Accepted!: Ajia - Future Tufts PA Student

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Huge thanks to Ajia for sharing her tips that she has learned on her journey to getting into PA school. I think she shares some of the fears many applicants face when going into the application cycle, and I appreciate her honesty. Best of luck at Tufts, Ajia! 


Undergraduate education: BS in Biology from Suffolk University in Boston, MA.

Overall GPA: 3.64

Science GPA: 3.63

GRE: V153/Q154/W4.0

Total HCE hours: ~100

Total PCE hours: ~3,000

Shadowing hours: ~40

Other volunteer hours: ~4,500, (I did a lot of volunteer work with my sorority in college, and worked for a nonprofit as a volunteer 3 days a week once I graduated)

LORs: My microbiology professor who was also the advisor for my academic research, my anatomy/evolution professor who was also my college advisor, my current manager, the cardiovascular PA I shadowed, and a fellow I worked closely with in the OR.

How many times did you apply? :  Once

Age: 23

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 8

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes?  I was offered 7 interviews (Tufts University, George Washington University, Rush University, Boston University, Northeastern, MCPHS, & MGH College of Health Professionals), and I accepted 5 (All but MGH and MCPHS). I was accepted at Tufts, GW and BU, and waitlisted at Rush and Northeastern. I have chosen to continue my education with Tufts!

Any red flags on your application? I think the biggest things I worried about were my GPA and my patient care hours. My GPA wasn’t bad, but looking at some of the high GPA’s of other applicants made me worried that mine wasn’t good enough. I also worked as an anesthesia technician to get my clinical hours, and I was nervous that I wasn’t getting the right type of patient care hours that PA schools were looking for.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

Well first of all, I was surprised I even got one at all! People told me not to get my hopes up because so many people get rejected the first time around, that I really had no intention of even getting an interview. I think the most surprising thing once I started going on interviews, was how different every school does it. Each of my 5 interviews was a totally unique experience, but they were all also a very good experience. It was not as scary as I expected it to be.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? 

For my prerequisite courses I did a lot of group studying, especially trying to help the students who were struggling in class. I know that sounds weird, but if you know the material well enough to teach it to someone else, and answer all of their questions then you have truly mastered it.

To help with the application process I followed a lot of instagram/facebook/blog pages like @thePAplatform, read all of their articles and watched all their videos. They were extremely helpful as a new applicant. Especially, when I sat staring at my computer for months trying to write a personal statement. Reading tips from current students finally got me past that writer’s block.  For the GRE, I downloaded some apps on my phone to study vocabulary when I commuted to work, and I went through one basic prep book, but honestly, I didn’t spend a lot of time studying for the GRE. I thought that it wasn’t an accurate depiction of me as a student, so any school that focused on that part of my application wasn’t the school for me.

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For the interview process I sat down with my friend’s aunt who had worked in HR for a very long time. She coached me on the biggest questions that schools/employers ask and helped me to come up with stories to answer them. The big 7 were: What is your biggest strength? Biggest weakness? Why our school? Tell me about a conflict you had? Tell me about something youre proud of? Why PA? What is the biggest mistake youve ever made and how did you learn from it? The questions they ask might not be these exact questions, but they are always similar to at least one. The best advice she gave me was to make sure you tell a story. If you tell a story to answer their questions then the interviewer will see your communication skills and be able to add to the conversation.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

You will get in. I feel like not enough people tell you that. If you work hard to be a competitive applicant, and put your heart into everything you do, schools will notice and want you.

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) 

My instagram is @ajialynnzim, and anyone can feel free to reach out to me via email (ajiazimmermann@gmail.com) with any questions at all!

The Book You Need To Get Into PA School: Physician Assistant School Interview Guide

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Over the past 2 years, I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of hopeful PA candidates on their interview skills, and over that time, I've learned a lot myself. I've seen the most common mistakes and how many applicants lack the confidence necessary to secure a spot in a PA program. 

When it comes to applying to PA school, the personal statement is what lands you an interview, but the interview is what gets you in

It's that important. 

