Medicine

What’s Grad School like? My Weekly Schedule As A Grad Student

As I am writing this, I am sitting down at the library in the same chair I’ve been in since 4 hours ago. It’s only been 4 hours because I stopped my 3-hour study session before I go and get lunch with Ryan and our friend, Joey.

So lots of sitting and studying. that’s grad school. Kinda. Today is one of my study days, and honestly, I’m writing this so that I can take a bit of a break 😉 Despite my long day at the library, I am really enjoying grad school. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but isn’t everything in life? And it’s doable. I’m a first-year MPH (masters in public health) student, and I began grad school a little over a month ago.

Grad School Vs. Undergrad

While Graduate school and undergrad have some similarities, they are also vastly different. I’d say the most significant similarity is that you go to class, but you spend most of your time doing work outside of class. In a way, it’s more like elementary school than college! I’m serious! We have a cohort of 21 students, and while we have different professors for each class, we all attend the classes together. All-day long.

Also, my grad program it is not test-based. Our program is mostly project/essay-based. I really enjoy this because you know what to do (most of the time, ha) and you know when you are done. With studying, I always feel like I can know more, and I never know if I’m prepared enough. You cram and cram and mostly remember that information for the test. You only retain small bits of the information in years to come. But with projects, you learn skills and teamwork, which will be very valuable in the workforce. (Side note: I do have tests in 2 of my 5 classes, but I’ve already written more essays and had more team projects than in my entire undergraduate career.)

Grades are different. I wouldn’t say it’s easier to make good grades (heck, midterms are coming up so I’ll let you know soon), but it’s expected that you earn good grades. To get your degree, you can’t have below a B- in any class.

Also, I’m one of the youngest people in my class! I’m used to everyone being around the same age, and while many people are in their mid-20’s, someone in my cohort is a dentist and a few women have teenage/grown kids. I was talking to someone the other day that I thought was about my age until she talked about celebrating her 30th birthday last year. There’s definitely a wide age range of students in grad school, which is fantastic, it’s just unique from the undergrad experience I had.

Time Management

I feel like it’s been pretty easy to do well in my studies and maintain a life out of school. While it’s busier than working a typical 40-hour workweek, I still have time to hang out with my husband, friends, and dog. In addition to classes, I also am a paid research assistant, and I am taking an extra class to graduate early. Also, I’ve written in here every week since I’ve started!

Hanging with my friends, husband, and dog during grad school.

A Day In The Life

Here’s what my typical days look like, Monday through Friday.

Class Days (Monday and Wednesday):

6:00 am ALARM (I snooze it—-like 3 times….. it’s a bad habit I need to break please help!)

6:30 am ALARM (get up…hopefully) Let the dog out, get ready for the gym

7:00 am GYM (either with Ryan, friends or by myself, just depends on the day)

8:00 am Get ready for the day, breakfast

9:30 am Population Interventions. I’m glad that I get this class over with in the morning because it is honestly my least favorite. The class is about public health policy, and while some of it can be interesting, and definitely impactful on the world, it’s not my cup of tea. We are doing a semester-long project called a HIA (health impact assessment) to assess the health impact of a proposed policy in Utah’s state legislator this coming year.

11 am Epidemiology. This class is a class most similar to my undergraduate classes (I majored in Biology in undergrad). In this class, we are lectured to daily and are currently learning definitions involved in epidemiology. Later in the semester we are supposed to get into the math of it all. I really enjoy this class and think that if I wasn’t going to PA school- I would possibly do something with Epi. Also, this is the only class this semester that we actually have tests in!

12:15 pm Lunch Break! I usually go eat with Ryan.

1 pm Go to the library to work on homework or research until my next class.

2 pm Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy. In this class, we are learning all about the practical side of public health- how to make a career out of it. Here, we take turns doing a variety of projects about what public health is, the essential services it provides, and various careers one can pursue. We often have guest speakers come in and speak about their career path in public health and various opportunities we can participate in in the community. 

3:30 pm Determinants in Health Behavior. During this class, we learn about various theories about human behavior and how to change human behavior to positively impact one’s health. I really enjoy this class, it reminds me of a psychology class. Outside of class, we are working in small groups with a large nonprofit called IMA. We are working on analyzing and writing a paper on a study they did. By the end of the semester, we will hopefully have submitted a scientific article to a journal to be published!

4:45 pm Right whenever I get out of class, I rush home to let the dog out and take her on a walk since she’s been inside since like 8 am at least. (I try to run/hike with her on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s so she’s not neglected!)

5:15 pm Make dinner

6 pm Ryan and I eat together. Sometimes. Lately, he’s been swamped, and when he is, my dinner is typically sticking leftovers in the microwave or driving through a drive-through (I try to make healthy choices though!!)

6:30 pm Study, study, study. I usually study at home since the dog has been home alone all day!

7 pm Let the dog out and we look at the view of the beautiful mountains and the sunset!

7:15 pm Study some more (This time for longer)

9:30 pm Shower & get ready for bed!

Tuesdays and Thursdays: Study Days

Tuesdays:

6:00 am ALARM (I snooze it—-like 3 times….. it’s a bad habit I need to break please help!)

6:30 am ALARM (get up…hopefully) Let the dog out, get ready for the gym

7:00 am GYM (either with Ryan, friends or by myself, just depends on the day)

8:00 am Get ready for the day

8:30 am I run over to Walmart and pick up my groceries I ordered online. Love that feature!

9 am Breakfast

9:30 am Start working/studying, either at home or the library

12 pm Lunch

1 pm Back to Work!

5 pm My Elective Class- International Health. This class is super interesting and really pulls on my heartstrings. We talk and research a lot about health issues in developing countries. One week, we watched a documentary called Dead Moms Don’t Cry… that right there was heartbreaking, but really made me consider going into women’s/children’s health, as a PA of course.

6:30 pm Let the dog out

6:45 pm Eat Dinner

7 pm Depends on the day. I try to relax a bit, meal prep, take the dog on a hike or run, and get some chores done.

9:30 pm Bedtime routine!

Thursdays:

Thursday’s are pretty much the same as Tuesday’s, but most weeks at 7 pm we try to have a Disney movie night with friends!

Friday: Cheers To The Freakin’ Weekend… Almost

6:00 am ALARM (I snooze it—-like 3 times….. it’s a bad habit I need to break please help!)

6:30 am ALARM (get up…hopefully) Let the dog out, get ready for the gym

7:00 am GYM (either with Ryan, friends or by myself, just depends on the day)

8:00 am Get ready for the day

9:00 am Research Assistant Work

10:30 am Research Meeting

12 pm Lunchtime!

12:30 Do homework due for Monday at the library

3-4 pm Go home and enjoy the weekend!

(I’d say I still have to do work on the weekend at least half of the time)

I try to work as a research assistant for roughly 10 hours a week and study/do work for around 20-25 hours. I’m in class about 16 hours a week, so that totals about 46-51 hours a week of school/work. Not too bad! Like I said, it’s definitely a lot of work but definitely worth it. I’m learning a lot and even having some fun in the process. While I am enjoying this program, it has reinforced my desire to go to PA school once I am finished… so, here’s to more school in the future. YAY education.

Xoxo,

Kiersten

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