You're an NP Student - Now What?

Congratulations!

You've done the applications, the personal statements, and the interviews. You've been accepted into an NP program and your orientation starts in 1 week. Panic starts to set in as you realize your NP journey is just beginning. Where do you go from here?

I still remember the first day of my NP program orientation. I was excited, but even more nervous. As the first person in my family to attend graduate school, I wasn't sure what to expect or how to best prepare. Looking back now, there are several things I wish someone told me as I began my first few days of graduate school:

Just breathe

You've made the decision to attend graduate school, and it's official: you have arrived. Take this moment to recognize what you have accomplished and sacrificed to get to this point. Deciding to attend graduate school is never a light or easy choice, but pat yourself on the back for taking this step in your career development. Allow yourself to bask in this moment, and take a deep, slow breath. If you find yourself already starting to feel anxious on day one, remind yourself that you are now one step closer to accomplishing your goals. 

Confidence is key

In graduate school, you will be surrounded by smart, talented individuals who have similar visions and goals as you do. Do not let the accomplishments of others make you feel any less confident about yourself. While I was in graduate school, I often compared myself to my peers. I then started telling myself that I "didn't belong" in the program, and that "it was a mistake" for the admissions committee to accept my application. This internalized feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt is called "Impostor Syndrome." 

Pro Tip: Comparison has never made me feel better about myself, and it likely will not work in your favor. Once you are in school, be fully present and fully confident. You are there for yourself and your goals. Everyone in your class has gone through their own obstacles and hurdles to get to where they are. Everyone, including you, has something to contribute. Don't ever let low self-esteem bog you down. Once it does, it will be very difficult to move forward in graduate school (even for the most well-intentioned people).

Prioritize organization

One thing that will always help in graduate school is to: be organized. Many people don't anticipate ahead of time how intense graduate school can be. When you know your schedule will be filled with classes, tests, homework, and clinical rotations, your planner will be your new best friend. As soon as your first day of orientation hits, it pays to start planning ahead. For instance, mark your calendars for important dates noted in your syllabus: quizzes, midterms, finals, due dates, etc. Find out what planning system works best for you so that you always know what's looming in the near future, and what's scheduled weeks away.

Organization also includes having a planned study method. What study methods worked best for you in the past? How much time do you anticipate you will need to study for each subject? Personally, I have found that calendar planning on Google Calendar to be incredibly helpful. Nevertheless, schedule your study time, as well as your break time - you need to enjoy yourself, too!

Do not, I repeat, do not procrastinate

Often times, people who were successful procrastinating in their undergraduate study will continue to procrastinate in their graduate school study. Word to the wise: DON'T DO IT. In NP school, you are constantly being thrown chapters and chapters of information, which you are expected to retain for clinical rotations and exams. If you procrastinate in the beginning, you'll experience a snowball effect - eventually the information will be too much to keep up with, and you'll always be trying to "catch up." If you're always behind and anxious when you're studying, how will you retain any of the information? I have rarely, if ever, seen my graduate school peers suffer from studying and finishing homework too early.

Build your support system

I cannot emphasize this enough. Although it seems obvious, graduate school is tough. And when things get tough, make sure to have your group of confidants available to help out or even just listen. Who should you include in your support system? Some examples include: a graduate school mentor, whether it's a professor or adviser, a close friend, a colleague in your program, or even a therapist/counselor. A lot of people may immediately write-off the thought of having a therapist during graduate school, but your school may offer these resources for you. If so, it's worth exploring - especially when the going gets tough. Graduate school was one of the most difficult things I have done in my life, and with it there were a lot of challenging moments. But having a close knit support system made all the difference for my graduate school experience.

Remember what brought you here

Why did you decide to get into NP school? Why are you here? Keeping tabs on your goal is the ultimate motivation for conquering grad school. Maybe you can write your goal on a piece of paper attached to your bathroom mirror. Or perhaps you can write your goal in your planner everyday. No matter what method you choose, #neverforget what brought you here. Having your goal in mind is a good boost to move you through the ups and downs of the day-to-day grad school grind. I found that, during grad school, if I didn't remind myself what my end-all mission was, it would be harder for me to read book chapters or practice clinical skills. The admissions committee in your school accepted you because they saw the potential in you to do well and succeed in the program. Remember that, and remember that you are in graduate school for a specific purpose.

Congratulations again for embarking on one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences you will have in your life. An exciting journey lies ahead!