I realized that there is a lack of information out there about how to succeed in an interview setting, particularly in the setting of PA school. There was one book available, but it's the same book I used seven years ago, and the process has changed so much in that time. Not to mention, PA school is much more competitive these days. I realize that doing a professional mock interview doesn't work out for everyone, so I wanted to create something that would be more accessible. That's where the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide comes in! d

I've been working on this for the past two years (it's very time consuming to write a book and work full-time I've discovered), but I'm really excited to be able to get it into your hands now. Here's what you can expect from the PA School Interview Guide: 

  • Part 1 - Getting Ready - This section breaks down the different types of interviews you may experience at various PA programs so you'll know what to expect before you get there. Then we talk about the steps you can take to prepare before and after you receive the invitation to interview. This is where I share the techniques necessary to impress your interviewers. 
  • Part 2 - The Questions - For this section, we dive into different types of questions and interviews and how to address them. This includes traditional questions, behavioral questions, ethical questions, multiple mini interview (MMI) questions, group interviews, essays, and then we end with the questions you need to ask your interviewers. Each chapter has tons of questions with tips, examples, and ways to rephrase the questions so you don't get caught up on how questions are phrased. 
  • Part 3 - Follow-Up - This is everything for after the interview and an FAQ to answer any remaining questions. You'll also find Interview Preparation Worksheets, a Mock Interview Guide, and a Master Question List of the over 300+ questions listed in the book. 
Physician Assistant School Interview Guide
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There's a lot packed into these 210 pages! So, how can you get one? The book is available for $15.99 through The PA Platform with free shipping, or if you have Prime, it's on Amazon through this affiliate link for $18.99 with 2-day shipping! I really hope this will be a great resource to help you take control of your interview. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and I would love any feedback you have to share or an Amazon review! 

Accepted!: Katie from @wenzel_k - Future Rutgers PA Student

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Katie is a great example of someone who did everything right the first time! If you're looking for application goals, this is it. Even with an amazing application, she still had some discrepancies to overcome, like a C+ in General Chemistry. Thanks for sharing your story and tips Katie! 


Undergraduate education: Bachelor of Science in Public Health, Spanish minor- The Ohio State University

Overall GPA: 3.90

Science GPA: 3.77

GRE: 307 combined. Verbal Reasoning: 157. Quantitative Reasoning: 150 Analytical Writing: 4.5 

Total HCE hours: 1,200

Total PCE hours: ~1,000

Shadowing hours: 40

Other volunteer hours: 200

LORs: 4 total. 1 physician, 1 PA, 1 from undergrad academic adviser, 1 academic (public health) professor. 

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 23

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 12

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 6 interview invites (I chose to attend them all), 6 acceptances and I will be attending Rutgers University in the fall. 

Any red flags on your application? My math GRE score was below the 50th percentile (around the 40th), which I was nervous about, so I applied to programs that did not require the GRE, and to some others that did. Out of the 4 I have been accepted to, two programs did require the GRE, and two did not... so don't let a lower GRE score stop you from applying to programs requiring it

I also had a C+ in general chemistry 1. A few of the interviewers brought it up, and it was a great chance for me to share with them how much I have grown from that experience as a student and also on a personal level. I spoke candidly about the anxiety I experienced attending my first science course in college and how I grew to overcome that anxiety and prove to myself that I had what it takes to succeed. It also was a great opportunity to highlight that I continued on in the series and received A's in every other science class I took. I think the interviewers appreciated my openness and my response showed them what I have learned and how I have incorporated what I learned then to my school work now. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? How laid back most of them were! I was pleasantly relieved that at 5 of the 6 interviews I attended, I felt that the faculty was truly trying to get to know me. That sounds almost cliche, but it's true. I can't stress enough how important it is to take a deep breath the morning of your interview and just let them see the real you. They already know you'd be a great PA student on paper (that's why you got the interview), but now show them your awesome personality; what makes you, you. It'll be different than the other people you're interviewing with, and that's a good thing. Keep that in mind if you wake up on the morning of interview day and want to just crawl back in bed.

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Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I used "The Applicants Manual of Physician Assistant Programs 2017" by Mark Volpe and Brittany Hogan religiously (affiliate link). It outlines every accredited program in the US and gives a sort of "quick stats" 1 page overview of each program, categorized by state. It gives stats over things like program pre-reqs, application deadline, contact info for that specific program, unique program characteristics, GRE requirements, and much more. It's a quick way to quickly recognize and organize all the programs you might be interested in. It even has appendices that will list all of the programs requiring the GRE, and one for those that do not. I can't stress how helpful it was for me, as before I stumbled upon this on Amazon I was making excel spreadsheets trying to compare programs to one another. This made it so much easier! 

Any other advice for pre-PA students? When I was applying to PA school, I felt like I'd never get to the other side. There always seemed to be another obstacle blocking my application from being complete. It can be a long process, but I am here (finally) on the other side of it and I can promise you that your hard work WILL pay off. Keep pushing toward your goal, and you will end up where you are supposed to be. Don't let a failed class or a bad GRE score keep you down. Re-take the class, or study for the GRE again (as I had to do), or whatever it is for you that you seem to think is an obstacle toward you obtaining your goal. Because I can promise you that in the end, it IS worth it, and you'll be so proud of yourself for sticking with it. 

Where can we find you? Instagram: @wenzel_k  

Questions to Ask After Your PA School Interview

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Throughout mock interviews, one of the most common questions asked before we wrap up is:

What should I ask them? 

