Are you back in school yet?

Whether you are in your second semester of your first year or your last year of rotations, the start of the semester is still like a new beginning.

I like to think that we are all a work in progress, gradually working learning from lessons. Take a moment to think about what you want out of your semester. Progress? Maintain where you are? New friends and connections? Research project? Exercise goals?

Here are are a few tips to get you started:

Past mistakes don't matter
Whether you barely passed last semester or you got all A's, this semester is like a clean slate.

If you need to bring up your GPA or would like to do better, add something extra into your routine. Nothing will change if you don't make a change. Maybe you could try a different study method? Maybe you could go to the library 30 minutes before or after class and review your notes? A minor change will make a difference.

But, don't compare!! Your personal best may be all C's so don't compare yourself to the all A student who seems to never study. Your strengths may come out in your practical knowledge, your interactions with patients, or your rotations.

Plan...at least a little
My pharmacy school boyfriend (he was in pharmacy school too!) was the king of distractions. He'd want to go out on a Monday or go out to a nice dinner when I really needed to study or do a project. I wish I had been better about protecting my study time or at least had a somewhat consistent schedule (without being a total bore and without spontaneity, of course!). "Yes, I'd love to go out! How about tomorrow?" or "yes, I'd love to go out but I'll be studying from 4-7pm. Could we go at 8pm"?

I think a little consistency in your study, work, and/or extracurricular schedules will give you some structure and set you up for success.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I received from a preceptor was to anticipate what she was going to ask.

Usually preceptors ask the same statistical questions when you present a journal article. Always know the side effects and other pharmacokinetics when participating in topic discussions. Always know key lab values on rounds. These are going to be asked, so it should be easy to be prepared!

And most of the time, it's pretty easy to anticipate the questions your professor is going to ask. What do they highlight? What are the main concepts? If you just think through it a little, you can usually figure out most of the questions ahead of time: 

A great tool of Olympians and other elite athletes is visualization. Visualize yourself picking the right questions on a test. Visualize yourself working hard and reaping good grades. Visualize yourself acing your project or presentation. Visualize yourself doing topic discussions with your preceptors.

Do something different
Get involved; it doesn't have to be anything big, volunteer in a clinic for a few hours a month. I felt like the hardest semesters were the ones that I did the best because I was organized. And taking a little time to do something in an organization or with a different health discipline at school was actually better for my focus then spending the whole time in my pharmacy studies.

And of course have fun! You can still be spontaneous and go to parties while balancing work and school! You just have to have a little bit of a structural foundation that prioritizes school and then you will find that you have time for the other things. 

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PracticeJoanna Simmon