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Striving to Be a DPT

Reflections on My First Semester in PT School

Published August 11, 2014 12:02 PM by Jocelyn Wallace
Today marks my last lecture of my first semester in PT school. I've completed gross anatomy, physiology, clinical anatomy and introduction to physical therapy. I cannot believe how much I have learned and, more importantly, retained! I can't wait to see what the next semester brings. Here are some lessons from this summer that have stuck with me the most:

You really, really can't study in advance for anatomy. I struggled with this question before starting school and never did end up studying. I am glad because graduate-level gross anatomy is hard. Not because the material is especially difficult but because it goes so fast. Our class was 8 weeks with exams every other week (cadaver and written). No amount of pre-studying would have prepared me and I only would have burnt myself out. Just stay on top of the material as it comes and you really will be able to do it.

You have to get in with a group. The best performing students in my class so far are those who study in groups at least part of the time. Everyone thinks differently, studies differently and grasps different information better, making it the only way you can find your weaknesses. I was amazed how often I thought I knew a subject well until someone asked me a question about it. Some of my classmates also came up with genius ways to remember things that really saved me on test questions. So get to know your classmates, use their strengths and share your own.

Do your best to enjoy the journey. Physical therapy school is tons of fun (really!). Late night studying will bring out the drowsiest and most hilarious sides of your classmates. Lunch breaks will become a time to take off your shoes and lay on whatever piece of furniture you can find and, for some people, ping-pong in the student lounge will become an extreme sport. I can't remember the last day that passed without a belly laugh!

All jokes aside, the few years you get to spend with your classmates only come around once. We are all so lucky to have been accepted into a program and to be getting an education to do what we love. While we may not all get to skip down to the beach after a tough test like my classmates can, do your best to find fun things to do and unwind regularly. It's just as important as studying hard!

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About to start DPT tomorrow and I've been panicking about not being smart enough, not being able to learn anything, not being able to catch up. Not only am I a little older but it takes me a while to learn new material. But for some reason your post and all its replies have made me smile and relax some. Knowing that there is some fun and even some laughing in the process gives me hope. And it was also good to remember that if they accepted me it was for a reason.

Christian August 22, 2017 4:08 PM

Hi Eric,

Thank you for your comment! I agree with everything you said and especially want to reiterate your thoughts on competitiveness. I have been lucky to have an enormously close, supportive group of classmates and that has been key for having a great (and successful!) time in school.

Jocelyn Wallace January 13, 2015 3:31 PM

Hi Jocelyn,

As a first year DPT student at East Carolina University, I can totally and utterly relate to this post! We have recently started our spring semester in school, putting behind us classes such as gross and functional anatomy, Neuroscience, Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy: Exam, and Patient Care just to name a few. I’d just like to comment on some of your thoughts and maybe add a few of my own that may help people.

You are spot-on when you say you can’t study in advance for anatomy. Gross anatomy is a whirlwind of a course, as ours too was in a shortened semester. The human body is so complex, intricate, and amazing. The most important bit of advice I can give regarding anatomy is to stay on top of it and make sure everything makes sense to you. Anatomy is the essentially the foundation of your career, so don’t take this class for granted!

I agree to an extent that you have to get in with a group. However, I think that you must first have a firm understanding of material before you begin discussing it with classmates. Personally, I study best alone. I find it easier to concentrate and grasp material. However, once I felt like I understood material well enough, I would get together with a small group and talk about some of the things we were learning about. I more or less used the group dialogue to confirm what I was knowledgeable about and what I needed to spend a little more time on.

Lastly, you must enjoy the journey! PT school is hard, as everyone will tell you. However, you were accepted into the program for a reason. Know that you are surrounded by friends and people and professors who believe in you and your capabilities.

I’ll close by adding a bit of advice that I’ve picked up along my journey. As a student, you must let go of the idea that everything is a competition. You have been accepted into the program and no longer are competing for acceptance. Pick your classmates up when they are down, help those who are struggling, and don’t be too proud to ask for help yourself. That being said, don’t confuse this with losing your drive and passion for learning! Finally, every student that is accepted into PT school is SMART. However, the one thing I see the most that gets students into trouble is pure memorization simply for regurgitation for tests. It was easy in undergrad to memorize material simply to get a good grade, but in PT school, this method no longer works (or, even if you get by with it, it is no longer beneficial!). The material you are learning in school is knowledge you will use in your career for the rest of your life. Do yourself a favor and don’t just memorize it, learn it.

Good luck to you and all of your classmates in your upcoming semester!

Eric Kosco, , DPT Student East Carolina University January 13, 2015 10:17 AM
Greenville NC

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