Valid question. When you’re faced with “Well, do you have any questions for us?” I completely understand not wanting to sit there like a deer in the headlights. This is your one opportunity to get the additional information you’re seeking and show your interest, as well as your last impression with the interviewer. 

Consider two approaches - school focused or personal. Be careful to not ask about anything already covered in a tour, on the website, or by students as this looks like you weren’t paying attention. Try to keep questions open ended instead of yes/no and avoid asking questions that portray you as skeptical of the school or your abilities to succeed. 

Here are some examples of questions NOT to ask: 

  • Why should I pick your program over a different one?
  • What do you do for students if they are failing? 
  • Why is your PANCE rate lower? 
  • Why did less students take the PANCE than matriculated? 
  • Why didn’t 3 of the students graduate?

While these are valid concerns, it might be better to inquire on a private forum or from students instead of during your actual interview. You don’t want the program to feel you are less than excited about being in their class. Attempt to keep your questions positive and relative to why you need to be in their class. 

Besides school-specific questions, you can ask personal questions of your interviewers as well. While they are getting to know you, this is your chance to also get to know them. If they ask an interesting question, feel free to ask them the same one! I used that tactic and my interviewers enjoyed being asked something out of the ordinary. It also gives you an option if you feel like the details of the program have been adequately covered during your time at the interview. 

Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask: 

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  • Where did you go to PA school?
  • What made you choose your specialty? 
  • What do students do for fun? 
  • What is your favorite part of teaching anatomy, pharmacology, etc?
  • Why did you choose to teach PA school? 
  • What can applicants do to make themselves stand out for your school? 
  • What qualities do you look for in PA students?

For more tips and tricks for your PA school interview, check out the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide. 

Accepted!: Kate from @kate.pa_s

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Undergraduate education: I received my B.A. in Journalism with a minor in creative writing from UNC-Chapel Hill eight years ago. Since then, I’ve worked at various media outlets. Unfortunately, there isn’t much job stability in journalism, and I was on the hunt for a new career that I could be passionate about that had better job prospects. I decided in 2015 that I wanted to go to PA school, and started working on prereqs. I also applied to a Surgical Technology program – it was something I was interested in and the program was only 9 months, so it was a quick(ish) way for me to start working toward clinical experience.

Overall GPA: 3.45

Science GPA: 3.69

Post-Bacc GPA (100 semester credit hours): 3.89

GRE: 155/155/5.0

Total HCE hours: 100+ hours volunteering in PACU and the OR at Level I Trauma Center

Total PCE hours: 500 hours as a Surgical Tech (at time of submission)

Shadowing hours: PA: 20 in Primary Care, 20 in Plastics/Burns Inpatient Surgery; MD: 16 in Emergency Medicine

Other volunteer hours: Summer camps, Children’s Museum

LORs: With my LORs and personal statement, I wanted to make sure to really drive home why I was a uniquely qualified applicant even though I come from such a different background. Over the past few years, I have kept in close touch with both a former boss and a former manager (from two different jobs), so by the time I asked them for LORs, they really understood what I was doing and my reasons behind it. They wrote to my strengths that translated from working in journalism in to working in healthcare, which I think was vital for my application. My other two LORs were from a Surgical Tech preceptor, and from an MD who I shadowed, and who has known me for most of my life.

How many times did you apply?: Once

Age: 30 (I was 28 when I started taking prereqs)

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 12

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I only went to two interviews, and they were in the same week. I really didn’t click well with the first one – neither the location nor the program, but it was great practice. The interview later in the week was for one of my top schools, and I felt very confident going in to it. I loved everything: the city, the students, the staff, the program. They told me at the end of the day that I was in! It was an incredible day. At this point, I’ve received three other interview invites, which I’ve declined.

Any red flags on your application? Not having enough PCE/HCE. Because I was a little older going in to this, and I knew it would take two years to get my prereqs done and start working as a Surgical Tech, I really focused on getting in on the first cycle. Every program I applied to emphasized a holistic look at applicants. I expect to have 1000+ PCE hours by the time I start PA school, but I knew it would be seen as a weak point on my application not having a lot of hours when I submitted.

