some people passed with flying colors while those who had “forgotten” their regular study habits received a loud wake up call that they would need to rediscover those old study habits in order to pass.  With the emphasis on quizes and exams during the first year, everyone needs to quickly “remember” how to diligently study.

Right before Thanksgiving break, we had our first heavy round of tests with 6 exams within two weeks. Everyone studied harder for our anatomy quizzes than we did for any final we had taken in college.  We looked at the second years, jealous that they were past the madness and stress of first year, wishing we could fast forward in time. And we continued to look at the second years in jealousy for the next 8 months. Little did we know, it wouldn’t get any easier.

After coming back from our first orthopedic rotation over the summer, we were excited to enter a less demanding year.  We were also happy to be back in the city since most of us were in rural areas for our rotation.

Within the first week of classes,  though we quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk, we were all still optimistic that it wasn’t possible to be worse than the stress and rigor we experience the year before.   As the projects and presentations began adding up in each class, it was soon clear that this semester would be far busier than first year. Instead of spending our Sunday’s frantically studying for the week ahead (or playing catch up from the previous week), we were sifting through Google Docs and Google Slides to figure out which presentation was a priority that day and when we needed to meet up with our group members to rehearse and review.

Now that we’re almost done with the first semester of second year and we’ve had time to reflect while eating too much food during Thanksgiving break, many of us have realized that this year has been just as hard as first year,  though in a different kind of way. I don’t go home and have a panic attack about how much studying I have to do or how many tests would be taking that following week.  My stress and anxiety is now from the number of presentations I have to give, despite my fear of public speaking , on top of studying for exams, being a tutor, and working in our service learning clinic every week.

Now, we all look to the third years, who are off on their rotations around the country and are done with didactics, in envy and hope that one day we’ll make it to where they are. Past the seemingly never-ending sea of tests and projects of PT school.

Lisa Peterkin, SPT