Is the first semester really stressful? If so, what are ways that students cope with it?

Sarah DeRose, Class of 2006
Find positive stress relievers such as exercise or yoga. Definitely find time during the week to disconnect yourself from school. Otherwise, the stress can become overwhelming. Be sure to rely on your classmates for support. Find a study group.

Regine Kline, Class of 2005
It is stressful because you want to succeed and you're just getting to know the other students and find out who you study well with. But planning social events with your classmates and their wives/husbands/significant others really helps.

Steven Heckel, Class of 2004
The 1st semester is not really all that stressing. Transition into the program is well organized by the faculty and staff and students are encouraged to discuss their concerns upfront. This helps tremendously to alleviate any problems that may arise.

Kurt VanderVeen, Class of 2004
The first semester is pretty stressful. I would say that it's one of the harder ones so far. On top of having to spend about $500 on equipment not to mention books, classes are pretty tough. Regional Anatomy was the worst for me. The lecture much more than the lab. Just try to keep ahead of the game but that's always easier said that done. To relax we would get together as a class and go out. We went to the Tumbleweed on Mon. nights for their 99 cent margaritas. Good times. There needs to be a balance between school and leisure and that's different for everyone - just don't get too far one way or the other.

Catherine Hallenbeck, Class of 2003
The first semester is not really stressful. Well, OK, it is stressful, but less so than other semesters, in my opinion. Everyone has a different method of dealing with stress. Some people just don't deal with it. This is bad, because not only do they make themselves physically sick but they are very difficult to work with. Find what works for you. However, some universally applicable advise may be to take one thing at a time, take time for yourself every day (even if it's just 10 minutes), study what you like when you can, and remember that it's OK to "just pass" because you will learn much more on clinical rotations than you can in a classroom. The didactic exams do not make or break your ability to be a PA.

Kelly Schweiger, Class of 2003
Looking back, the 1st semester is a breeze. I don't remember being stressed at all. The first semester is full of excitement and a chance to learn more about your classmates and find out what kind of research project you're interested in. The stress begins the 2nd semester and increases until rotations when you learn that you need to go back and read up on diseases and drugs that you thought you knew really well.

Judy Herbolsheimer, Class of 2002
The best way to cope with stress in the first semester, I think, is to plan some time off (say Friday night and part of the day Sunday) to not study a little bit. Also find people in your class to study with. This is especially helpful in classes like Anatomy. Use your time wisely so that you don't have to cram right before exams. And make time for your friends and family. They are the ones who really keep you sane in grad school.

Matthew Kenny, Class of 2006
It is stressful, but you find ways to help each other out. Doing something that benefits the group, joining study groups, playing IM sports, and enjoying your brief moments "off" helps to tame the stress.

Becky Eversdyk, Class of 2004
I personally didn't think the first semester was that bad. The second semester was a lot harder, and by that I mean time consuming. We had Clinical Medicine tests every week during the month of March plus numerous papers, other tests, etc. I thought the first semester was a lot easier than the second. The only tough classes I thought during the first semester were regional anatomy & neuroanatomy just because they took up a lot of extra study time outside of the normal class period. Some ways to cope with the work load is to form study groups with others, especially in the anatomy lab. For the second semester my advice would be to not fall behind and keep on top of things. Also, it's pretty hard & stressful to try and work part-time during PA school but it can be done because some of my classmates work on the weekends.

Page last modified July 27, 2011