Also, my undergrad overall GPA was a 3.1 and I had several low grades (one D and a few Cs). They were in courses like Law and Economics – so I really didn’t stress about programs caring about those grades (and none of them mentioned them). Because I took SO many credit hours post-Bacc, that GPA came up significantly, and I don’t think my GPAs were any kind of red flag.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The parts that I thought I would be most nervous about – the actual interviews – turned out to be the most comfortable. What really made me nervous was waiting around! At my second interview, I waited for more than an hour to get called into the group interview and several hours again for my individual interview. I was a mess - I think we all were. I tried to get to know the other interviewees while we waited and just chatted about anything/everything just to take our minds off of being so nervous waiting.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? At my interviews, the staff really just wanted to get to know you. When preparing for interviews, definitely be ready to talk about why you want to be a PA, and why you like their program. But apart from that, just be able to comfortably talk about yourself and your own strengths and interests. I’d say the very best practice you can have is to have those conversations with your family and friends over and over – literally practice this for months. Get used to talking easily about why you want to be a PA, and practice talking about yourself in a non-egotistical way. If it feels comfortable to talk about those things casually with your friends, you’ll come across as confident (but not cocky) during your interview.  

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?With my background in writing, I want to take a moment to talk about personal statements. I realize this goes against a lot of the advice that’s out there (and of course, this is just my opinion and I don't claim to be an expert). It seems that the trend has been to start off personal statements with a dramatic story or hook. Things like: “It was a cold and rainy night and the lights from the ambulance were all I could see…”. I really do not think that is necessary. You need to show why you are going to be a great PA student and practicing PA. If you’ve got a good story, and that story plays a huge part of why you want to be a PA, go for it. But eliminate the drama and the adjectives. Cut to the chase. The admissions committees don't care if you can write a good story, they care if you’re going to be a strong student and have what it takes to become a PA. I’m not saying you should just write out a list of reasons you want to be a PA and call it a day. You should be able to write well about why you’re passionate about becoming a physician assistant. Write it in your own voice and avoid clichés. 

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The personal statement plays a huge part in getting that interview invite, and the schools just want to get a better understanding of who you are aside from your grades and experiences. It’s your personality that should jump off the paper, not your ability to write a good story. My opener on my personal statement was: "I have always had an interest in medicine, but I didn't know until just a few years ago that it was a path I would pursue myself." Then I spent the rest of it talking about my path and how I realized becoming a PA was right for me. Straight to the point of addressing what makes me a unique applicant.  

Where can we find you? I have an Instagram account that I hope to expand with pre-PA tips over the next year, and then document my time in PA school when I start next fall. You can follow along at @kate.pa_s


Guest Post: Benefits of Attending a Provisional PA Program

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I was so excited when Pooja Sitapara reached out to provide her insights on being part of a brand new PA program. I get a lot of questions about whether or not it's a good idea to apply to provisional programs or just new programs in general. Now we get some personal opinions! 


Hey, ya’ll! I’m a PA-S1 in the inaugural class at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. With so many new PA programs opening up next year, I wanted to share why I chose to attend a new program instead of a continuous-accredited program. 

There are so many reasons I love being part of a new PA program! In my opinion, newer programs tend to have more updated facilities and resources to teach you. My program has a state of the art building that’s brand new, a cadaver lab and SPECTRA table, multiple simulation mannequin patients, and OSCE rooms with a two-way window with a debriefing room on the other side for our professors and classmates to watch and provide constructive criticism. The OSCE rooms also have cameras and microphones so our professors can record our patient interactions and play them back for us. My program also has a lot of other equipment such as dermatoscopes, otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes in each exam room, and models of patients with detachable parts, such as different ears that have different pathological conditions. Most of these resources weren’t available at some of the older and more established programs I interviewed at. 

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Another benefit of a new program is that your feedback and opinions carry much more weight with the faculty and administration. The director of my program has monthly meetings with my class to ask about our concerns and feedback, and our administration is very readily available to help us at any time. Almost all of our suggestions are immediately implemented, or the faculty explains to us why they can’t implement our wishes. The faculty also makes it a point to ask us how they can teach us better

A newer program is much more flexible in making changes and trying newer and better ways of doing things. I also feel as if newer programs want you to succeed just as much, if not more than you, because the student’s success and feedback is an integral component of their accreditation process. My program even pays for a tutor to come in after each body system we finish to provide supplemental materials and learning!

Lastly, being a part of a new or newer program means that you get to play an active role in the ARC-PA accreditation process of a program. Throughout your time in PA school, you get to share your feedback through interviews and surveys. This is definitely a skill that you can use to market and set yourself apart from other PA students! 

On a personal note, I know it can be nerve wrecking to consider a new PA program. However, on a logistical note, if you start a provisionally accredited/new program, the ARC-PA mandates that the program graduates you and lets you sit for the PANCE. This really took a lot of the worry off my plate. And I know the process of applying to PA school is one that is very much driven by your brain, but trust your heart and your gut when you decide which program to attend. Honestly, a new program wasn’t high up on my list, but after interviewing at CSU, I was so impressed with the director of the program and the faculty and it just felt so right that I knew this program was the right fit for me. When choosing programs to apply to and interview at, remember you are interviewing the program just as much as they are interviewing you. You’re investing a lot of time and money into your PA education, so find a program that will not only educate you, but will also align with your personal mission statement and goals. 

