Physical Therapy student works with a professor and patient

What does a typical day look like for Physical Therapy Student and Graduate Assistant Ashley Nelson?

Hello! My name is Ashley Nelson, and I am a 2nd –year Physical Therapy student here at Concordia University- Wisconsin. I’m also the Graduate Assistant for the Physical Therapy Department, so my schedule might look a little different than other second year students, but I hope this gives you a good idea of what a day looks like as the Graduate Assistant while also a Physical Therapy student. Please follow along as I take you through a typical day for a Physical Therapy student with a job on campus.

6:00 am: Wake up

My first class of the day starts at 7:30 am, so I like to get up early to get ready for the day. After getting ready, I eat breakfast while I look at my planner to prioritize my tasks for the day. I write everything in my planner: assignment due dates, exam dates, guest speakers in class, etc. This allows me to stay on top of my week, which is very important, especially as a student who works.  

6:45 am: Drive to Campus

I only live about 15 minutes from campus, so it’s a quick drive to get to class by 7am. I’m someone that likes to arrive early because it allows me to review my notes before class or get some work done on a short assignment. You definitely don’t have to arrive this early, but a few classmates also get to class early, so this is a great time for us to ask each other questions about topics we might struggle to understand.  

7:30 am: Class

I have two classes Thursday mornings: Exercise Science I and Management of Musculoskeletal Disorders II. In both classes, we spend a lot of time with hands-on labs, but we also discuss the lecture content for that week. Our classes are typically an hour and fifty minutes and almost all of it is spent with hands-on practice, especially as a 2nd –year student.

One of the things I like most about Concordia is the small class size. My class currently has 23 students, and we take all our classes together. In between these two classes is our campus-wide chapel time, held every morning for students to attend. It’s about 25 minutes, and I personally use this time to work on short assignments, do a quick reading for class, or just take a break and hang out with classmates.

12:00 pm: Lunch

Concordia sets aside an hour for lunch every day, so I make sure I take at least a half hour as a schoolwork-free time. It’s an excellent time to recharge from the morning classes and to hang out with my cohort. There are a couple of places on campus I like to go. One is The Landing, which has a great sandwich shop if I buy lunch that day. I typically bring my lunch, so another place is the library. That’s where many of my classmates go to hang out and study. After I eat, I will do a little schoolwork before I start work.  

1:00 pm: Work

I work as the Graduate Assistant for the Physical Therapy Program, which is a position offered to 2nd –year students. For this job, I keep the lab spaces organized and assist the faculty with projects like finding journal articles, data entry for a research project, finding participants for classroom activities, etc. This job is great because I get to set which hours I work and it allows me to work more closely with the faculty. I work 10 hours a week, and today I am working 2 hours.

3:30 pm: Study

When I get home from work, I spend the next few hours studying or doing homework. By Thursday afternoon, I typically have most of the assignments done for the week but if not, I get those finished now. Once those are done, I spend the rest of this time studying the content learned this week.  

6:00 pm: Dinner

I always find time for myself each day because self-care is how I manage my stress level. I like to try and have dinner no later than 6 pm, so I usually stop studying around 5:30 pm. But really, I stop whenever I find my brain needs a break from school. I don’t try to push through being tired. You don’t retain much of what you study while you aren’t awake and ready. Depending on how I feel that night, I might do a quick workout, or just shower and settle in for the night with a movie or TV show. By 8:30 pm, I put away my phone and start to unwind for the night.

In conclusion…

Life as a working graduate student can be hectic. Time management and self-care are two of the essential skills I utilize. Without prioritizing those, my life might be a lot more stressful than it is. If you don’t care for yourself physically and mentally, you will not be setting yourself up for success working a job and working in school. I hope you enjoyed this small insight into a day in the life of a PT student.

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The School of Health Professions (SHP) offers a wide variety of accredited programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Our programs are provided in a variety of teaching formats (face-to-face, online, blended) and curriculums emphasize service to the community and inter-professional collaboration. Students are able to work with community members very early in their educational experience. Explore your options! 

—Ashley Nelson is a second year student and Graduate Assistant in the Physical Therapy program. She is pursuing her doctorate degree in physical therapy and is a member of the class of 2024.