The first day of PT school came and went in a flash. Wake up, eat, school, eat again, study, forget to eat, sleep, and repeat.

Heck, the entire first year of school went by faster than I could’ve possibly imagined. From the second day when the teachers all made us put on gowns in front of each other to the end of summer, gone in a flash. Now in my third year and with a little over a semester left until graduation, I can truly say I have gotten as much as I could out of my experience in school.

Is my GPA the highest in the class? No. Am I the smartest student in the class? No. Do these things matter in retrospect? No. What matters, in my own personal opinion, is the connections I have made and the lessons I have learned as an individual moving forward into my professional career. The student I was first semester was one you may be all too familiar with: the guy who gets to school early and stays late, the guy who put grades above everything else, and the guy who would rather stay in and study than spend time with his wife or friends. I was a selfish student and a selfish individual, and it took a talk from a professor to change.

I wasn’t in trouble or anything, but another guy in the class and I were getting advice on the direction that we wanted to move towards as a student body in the DPT program. One question sticks with me to this day, and I think it is important to consider prior to starting your professional careers:

“How do you want to be remembered?”

This professor went on to recommend that we pursue a direction for something other than ourselves. “How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as a bunch of self-serving PT students?” This struck home with me. His quotes were not directed at me personally, but what he said resonated with me for hours. Here I was, focusing on my grades, and neglecting everything else.

Many of you may be in similar situations. Maybe your relationships are struggling because of the stresses of school. You may be individually struggling with stress management because of situations having nothing to do with school. Heck, you may even be upset because your GPA isn’t where you want it to be. If you could just survive school, it would all be over, and life would get easier, right?

Newsflash: It won’t.

So how do you make school an experience that you don’t just SURVIVE but one in which you THRIVE?

Attend a national conference: 

It was at CSM 2016 that I met a physical therapist who was speaking on communication and leadership. In the session she stated that she considered herself to be excellent at networking (which is much easier for some than others), and I went up after everything was done to introduce myself and ask for advice. She gave me a few strategies, and I was able to network with various individuals at various events. Being an introvert at a conference with record setting attendance was intimidating, but with the strategies she gave me I was able to build relationships, and ultimately my self-confidence. It was all because of a few words of wisdom and the experience at a national conference that I chose to run for a position on the state student board, and the networking opportunities have only continued to come.

Attend the PTAG conferences: 

You may be coming off of your first conference, and for most of you that meant you were either required to go or got some sort of extra-credit for going. So you probably didn’t stay for many events, and many of you probably left after doing what was required. Let me let you in on a secret I am sure you are aware of but I will tell you anyways:

The profession of PT is small.

Each time you go to a PTAG conference (or any conference for that matter) you should be pushing to make connections. The same people that you see at one PTAG event are likely to be at the next one and each state conference after that. You may have a brief conversation with someone or grab a business card, so make sure to follow-up with the individuals you meet. The next time you see them you may talk a little longer, find a common interest, and eventually may even become friends. You never know the connections you will make, and believe me when I say everyone knows everyone in the world of PT.

Get involved with your class: 

The opportunity to become a class officer, or whatever you may call them, may have come and gone by the time you read this. If you aren’t an officer or a board member, and still want to get involved, ask. Not to speak for other schools, but at mine we were constantly looking for people to step up to help with accomplishing various tasks. It takes a group effort, so do not be afraid to jump in and take on some responsibility. Taking on something school related but not related to GPA is a big strategy I used to keep from getting burned out in school to this point.

Set your priorities, and stick to them: 

This is the hardest of all the strategies so far, because I believe so many of us are driven by our grades and GPA, and this comes and goes. What are your priorities? Is it to be a good husband/wife or father/mother? Is it to spend more time with family?  Whatever it is for you, set it as a priority and stick to it. Don’t alienate yourself from your family, friends, spouse, significant other, or anyone else for that matter for the sake of your grades or personal success.

The school “burnout” is real, and if you’re only trying to survive school it will come sooner than you think. Take the time to attend conferences, make connections, and grow personally and professionally. You won’t regret it.

 Thanks for reading!

-Ray Lynch, PTAG SSIG Vice President