Good luck with the 2018-2019 CASPA cycle! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at pvsitapara@csustudent.net. I’ll try my best to read as many of them as I can!

Fun Fact: I chose to become a PA after I figured out what I wanted to do! My short/midterm goal is to get experience in the PICU, orthopedic surgery, and general pediatrics. My ultimate goal is to open a behavioral health center and use my medical experience to treat abused and neglected children in South Carolina. I needed a career that allowed me to work in multiple specialties and get a diverse quality of medical experience, all while being flexible enough to let me keep volunteering locally and abroad, which is really important to me! Physician assistant was the perfect career for my goals and checked off every single one of my boxes!

Accepted!: Neesie - Future Emory PA Student

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My name is Neesie and I’ll be starting the Emory Physician Assistant Program in the Fall of 2018! Words cannot describe how excited I am about this amazing opportunity. It has taken me a few cycles to get here, but hard work pays off! Please feel free to DM me if you have any questions or need any advice! @neeeesie

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Overall GPA: 3.31

Science GPA: 3.11

GRE: 297

Total PCE hours: 5,548 (at time of application submission). Hours were earned by working and volunteering as: A Spanish medical interpreter, a CNA, an MA, and a Patient Care Coordinator.

Shadowing hours: 244

Other volunteer hours: 2,833 (at time of application submission)

LORs: 4 total. (1 from a Physician Assistant. 1 from a Nurse Practitioner. 2 from Physicians)

How many times did you apply?:  I applied 4 times. BUT I was rushing everything my first two times! The first time I applied, I didn’t even have enough hours. The second time I applied, my science GPA did not make the cut. The third time I only applied to one program (Emory) and got waitlisted. The fourth and last time I applied, I was accepted!

Age: 26

Gender: F

How many programs did you apply to? 6 programs (this cycle)

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes?

 Only 1 program has interviewed me. The first time that I interviewed, I was waitlisted. The second time I was accepted

Any red flags on your application?

 Yes- my GPA. I have a very mediocre GPA as you can see. Nevertheless, there is a great trend in my grades and over the years as I matured and became more disciplined, my grades improved dramatically. I am so thankful that there are programs out there that look at you as a whole and not as a number. Although my GPA is weak, I am very strong in other areas

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

One of the most surprising things about my interview was how welcoming the experience was. I felt very “at home” and the program made it such a delightful experience. In addition, I love that we were able to spend some time to actually sit and talk with the program director!

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? 

  • The application

    • I would HIGHLY recommend completing your CASPA as early as you can. Lots of schools accept students on a rolling basis. PLUS, it’s good to know early- CASPA opened in April and I submitted everything in May. By July I heard back from the program and had my interview in September. (But I still haven’t heard back from the other 5 schools I applied to)

    • The CASPA application can be long and tedious, so breaking it down into parts and disciplining yourself to do a little everyday can make all the difference

    • When inserting your experiences, whether it be patient care or non patient care, make sure to explicitly describe in detail what your experience entails of so that the admissions committee can gain a clear understanding of your experiences. Many programs evaluate your CASPA based on a point system, and you want as many points as possible to move on to the next step!

    • I would recommend joining the Physician Assistant Forum as well! https://www.physicianassistantforum.com/ A lot of your questions can be answered here, especially specific questions about CASPA, Personal statements, programs, interviews. This forum helped me out in SO many ways

  • Interview Process

    • I would recommend buying “How to “Ace” the Physician Assistant School Interview” by Andrew Rodican. 

    • Also, I would recommend reading the emails sent to you by the PA Platform!

    • I would Practice Practice and Practice!!!! Mock interviews are great, even if it is done with someone who has no idea about PA school. Make a list of questions for someone to read from and ask you. Just talking it out and finding your weaknesses is so helpful

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

  • Don’t give up!

    • Honestly, no one ever told me that getting into PA school is this competitive. First thing I would do is keep in mind that it’s not going to be an easy process, but it is totally worth it. If being a PA is what your heart truly desires, don’t ever give up! Don’t let rejection letters bring you down.

  • Envision your DREAM

    • Do you have a “dream” program? My dream school has always been Emory, even though my GPA is not competitive at all. Don’t give up on your dreams. Whatever that dream program is, envision it. Read what their mission and values are and live that out through your experiences. Is your dream program big on underserved communities? Primary Care? Base your experiences on that. Learn about the program. Visit the program. Find ways to get involved with the program. Envision your Dream!

  • Don’t Rush!

    • Don’t be like I was, rushing through the process. Apply when you have a competitive application. You are competing against people with years of experience!

