As an ambassador, one of the most common questions I get from prospective students is “what does your typical schedule look like?” Along with this, people ask if there’s time to work, time for self-care, and balance in your weekly schedule. My fellow ambassadors, Joyce and Evan, recently discussed working and having a baby in grad school. From my personal experience, I think it all has to do with balance.
Throughout the program, it is typical to be in the classroom 3 days a week, 1 day in fieldwork, and 1 day off. For the days that we’re in the classroom, it is normal to have class 9am-12pm, a lunch break 12pm-1pm, and then class again from 1pm-4pm. For many people, like myself, a three-hour class may sound daunting, but it’s not. Luckily, all of our professors give us breaks with plenty of time to grab coffee, snacks, or simply take a quick walk outside to get some fresh air. Most of our classes utilize team-based learning, meaning that we usually are not getting a lecture for the entire class time. For example, in my Adult Physical Rehabilitation course we spend class time doing hands-on case applications where we apply what we have already studied on our own.
Everyone’s fieldwork hours will be slightly different, as you will follow whatever hours your clinical instructor works. The hours occupational therapists work may look different in the various settings. For example, my pediatrics level I fieldwork was 10am-6pm as many of our pediatric clients were coming after school. This semester, I just finished my last level I fieldwork at an outpatient lymphedema clinic where my hours were 8am-4:30pm.
As a student ambassador, I have the privilege to work 10 hours a week for the division doing various tasks and events. I have found working 10 hours per week is manageable, but it is something I have to plan for. I know that I have weekly quizzes on Tuesday, so on Sunday’s I study for my quizzes instead of cramming late on Monday night. Many of my classmates also work around 10 hours, doing other student worker positions at USC, such as being classroom assistants or research assistants. We probably would all agree that working that amount is doable, but anything more than that could be stressful on top of your coursework.
One of my favorite days though is my day off. While I love being in the classroom and at fieldwork, I depend on my day off to recharge and prepare for the upcoming week ahead. By having a day off, I think it really allows us to have a balanced schedule with time to have doctor’s appointments, work, catch up readings, etc.
Throughout grad school, there will definitely be weeks where it can feel overwhelming. My best advice is to listen to your own body and what balance looks like for you. You may need a full 8 hours of sleep while some of your classmates seem to fully function off of only 5 hours, but always listen to what is best for you. Transitioning to grad school is definitely a transition into a new role in life, but once you get a hang of the schedule and what works for you – you will own it!