I'm a college graduate and now working as an EMT in the hopes of going to physician assistant school next year. While working, it's easy to get sidetracked by many different points of view. I don't want someone to end up persuading me to become a paramedic.

How do you stay focused on your long-term academic goals outside of academia?

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    I don't think there's any' simple answer beyond remembering what your goal is, why it's your goal, and that you don't have to justify it to anyone but yourself. And if you want to, you can sign up as a part-time volunteer EMT once your career is stable. – keshlam Aug 4 '15 at 1:55
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    Hi, and welcome to Academia.SE! I've edited your title to focus it more clearly on the question removed the lol (text-speak is generally discouraged here); please feel free to fix my title edit if you feel it conflicts with your intent. – jakebeal Aug 4 '15 at 2:05
  • I do not understand what "boat-programming" is. I neither see boat nor programming in the question. – mkc Aug 4 '15 at 2:26
  • @Ketan "Boat programming" is a StackExchange term for tangentially related questions, as explained in this meta post. Personally, I disagree with this assessment of this question and think it's a good one for this site (but then I'm relatively liberal about scope on this site) – jakebeal Aug 4 '15 at 2:29
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    @MadJack It's good form to include a link when using insider jargon like boat-programming. – jakebeal Aug 4 '15 at 2:35

You're right: it is easy to get sidetracked by the immediate responsibilities of work and other parts of life. The first question that I would recommend you ask yourself is: why is that a bad thing?

A higher degree ambition is a great thing, and can lead to a very fulfilling life. But you can also have a very fulfilling life in a lot of other ways as well. What would happen if you just let go of the ambition and abandoned the plan? Would that be so bad?

If it would be so bad, then there must be a reason why. Now, that's the driver for your long-term goal. The problem is, how do you get from where you are to that long-term goal, when all of these distractions are around you? Some of the best advice that I have heard on this subject comes from writing podcast that I enjoy listening to: in one episode the podcasters, who are all well-established fiction writers, were talking about the shifts they had made on their path from aspiring writer to well-paid professionals. One big shift that they all identified was that they had had to start thinking of writing as their job even while they were not yet being paid for it, which meant setting aside significant amounts of time per day to work on writing.

I would recommend the same thing for you in terms of making sure that you keep your focus. Set aside a weekly schedule of time to work on the things that you need to do in order to be able to gain admission to the program you are aiming at and to prepare yourself academically for it. With that time, you can both organize yourself, planning the short term goals that will move you toward your long-term goal, and also you can work on those steps.

Then, keep records of how much time you are actually devoting toward your academic goals. If it's much less than you intend, then you need to reassess your priorities and ask again: do you really want this degree if you are not setting aside time to prepare for it? And if you do really want it, what are you going to de-prioritize in order to make the time you need?

Preparing for higher education while working a full-time job can be hard, but it's also very possible, and I know many people who have done it.


This is a fairly generalizable question, so hopefully it will be of interest to more than just those confused between PA and paramedic. However, I will answer it with the PA/paramedic terms, since that will make the writing easier for me (and it will probably make the answer easier to read, too). I will also assume the OP is currently at least 95% certain she wants to proceed with the PA plan.

  1. Keep a double list of characteristics of the two fields. For example (I'm guessing here): paramedic -- lots of adrenaline and excitement, very rewarding when rescue or save someone's life, devastating when unsuccessful, some periods of inactivity and boredom, working with new people every day, frequent exposure to serious injuries and death, etc. These lists will probably evolve over time.
  2. Shadow a PA; shadow a paramedic.
  3. Read short stories, novels, biographies, magazine articles and blog posts by and about physician assistants, doctors and nurses. One author I like very much is Perri Klass.
  4. Spend some time visualizing your goal, in other words, picturing yourself as a physician's assistant, and remembering why you chose that goal. Remind yourself which of your strengths make you well suited to that job. Once you've got this image clear, you'll be able to pull it to the surface easily whenever you need it.
  5. Get to know some PAs and some students working toward that goal.
  6. (This is similar to 5, but slightly different) Create a buddy relationship with someone who has a similar goal to yours. For example, when I was working on adopting a baby, I had a phone buddy who was working on the same thing, and we were able to keep each other going despite various setbacks.
  7. Make some partial goals and deadlines for yourself and put them in a paper calendar that you keep on the wall. Reward yourself with a special treat when you make one of your partial deadlines or goals.
  8. Find a good mentor.
  9. Enlist the support of friends, coworkers and family.

To be focused is quite challenging now a days. Break your long term goal into number of short term goals so as to achieve them easily. Also keep reading inspirational articles and thoughts.

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