  • Personal Statement

    • I am sure you’ve heard this before, but your personal statement is so important. Don’t be cliché. Don’t be boring. Be unique and make it interesting- tell a story. Your story. A story about why you want to be a PA, not a story about why you want to work in healthcare.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    • If you are still in school and you are applying for a program that asks for recommendation letters from a professor, begin building that relationship NOW. Go to those office hours, sit in the front row, make small talk! When you decide to ask for that letter, make sure the professor has a copy of your personal statement and resume to work from.

    • For non-academic recommendation letters, make sure the person writing it for you knows you well. Pick your candidates wisely. Something I learned from experience- If it takes your recommender more than 2 weeks to write you a letter, it is not going to be a good letter. This is the rule of thumb that I go by, and learned from experience!

  • Support

    • Join societies, groups, or forums to help guide you through this process. You are not alone!

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) 

Instagram: @neeeesie Facebook: Neesie Arias

Strategy for MMI Questions for Your PA School Interview

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MMI is my least favorite type of interviews. It’s difficult to prepare for because the questions tend to be completely random, and you usually don’t get an opportunity to directly address the reasons you want to become a PA. MMI elicits much more of a show, don’t tell impression, and the point is to find out more about your character.

The prompts can be anything from routine interview questions or completely random questions to ethical situations, critical thinking scenarios, or acting stations with standardized patients so you need to be ready for anything. The program is going to use scenarios that will assess different qualities, such as empathy, decision making, and communication skills. There are not necessarily right or wrong answers to these scenarios because the goal is to get a well-rounded look at you in a short period of time. The point is to evaluate the attributes and personal characteristics you would exhibit as a PA.

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The best way to succeed in an MMI interview is to practice “thinking out loud.”  

You want to be able to show the interviewer that you are considering all sides to the prompt, and that you are able to choose an opinion and explain it.

If you are able to identify what characteristics each particular scenario is looking for, that will help you know how best to respond. In an MMI, you should have plenty of time (usually 5 minutes) to make your case. Practice answering everything the prompt is asking to make sure you’re not leaving a portion out. 

Let's walk through an example. 

You are caring for an obese patient who is on multiple medications, some of which are causing side effects.  Would you prefer the patient change medications or their lifestyle?

This is a logic/debate type question. You are given a situation to fix with your opinion. There’s not a right or wrong answer in particular, and you need to show that you see both sides when evaluating a controversial issue. It’s about being able to explain your position and back it up.  “Think out loud” to show your thought process. Here’s a step-by-step process to think through and practice these questions: 

Restate the issue and explain the role you would play in this scenario.  For example in the prompt, it does not explicitly say that you are acting as a physician assistant, so you could start by saying, “ I am assuming that I am the PA caring for the patient in this scenario because it does not clarify. I need to determine if this particular patient who is obese and on multiple medications should change their lifestyle or have medication changes because they are experiencing side effects from some medications.” This shows you understand the prompt, and helps to make sure your thoughts are organized. 

Present both sides and look at the pros and cons. In this scenario, that is lifestyle changes versus changes in medications. The pros of lifestyle changes include weight loss and overall increased health with a better diet and a focus on exercise, and possibly the need for less medication, so less side effects. The cons of lifestyle changes are that it is a more difficult decision that requires patient compliance and cooperation to enact, and it may take a while before the patient makes enough progress to discontinue the medications that are causing side effects. The pros of changing medications are a possible decrease in side effects that are bothersome to the patient, while the cons are that the new medications could have other side effects or not be the first-line choice for this particular patient. 

Once you’ve broken down both choices, you have to make a decision. It’s fine to say you would discuss or consider both options with the patient and offer them choices, but ultimately, what would you “prefer” as the prompt asks? There is no right answer. Personally, I would encourage lifestyle changes for a set period of time before changing medications, unless the particular side effects were debilitating or would interfere with the patient being able to make lifestyle changes. I would try to educate the patient on steps they can take to improve their overall health to try and discontinue some of these medications that are causing problems. 

When you are practicing any ethical questions, try to use these techniques if you have an MMI coming up and work on evaluating all options instead of jumping straight into your decision. 

Accepted - Sara from @theadventurouspa

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Undergraduate education: Stony Brook University - Double Major: Biology & Psychology

Overall GPA: 3.6

Science GPA: 3.7 

GRE: 313

Total HCE hours: 3000

Shadowing hours: 200 (Orthopedic PA), 220 (Neurological Surgery Research Assistant)

Other volunteer hours: 320 (Veterinary Hospitals), 107 (Animal Care/Rehabilitation Assistant), 85 (CHOICE Peer Health Educator), 60 (Health Psychology Teaching Assistant), 40 (Undergrad TA for Transfer Students)

LORs: Health Educator, Residence Hall Director, Orthopedic PA

How many times did you apply?: 1

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 5

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interviews (1 acceptance, 1 waitlist), 3 rejections

Any red flags on your application? Right after high school, I went to med school in Poland for a year to see if I would be interested in the medical field. Lacking a background in medicine that many of my classmates had (most were college graduates), I performed poorly in 2 classes. I believe that may have deterred programs from accepting me. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? At the interview at Baylor College of Medicine, I was thrown off by a couple of questions in regards to what the definition of certain words were. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? 

