What To Expect As A New PA Student

Congratulations on your first week of PA school! Take it all in. As much as you try to mentally or physically prepare, this is new growth and no amount of preparation can prepare you for what lies ahead. Embrace all of the change and growth coming your way. Everything changes and if you are aware of that it can really help your mind set and journey throughout this transformational process. You will be able to realize that you can move with change rather than change moving you.


Get used to constant change, get used to having an open mind, open heart, and adapting to what school throws at you everyday. You have to start accepting and becoming one with the unknown. Everyday is different, sometimes even every hour. Never get too comfortable in one thing or in one way. For example, the way that you study for one exam can be completely different than another exam, so don’t ever get too used to one mechanism. Be open to going against your nature and comfort zone, it will begin to get you to new heights.


A mass amount of information will be thrown your way and you will begin to feel overwhelmed. Don’t be too hard on yourself and allow yourself to just flow with these new emotions. Emotions have a beginning, middle and end. It is just temporary. You control your emotions; your emotions do not control you. Do not lose sight of that. Label what you are feeling; sit in the emotion that you are feeling and allow yourself to be in it. Allowing myself to embrace all of my emotions worked best for me, rather than to run from them. If you run away from your emotions, they will come running straight back to you.


There will be fear of the unknown. Don’t hold on to the fear of failing. It is better to start failing early on in school and on your tests rather than on real life patients. Start failing so that you can figure out your strengths and weaknesses. You are going to excel in some topics and suck at others. Embrace the topics that you suck at so that you can learn. Just because you do not understand something now does not mean that you will never understand it. You may not get the answers you need and want right away, and that is okay you eventually will, but don’t pretend to know something if you do not. You could potentially harm someone’s life and put their health in jeopardy. If you do not know something speak up and ask. Ask the faculty, your classmates and seek for answers. Do not be afraid to ask, how else are you going to learn?


You are going to be surrounded by some of the most astonishing people. Everyone has such an amazing background and may have more or different experience than you. It is okay, you are going to know things that they do not know and they may know things that you do not. Be happy and thankful that you are amongst such intellectual and prestige people and don’t compare yourself to them. Do not get discouraged, if anything ask them questions and learn from their diverse medical background. They can bring so much to the table and have possibly had medical exposure that you have never been exposed to. Talk to people in your class that you normally wouldn’t. This is not a competition. You will spend more hours in the week with your classmates then with anyone else. These are the people that will become your backbone and support system. As much as you try to explain to your friends or family the roller coaster of emotions you are going through, nobody else fully understands it the way these people do because they are going through it with you. These are the people that will help you grow and will help push you at times when you cannot push yourself.

To a certain extent it is not about you anymore. It is about your patients. You are going to be a clinician, a provider. The days that you are freaking out, losing hope or thinking that you cannot get through this, don’t forget the bigger picture. That you are giving yourself to medicine, to healing and to treating people that look to you for hope, safety, and for answers. Patients don’t always care how much you know, they want to know how much you care. There are patients waiting for your empathy, care, and emotional strength and support. Find what excites you in medicine, find what drives you and don’t lose sight of that bigger picture to get you to your end goal. In order to help other people, you have to be the happiest, healthiest version of yourself. Stay committed, focused, have a strong positive mentality, stay organized, practice good time management, find balance, and don’t lose sight of your true self during this process. Remember that in order to get results that you have never got, you have to do things that you have never done. Start getting used to change and start embracing the unknown.

About the author:

Melissa Lilian Elist is currently a physician assistant student at University of California, Davis, cohort of 2021. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and an emphasis in Disability Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. She is a preventative care advocate and is very proactive in mindfulness, consciousness, and self-love. You can find Melissa on Instagram and reach her via email at elistmelissa@yahoo.com.

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