Why Doing More Than Studying Made Me a Better Student
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes
I'll admit that as a student of physical therapy there was a time when all I had time for was studying. Nothing else would make it on or in my schedule.
During my first year in physical therapy school, it felt like a never-ending cycle of studying, organizing, studying more, testing, then quick emotional resetting before jump-starting preparation for the next round of exams and practicals.
While I was excited about my chosen profession and was enjoying the challenges of physical therapy school, I felt like I was losing myself in school.
Disclaimer: I absolutely love to be busy!
Before I began physical therapy school, I was involved with anything that I could get my hands into, and I never got tired of it. I loved coordinating my chaotic schedule full of athletics, sorority meetings, various jobs, and community service projects. But when I started physical therapy school, all of these things fell to the wayside as I began to study, study, and study some more.
It always has been a personal goal of mine to be the best version of myself.
With that goal in mind and my status as a student, I knew that might mean I'd have to become an average student.
After having my first academic year and clinical rotation under my belt, I sought to shift gears and get back into what made me the most happy: involvement. I decided to extend myself beyond the classroom by applying for a leadership position in my state's student special interest group.
Since I decided to get involved my education and confidence as an aspiring clinician have grown exponentially, and eventually I was elected as president of the Connecticut Chapter Student Special Interest Group. Coordinating with students across the state to plan events and offer services that students of physical therapy want has restored a little piece of me that was lost within my textbooks.
Since getting involved, I've kept in mind 5 key things to remind myself and to offer others who are considering getting involved with organizations that are beyond the scope of their studies:
- Navigate physical therapy school and involvement. It is not an easy ride. There have been many instances when I have felt like I was drowning in school work while trying to stay afloat with my other responsibilities. Feeling down, tired, anxious, and burnt out is a normal reaction from the stresses that come with physical therapy school. You cannot help how you feel, but you can choose your behavior and actions. Do not let these feelings stop you from reaching your full potential and getting involved with groups and activities that will benefit you, your career, and your profession.
- Light the fire and run with it. When I am contemplating putting a considerable amount of time into a project, I always give it the “fire test.” If the work I'm doing really lights a fire under me to go out and get started I throw myself in with full commitment. Academics will prioritize time and requires a vast amount of effort, so be sure anything pulling you away from your studies is something that you're whole-heartedly passionate about. For me, being involved in our profession, whether it be a big or small commitment, is something that motivates me in school. Experiencing what's beyond the classroom through involvement has fueled my fire and passion for this profession.
- Know your bandwidth. The act of getting involved doesn't stop when your name is finally on the sign-up list for volunteers. Stay accountable to the role you accept and fulfill your new obligations to the best of your ability. That's why I'd encourage you to assess your bandwidth. How much time and effort can you commit to involvement? What are you interested in? If you accurately gage those things and find an opportunity that fits you and your interests, then I can almost guarantee that you will have a positive and fulfilling involvement experience.
- Strive for excellence. I've always believed that passion drives work ethic. Admittedly, my work ethic is a strength, but my best work is depicted in projects that I am most passionate about. Bringing that passion and consideration to my professional involvement in Connecticut and APTA not only benefits me as an aspiring clinician, but our profession as well.
Now it's your turn. Pick your head up from your textbooks, close your laptops, and find out what opportunities drive your passion and light your fire. Trust me, getting involved and engaged does not only provide service to your profession and association, but it also serves you today and as a future physical therapist (PT). You'll find fulfillment, explore your passions, and connect with others just like you.
I'd urge anyone reading this to get involved; there are opportunities big and small. Step outside of your comfort zone and ask what you can do beyond your studies to improve as aspiring PTs.
Want to get involved? Check out the student involvement guide and sign up for the new APTA volunteer portal, APTA Engage.
Kaitlyn Mital, SPT, is a student at Sacred Heart University and serves as president of CTAPTA, Student Special Interest Group.