DoseofPA, thepalife

I thoroughly researched the school websites in order to get a better understanding of their mission statement and what made them stand out from other programs. This was helpful for both supplemental applications and interview preparation. I also compiled a list of questions to ask the faculty because not only are they interviewing you, but you are also interviewing them. You want to see if the school is a good fit for you as well. 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

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Don't lose sight of why you want to become a PA. No matter what other people tell you or what you may think, do not be discouraged. I know that I doubted myself for the longest time, but I knew I'd regret it even more if I didn't apply. You'll always wonder, "What if.." I was comfortable where I was in life, working as an Embryologist, but I wanted more patient interaction. Since I was afraid of being rejected, I almost didn't apply. After talking to friends and family members, I tried my best to make up for short-comings in my application, I applied, and expected nothing in return. Seek help from PA students. Have confidence in yourself and try your best. Feel free to reach out to me as well if you have any questions! We're here to help. You got this!! (:

Where can we find you? 

Instagram: @theadventurouspa 

6 Healthcare Jobs That Will Turn You Into the Perfect PA School Applicant

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Guest Post by Mackenzie Martin

In 2013, physician assistant (PA) schools received around 18,510 unique applications, according to a CASPA Data Report. Out of all of these individuals, only a very small number—less than 30 percent—were accepted. 

From these numbers, it’s easy to see that getting into PA school is an impressive feat. So, how do people do it? Of course, they have good grades, test scores and volunteer experience, but what else sets them apart? For many schools, what differentiates a great candidate from a good candidate is hands-on patient care experience. 

If you want to set yourself up for application success, one of the best things you can do is to start working in the healthcare field. Below, you’ll find a list of the top jobs for aspiring PA students to obtain patient care or healthcare experience required to apply:

1) Paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) 

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are healthcare providers who specialize in emergency medical services. Many of them work for out-of-hospital medical care and transportation organizations. That being said, some EMTs work in hospitals, often as emergency room technicians. 

Paramedics, like EMTs, are trained to provide emergency medical care. Many people who work in this field specialize in settings outside of the hospital. For example, a paramedic may work for the fire department with the aim of stabilizing patients before they’re taken to the hospital. 

Overall, there are a few differences between EMTs and paramedics—even though many mistakenly assume they’re the same thing. EMTs are entry-level providers who have completed about 120-150 hours of schooling. Paramedics, on the other hand, are more advanced providers. They generally start as EMTs and then complete 300 plus hours of additional advanced EMT coursework to become paramedics.

2) Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

Certified medical assistants (CMAs) are individuals who are educated in the general, clinical and administrative responsibilities outlined in the Occupational Analysis of the CMA by the American Association of Medical Assistants. The certification typically requires around one year of schooling, but some positions offer on-the-job training that’s less than a year. 

If you choose to become a CMA, you’ll be able to work in a variety of settings, from private practice to a hospital. In this role, you can expect to do a lot of things, like taking vitals, administering injections and assisting providers in various procedures. 

3) Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

One of the best healthcare jobs that’ll set you apart for PA school is working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Many think that CNAs only work in nursing homes, but there are actually hospital positions for CNAs, too. 

If you decide to work in this field, you may help patients with activities of daily living—such as bathing and dressing. People who opt to work in a more clinical setting may gain experience taking vitals and assisting nurses and other providers when needed. 

CNA training requires at least 160 hours of theory/lab work in addition to supervised clinical training. After you complete your training, you’ll need to pass a CNA certification exam, which is composed of written and practical parts. As soon as you pass both parts of your exam, you’ll earn your certification, and you can start to look for positions as a CNA. 

Individuals who opt to go this route can also try to secure a job before they work as a CNA. Sometimes, facilities will hire non-certified CNAs and fund their training (as long as it’s completed a few months after they start working). 

4) Emergency Room Tech

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Emergency room technicians are CNAs and EMTs who provide patient care in hospital emergency rooms. Their exact role changes from facility to facility, but many of them assist nurses and physicians by drawing blood or inspecting and cleaning equipment. 

