Acupuncture school is both exciting and stressful. You’re thinking about your future, your plans, and there is lot to learn and do both during school and post-graduation. Obtaining and keeping a specific mindset and skillset while navigating becoming an acupuncturist in the real world is of the utmost importance to have the best chances of success. While in school, your mind may be so flooded with the overflow of information that it’s hard to keep a solid path of where you’re going, how to get there, and how to take advantage of what is in front of you in school.
In this blog post, ACE divulges 7 pivotal tips to help you navigate your acupuncture graduate program, with advice from real acupuncturists. Without further ado, here are the 7 Key Tips To Get Through Acupuncture School.
1. Be a Learning Sponge
Focus on absorbing the information, and the grades will follow. It is tempting to sit in your class and feverishly try to take notes on everything the professor says. Take a step back. Make sure to focus on active listening, too, and absorbing the material. It is easy when going through school to get distracted, not necessarily on purpose, but you’re being pulled in so many different directions during a master’s program that it’s hard not to. Keep your focus on the learning. Grades are used to hold you accountable, however, you want to make sure you’re retaining the information instead of turning your acupuncture graduate program into a “cram and dump” situation. Discuss the topics you learn about in class with your peers. The information will be more enjoyable to learn, and stick best in your mind when you discuss and process the information you absorb in class. Investigate topics that pique your interest. In other words, think of yourself as a learning sponge and focus on absorbing and connecting with the information presented in your classes.
“The information we learn from schools are very important as it forms the very basic and fundamental knowledge.”
2. Good Note Taking & Active Listening Skills
Taking good notes is vital not only to be sure that you have all of the information necessary to complete school and beyond, but also to be sure that information is truly bone-deep knowledge. Studies show that taking notes by hand allows the brain to process information and remember lectures more accurately and effectively.
On the active listening front, learning the materials effectively is only part of it. Truly knowing your course materials lies in learning, listening, asking questions, summarizing the materials, and most importantly, sharing that information with peers through active discussions and study sessions.
“Don’t be confident to the point that you’re not willing to learn. There is always something you can learn to better yourself.”
– Margot Dragon, MAOM, L.Ac
3. Peer Connections
Your peers are in the graduate school trenches with you, day in and day out. They, like you, are ready to learn and desire to succeed. Connecting with classmates allows you to help one another with difficult tasks or assignments, and since all of us learn differently, you can often provide clarity for each other where you may be struggling. Not to mention… STUDY GROUPS. Study groups are key to connecting all of these tips together, and making it out of acupuncture school successfully.
Classmates are also great to turn to for inspiration, advice on time management, or study hacks they use. All of your classmates were accepted into the program because they possess unique gifts they bring to the program and potentially the field of acupuncture. Networking with peers will help long past graduation, and you can learn from them just as much as your professors.
“Use what you have learned in school, and figure out how to run a business. Find a group of peers you relate to and grow together!”
4. Get Involved, Get Experience
Seize opportunities available to you. The benefits of an acupuncture graduate school program are not only getting a more focused education, but also, the opportunities you can experience by being involved directly in the acupuncture field. There are clinical experiences, research opportunities, teaching assistantships, extracurriculars, and more. Find ways to apply what you have learned in the classroom in the real world, with real patients. Getting hands-on experience allows you to learn more, and employers will see value in your efforts of learning outside the classroom to further your goals.
–> Make the most of research opportunities at your educational institution. If acupuncture research inspires you, now is the time to seize the moment because these experiences may not be top of mind once school is done. Take on research projects that you are genuinely interested in, not just ones that are the most prestigious.
“Seek opportunities to gain research skills by working with the research department at your school, taking biostatistics or epidemiology classes, or applying for a grant to receive the training you need.”
It is hard to flourish in acupuncture school without a mentor, and it is essential to take advantage of your resources. A mistake a lot of acupuncture school students make is that they don’t utilize the resources at their disposal on campus like program directors, mentors, advisors, and more. Seek out multiple mentors who will serve as a guide through school and the TCM profession as a whole.
–>Mentors allow acupuncture school to be more accessible. They can give you an inside perspective of the acupuncture field, help you balance work and education, and offer advice on many specific scenarios that you may find yourself in while in grad school or during your career as an acupuncturist.
–>Mentors can help you find the best path to achieve your goals. Your mentors and/or advisors are more aware than anyone how acupuncture school operates. A mentor will help you stick to your career plan, make recommendations for appropriate classes to take to achieve your career goals, and direct you to other faculty that have specialized experience in the various areas of TCM.
–>Mentors help set you up to succeed in and out of school. Having a mentor can help increase your chances of success in the TCM field once you graduate. They will help you feel better prepared to take on a career in eastern medicine in the real world after receiving their advice in your school years.
“A very skilled colleague of mine taught me that when learning from a teacher, implement their teachings for exactly two weeks before making any changes. That way you can add their knowledge to yours. If you make changes from the get go, based on what you know, you will only have what you know. If you follow their instructions exactly, even if they conflict with your knowledge, you will have a chance to learn why they do it that way, and expand to include something new.”
– Leslie Silver, L.Ac
6. Know Your Career Goals Early On
Write down your goals. Are there specific specialties within the acupuncture profession that you find most intriguing? Do you want to specialize in any particular treatment types that you would like to revolutionize or update/change? Do you want to start an acupuncture practice with a fellow classmate, or bring your acupuncture skills to a local hospital? Be clear about what you want to get out of your acupuncture program because an acupuncture graduate program will be infinitely more challenging than your undergraduate degree.
“Starting a business takes a lot of time, effort and patience – make sure you have a strong business plan and take a course in marketing as that’s the biggest obstacle to overcome.”
– Ann McKinney, L.Ac
7. Manage Your Time
Take control of your schedule. This can mean setting boundaries to guard yourself against any unnecessary and unwanted stress. Know which classes are the most demanding, and which should be taken together or saved for the next semester. Basically, know your limits. It will help you better plan your schedule and avoid the burnout. Time management is important in every aspect of life, but especially when you’re in a two to three year acupuncture degree program. This is partly because acupuncture graduate programs are academically rigorous, and grad students are often balancing other important areas of their life, such as family, or even a part or full-time job.
“It’s a huge commitment of time and finances to go back to school for a masters and then a doctorate. Sometimes, you just have to go all in.”
– Jonathan Fields, DAOM