10 Things To Do Before PA School Starts
1.) Find a place to live
If you are moving to a new location for PA school like myself, then the first thing you need to do is find a place to live. To save some money, you may want to consider living with a couple roommates. If you decide to have roomies, then make sure to find some excellent fellow grad student roommates (maybe even fellow PA students in your class). Most PA cohorts will have a facebook page that allows you to communicate with the other students in your class, so you can utilize this page to find roommates. Another possible option for finding a fellow grad student roomie is your school's roommate listing page, which is where I found my future roomies!
2.) Organize your finances
Start saving money ASAP. If you are taking a gap year to accrue PCE hours and apply to PA school, then you need to also be utilizing this time to save up as much money as possible. PA school is expensive and grad school loan interest rates are high, which brings me to my next point. Calculate how much you will need throughout the first year and only take out loans for that amount. Technically, you are allowed to take out loans up to the cost of attendance (COA) calculated by your program, which usually includes: tuition, room, board, books, travel, and personal. However, most programs significantly overestimate the amount you will need, so try to establish a monthly budget and calculate how much money you will need for the first two semesters. Try not to take out loans for an amount that is significantly higher than what you need because you will regret it in the future when you see your interest accumulating.
Enjoy yourself while you still can! Go visit new locations and explore new destinations! 2-3 years of your life are about to be completely consumed by PA school, so go out in the world and interact with non-PA school peeps beforehand. The summer before PA school started I went on a 7 day cruise to the Western Caribbean (during which I snorkeled in Turtle and Shipwreck Cove in St. Thomas, I spelunked the Hato Caves in Curacao, and I hiked Mt. Liamuiga in St. Kitts), I went zip lining over a canyon in FL, I hiked waterfall trails in NY, and I went parasailing in Key West, FL. In a couple days, I will be snorkeling and lobstering in Marathon, FL. In a couple of weeks, I will be taking a road trip while moving to VA to go hiking in GA and maybe TN. My point is- spend a little bit of that money you have accumulated on traveling and enjoying yourself, but please do not go crazy and spend it all!
4.) Visit family and friends
Life is about to get extremely busy and stressful, so time with family and friends is definitely going to decrease. Before school starts, make sure you spend time with all your loved ones- family and friends! Also utilize this time to explain that PA school is very difficult and time-consuming, so you may not be able to attend many events or see your loved ones as frequently for the next couple of years. Make sure they understand that your absence is not due to a lack of interest, but due to a dedication towards your future career. Personally, one of my sisters is getting married in February and initially expected me to attend 2 bridal showers (in FL and NY), the bachelorette party, the rehearsal dinner, and the wedding... so we had a little discussion about lowering her expectations. To compensate, I visited my entire NY family (including my oldest sister, two nieces, aunts, cousins, etc) and spent time with my other sister (the one getting married) before school starts.
I am a huge book lover, I thoroughly enjoy spending my leisure time reading. However, leisure time is far and few in between for students, especially PA students. So if you are a book lover like myself, then utilize this free time to read. For the past year, I have been a member of the book of the month club (no, not an ad just a fact) to really ensure I take advantage of my free time. Considering I have read 24 books in the past year, I believe I was successful!
6.) Prepare for school
PA school is about to start right? So you need to start gathering your supplies for battle! Whether that be a new planner, laptop, backpack, scrubs, medical equipment, etc. After PA school starts, I plan on writing a blog post about all the stuff I recommend getting to prepare for PA school, so keep an eye out for that! Also if your program provides a summer reading, then read it!
7.) Explore your new town
If you are moving to a new location, then, after you move in, you need to explore your new town! Go wander! Find some local coffee shops, good local restaurants, a grocery store, your bank, the mall, awesome hiking trails, etc. In order to ease this big move, you need to make this strange place your new home ASAP. Exploring and locating all the places you will need throughout school will aid this process.
8.) Meet your classmates
Again, most programs have a facebook page for your PA cohort. Utilize this facebook page to meet up with some of your classmates before school even starts. First days are the absolute worst! Knowing people makes the first day so much less stressful, so definitely try to befriend some of your classmates beforehand. My cohort is planning to meet the week of orientation to go hiking together, which is super exciting and a low stress way to meet each other!
9.) Buy some business casual outfits
Whether your program has a business casual dress code or not, you will need at least a few business casual outfits for conferences, presentations, guest lectures, etc. So utilize the "back to school" sales and tax-free weekend to accumulate some business casual outfits.
Obviously this is a lot easier said than done! I am currently struggling to relax between all these vacations (ironic), packing, planning a road trip, moving to another state, and starting such a difficult grad school program! Honestly, my stomach has been quite queasy recently... just a lot happening at once. However, PA school is a stressful, fast-paced environment, so you need to relax as much as possible while you still can. Hopefully, I can find my zen in Marathon over the next 7 days!
Hopefully you found these tips helpful and enjoy your weekend!