When you think of what a typical week at Salus University will look like, it may not be too different than what you’re experiencing in undergrad. There’ll be classes most days, labs that go a long with most of these classes and then you have time in clinic where you go from observing, to performing some of the skills you learn in lab, to finally performing full comprehensive exams. That’s the part of your schedule that usually doesn’t change a whole lot. Most days I bounce from class, to the library, to the café, to lab, back to the library before I crawl into my bed hopefully by midnight. It’s a long grueling week, but the time you have in the clinic and lab really help break up the monotony of lectures – so take advantage of them! The biggest difference in your schedule from undergrad/real-world working life/whatever you have been doing until now is your free time on the weekends.
In undergrad, I never had to organize or even think of what I would be doing on the weekends. It was always some combination of time lounging around my fraternity house during the day mixed with a little studying at the library. Nights were always reserved to unwinding with friends or going out on the town (which was in middle of nowhere Pennsylvania so it wasn’t much). However, when you start graduate school your weekends are a lot more valued because it’s the only time you have full days of uninterrupted free time. You don’t have to worry about trying to read an article before your next class or how much time you have to eat lunch before you need to rush off to The Eye Institute. That’s why I learned pretty quickly that planning out how you’re going to utilize your weekends is vital to maintaining self-care, catching up on the tasks you never got to during the week, and preparing yourself for the busy week ahead.
My biggest tip or advice for Friday nights might sound a little lame, but I’m telling you it’ll be worth it if you listen. Whether your last class on Friday gets done at noon, 3 PM, or 5 PM try to get in two or three hours of solid studying before you let your brain enter “weekend mode”. Chances are you have a test, quiz, or practical the following week, so why not get a jump start? That way, when you have time to relax later that night or that weekend, you can do it soundly with no guilt weighing on your mind. After some studying, I try to leave the rest of Friday night to unwind and give my mind a break. Whether that involves grabbing dinner with friends, catching a movie, or having game night I try to do something social. In the Salus optometry program we’re split into sections so our labs and clinic schedules differ among classmates. Friday nights are the perfect time to catch up with friends and hear about the interesting things they saw in clinic that week or you do what I do and try to talk about anything but school (leave that in the confines of Salus). Sometimes we have Saturday clinic that goes until the late afternoon, but if you’re lucky enough to have Saturday off try to start your morning with something productive that will jump start your day and get you in a positive mindset. For my friends and I that usually involves playing volleyball at the Hafter Student Community Center, or I’ll try and do some cooking to prep for the following week (because who has time to cook), or catch up on the mountains of laundry I have been avoiding. After that, hit the books! If you can commit a few hours of hard work during the day, with productive breaks in between, you’ll feel a lot better when you’re binge watching your favorite show you’ve missed later that night.
I’m sure you have all heard of the "Sunday scaries" and I’ll let you know they don’t end in graduate school. But hopefully you’ve been so productive all weekend that Sunday can be more relaxed and you can chase away those Sunday blues with brunch at Kitchen Bar, right down the road from school. Sundays are the day I save for getting all my lectures printed, quizzes studied for, and clinic outfits picked out for the week. I try not to stress myself out too much (unless I have an exam the next day) but get all of those tasks done that will make my week go smoother. And Sunday mornings are always perfect for the dreaded chore that is grocery shopping. If you commit to forcing yourself to get things done during the day you won’t have a worry in the world when you’re relaxing later on.
Weekends are always welcomed as a relief to the stresses of the week, and in graduate school they’re relished even more. By all means everyone’s weekend is going to look different and not everyone has quite the plan like I do, but I truly believe that if you think ahead to what your weekend goals are, it’ll make the next school week free of headaches. You may not think of it if you’re used to being on a meal plan, but trust me cooking takes far too long and is the last thing you want to do after being at school for eight hours. Thankfully weekends offer the hours you need to take care of yourself and your school work so you can continue to be the best student possible and get the most out of every day at Salus University.
- Chad is a second-year optometry student at Salus University