Are you considering applying for a graduate health professions program?
If so, someone has likely advised you to keep your grades up, take all of the prerequisite courses, learn as much as you can about the profession, volunteer your time in your community, and establish good relationships with professors. These recommendations are important in order to be a strong candidate for a graduate program. However, it is also important to consider what steps you need to take as an undergrad to make sure you are successful after you receive an acceptance letter.
Graduate health professions programs are demanding and stressful. Students are often surprised at the amount of material covered and the pace at which it is covered, as well as the level of detailed knowledge and understanding required on exams. It is somewhat like trying to drink from a firehose because of the rapid and vast amount of information coming your way.
Some students acclimate right away and others struggle from the beginning. The students who adjust more quickly have developed good study habits in their undergraduate years and are able to prioritize activities to stay on top of everything. Students who are most successful demonstrate several common characteristics.
Planning ahead and prioritizing activities.
Successful students typically use some type of day planner or calendar to plan each semester. They enter all activities for each course, such as assignment and project due dates, exam dates, and other learning activities. By doing this, they avoid surprises such as an exam or project due date sneaking up on them. They are able to anticipate times during the semester when their schedule will be extra busy, such as multiple exams in the same week.
A calendar or day planner also allows them to prioritize non-academic activities, such as social and family events, to make sure the event will not conflict or detract from their study.
Preparing for class and reviewing daily.
Successful students prepare for class by completing required readings and other activities ahead of class time. This allows them to engage actively during class time, which in turn facilitates learning. They also review notes from each class on a regular basis, which might be the same night or within the next couple of days. Reviewing material regularly is more beneficial for long-term retention of information than spending a late night studying just before an exam.
Successful students have learned to avoid procrastinating and often complete assignments and projects ahead of time. It is much easier to avoid procrastinating when you are in the habit of preparing and reviewing on a daily basis.
Students who procrastinate fall behind quickly and often complain that they are never able to “catch up.” Students who procrastinate also tend to find themselves in a bind when they have multiple deadlines and exams coming up quickly and they haven’t even started on some of the activities.
Identifying the most effective study environment.
Successful students have learned what study environment works best for them and how to remove distractions. Study groups may be an effective study strategy for some students, but other students might find studying with a group distracting. If the home environment is not conducive to studying, a strategy might be to schedule time to go to the library or another quiet space each day. Students often try several different strategies before they find what works best for them.
Scheduling activities for physical and emotional health.
Successful students understand the importance of including physical activities in their schedules in order to maintain physical and emotional health and reduce stress. Blocking time each day to go for a run, lift weights, play basketball, or some other enjoyable activity can ensure that those activities aren’t skipped when things get hectic.
Successful students also understand the importance of adequate sleep and make sure they get enough sleep each night. Lack of sleep, whether from social activities or staying up late cramming for an exam, leads to fatigue and undermines learning.It is never too early to begin developing habits that will promote success in a graduate health professions program. The UMHB Mayborn College of Health Sciences offers graduate programs in Physical Therapy and Professional Counseling, and will soon offer Occupational Therapy and Physician Assistant programs. We welcome you to visit us in Hardy Hall for more information.