Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting PA School

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Starting PA school can be exciting, but also nerve-wracking and scary. 

Before starting PA school, I didn’t personally know anyone that had gone to PA school, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous and felt like I had no clue what to expect. 

There are definitely things that I wish I knew prior to beginning PA school that would have made my transition to PA school easier and less stressful. 

It will be hard but you can still have a life

You may have to study more than you ever have before, but you can (and should) still do things that make you happy. I had imagined that I wouldn’t have any weekends free during PA school and that I could never see my friends or family, but that’s far from the case. While you will have to study on the weekends, it’s possible to still take weekend trips, hang out with friends, or relax without studying. 

Taking a break and doing things you still enjoy will keep you motivated and energized during the week when you will spend countless hours working. 

You’ll be surprised of the amount of info your brain can hold

So much information is thrown at you in PA school. If you truly learn the material (and not just memorize it), your brain will remember more than you can believe. By the end of the first semester, I was so surprised at how much I learned about the human body and medicine. You may be asked a question on a test a year later on the same information and somehow the answer is still in there somewhere. 

People won’t understand why you’re so busy all the time

While, as stated above, you can enjoy your life, your friends and family may not understand why you’re so busy and why you do need to study so much. I have some dear friends that are not in the medical field and they don’t understand why I have to study a lot or why I may have to turn down an invitation to hang out or meet up. It is completely understandable that they may not understand and it is okay, just something to be aware of. The short term difficulties are worth the long term benefits of going to PA school (by far).

You will study differently than you did in undergrad

I studied a lot in undergraduate and took many classes, but the way I studied is totally different than the way I study in PA school. The amount and depth of information you learn in PA school is a lot more than undergraduate classes typically have, which requires different study methods to get through it all. If you’re interested in how I study in PA school, check out How to Study in PA School

You will make friends in school that understand what your going through 

One cool thing about PA school is that you will meet people like you. While friends and family may not understand the challenges of PA school, your classmates will. Having friends in PA school can make a huge difference in your PA school experience for many reasons, but most of all you have the shared experience of going through PA school together. 

Your feelings about medicine may change 

Before starting PA school, I had a very simplified view of medicine and our country’s healthcare system. PA school (especially in clinical rotations) really opens your eyes to areas of the medical field that you may not know existed before. PA school has show me how incredibly multifaceted our healthcare system is and how it actually affects peoples’ lives. 

You may change the specialty you want to do (and that’s completely ok)

A lot of people start PA school with an idea of what specialty they would like to practice in. The more you learn about medicine, different procedures, and how different specialties work, you may completely change your mind about what field you’d like to go into. There are some specialties that I thought I would love to possibly do in the future that after having clinical rotations, I would not like to do.

And it goes the other way around too—there may be something you thought you’d hate but ended up liking (this was surgery for me). The good thing about being a PA is that you don’t have to commit to one specialty for the the rest of your life and you always have the opportunity to switch specialties during your career. 

Your opinion about humanity will change

While you likely worked in healthcare before starting PA school, seeing multiple specialties from the provider role definitely gives a different perspective. You will see the best and worst moments of peoples’ lives. There is so much suffering and joy. Medicine is truly humbling and will change how you view everyone around you. It is something that you can’t really prepare for.

It’s hard but you will grow as a person

No matter how much you prepare, you cannot completely prepare for PA school and how it will change you as a person. There will be hard times (even if you’re the smartest/ best studier/ most experienced, etc). However, the difficulties will be worth it. Remember why you wanted to be a PA in the first place and let the end goal motivate you through the hard times.


Overall, these are the main things I wish I would have known before beginning PA school. Any thoughts or questions? Let me know in the comments down below! 

Thanks for reading!

-Liz

before pa school

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