Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Inside SOP, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s blog. It is reprinted here with permission.
Any woman who has tried can tell you that being a full-time mother and a full-time student is not an easy task. It is even harder when you are a student in a graduate program, such as the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program at the School of Pharmacy. When I was completing my prerequisite coursework, I was already the mother of a beautiful little toddler. So, when I started pharmacy school, I thought I already knew what was ahead of me. I thought that my life in pharmacy school was going to be the same as it was in community college.
I was wrong.
My first semester as a student pharmacist was tough. And, when I say tough, I really mean it. By the time I started pharmacy school, my daughter was 2 years old. Before starting classes that fall, I asked my relatives and friends for recommendations about babysitters. However, the recommendations that I received were not suitable for me and my little one. I finally found someone who suited me, but she required that I pick up my little one by a certain time each day, and I had no choice but to accept her conditions.
My experience that first semester taught me that it is possible to manage pharmacy school and motherhood if one is very organized. I even learned a few tips that I would like to share to help other parents balance their responsibilities to their children with their pursuit of continued education.
Get organized: Anyone who is planning to attend pharmacy school should learn to be very organized. It will save you a lot of stress, regardless of whether you are a parent or not. Keep track of upcoming deadlines, learn how to prioritize coursework and projects, and manage your time well. Doing so will ensure that you not only complete your assignments on time, but also that you still have time to spend with your family at the end of the night.
Have a plan: After my first semester in pharmacy school, I started to plan everything that I had the power to plan. For example, because I had more time to spare during weekends than I did throughout the week, I would use that time to prepare ahead all of the food that my family needed for the week, since it is important to us that we eat home-cooked meals. I recommend making a list of the tasks that you need to complete each week, for both your family and school, and using that list as a guide to plan your schedule for the week.
Do not procrastinate: One important piece of knowledge that I have gained during my time as a student pharmacist is that there is no time to procrastinate in pharmacy school. You will need to learn good time management skills. The amount of material that you’ll need to review for an exam far exceeds what you might study for a typical undergraduate course, and the time for studying it is very short. You will have a quiz, test, or exam almost every week, which leaves no room for procrastination.
Develop a studying regimen: Developing a studying routine is a good habit for all students, but it is especially important for student pharmacists. After my first semester, I made sure that I developed a studying routine and stuck to it. For example, I would plan to watch all my lectures during weekdays, and use my weekends to revise and review all of the course materials from the previous week.
Juggling the responsibilities of parenthood and a graduate education is not easy. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed by your commitments to your children, family, professors, and peers. However, if you take the necessary steps to ensure that you are organized, have a plan, do not procrastinate, and develop a study regimen, I am confident that you will find the task much more manageable and set yourself on a path to future personal and professional success.
— Marie-Helene Meikengang Njomene, second-year student pharmacist