The emergency room is a unique place that can help you prepare for PA school. On any given shift, you could see a patient with a headache, a patient who’s taken a fall and a mental health patient. This exposure will help you gain an understanding of a wide variety of fields and may even tip you off to what area you might want to specialize in later on. 

5) Physical Therapy Aide (PTA)/Assistant

Physical therapy aides (PTAs) are medical workers who operate under the supervision of physical therapists. While assistants need to be licensed, aids can generally work without a certification—as long as they have a high school diploma. 

Although there are some programs that don’t accept this type of experience, many appreciate it and count it as direct, hands-on patient care experience. If you are thinking about this role, it’s best to look up your schools of interest first to see if they accept this type of experience. 

6) Registered Nurse (RN)

A registered nurse is someone holds either an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and has passed the NCLEX-RN exam. Out of the previously mentioned jobs, nursing has several advantages. First things first, the starting salary for an RN is around $66,640. Individuals who choose this route generally have the ability to save more money and sustain a comfortable lifestyle while they accrue patient care hours. 

Traditionally, RNs who seek more schooling will pursue a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. That being said, there are a few reasons RNs decide to go to PA school instead of another graduate program. For example, a nurse might go to PA school because they’re interested in the medical model versus the nursing model. Another advantage to PA school is the fact that many programs offer more clinical hours than some NP and DNP schools. 

It typically takes two to four years to become an RN, but there is one other option for individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree. Even if your bachelor’s degree is not in the sciences, as long as you take the necessary prerequisites, you can apply to an accelerated BSN program that takes about 15 months to complete. 

At the End of the Day

Many students are dismayed when they see that some PA schools require their applicants to have hundreds to thousands of hours of hands-on patient care. Truth be told, these numbers can be quite frightening, but they don’t have to be … If you secure one of the roles above, you’ll start accruing hours quickly and ultimately position yourself for PA school application success. 

Accepted!: Breanne from Life With Me - PA Bre

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Breanne reached out to share her Accepted story, and she has some great advice to share. She's also recently started a blog as she begins PA school to show you what life is really like as a PA student!  You can find her at Life With Me - PA Bre. 


Undergraduate education: Seattle Pacific University, major: Applied Human Biology 

Overall GPA: 3.45

Overall Non-science GPA: 3.67

Science GPA: 3.29

GRE: verbal: 148, quantitative: 159, analytical writing: 4.5

Total HCE hours: 2328

Total PCE hours: In CASPA, scribing hours are counted as HCE hours rather than PCE hours. 

Shadowing hours: 96 - I spent my weekends shadowing mainly a pediatric orthopedic PA and an emergency department PA. However, I have also shadowed a neurosurgery PA, orthopedic surgeon MD, and registered dietitian RD. 

Other volunteer hours: 174

LORs: 5 total: I received letters of recommendation from a primary care MD (who I scribe for), emergency department PA (who I shadowed), one adviser/professor, collegiate volleyball coach, and the head of Bailey Boushay HIV/AIDS House (where I volunteered ).

How many times did you apply?:  one

Age: 23

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? 12

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2, declined one interview, accepted to other 

Any red flags on your application? A downfall for me was that I took AP stats in high school. Most PA schools now require statistics as a pre-req and some of the programs that I applied to did not accept AP stats. I took an online stats course the summer and so the transcripts for this class were pending during my applications. I was also always concerned that my GPA was too low. My career path was not decided during my freshman year and so I did not put as much effort into my classes which ended up lowering my GPA. After talking to my adviser he told me not to be concerned about my GPA and work on excelling in my current classes and on other areas of my application. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? My interview was designed as MMIs (multiple mini interviews). I was nervous for this experience as I was told that there was no good way to prepare for this as there are standard interview questions, role play, and ethical questions. However, I really enjoyed this interview style. There was a total of 5 MMIs then a group interview. In each MMI, I got to interview with a different member of the PA Program's staff. It was reassuring because if I felt I didn't excel with one interviewer, then I could make up for it with the next interviewer. My greatest advice for interviews is to prepare a few stories about your healthcare of life experiences that have shaped and impacted you.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process?

When Breath Becomes Air-Paul Kalanithi

The Applicant's Manual of Physician Assistant Programs-Mark Volpe, PA-C; Brittany Hogan, PA-C

aapa.org

multiple PA instagrams and blogs :) 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

1. Don't get discouraged if you run into a bump in the road! The journey can be difficult and stressful at times, but it is so worth it. Keep your head up and keep pushing and you will eventually get to your destination. 

2. Show your qualities rather than tell. By this I mean when you are writing your personal statement tell stories about how you portrayed compassion, teamwork, etc. instead of just saying "I'm compassionate". Also, with personal statement have multiple eyes review it! 

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3. Maintain relationships! Whether this means relationships with providers you shadow or advisers, it is great to have people on your team. This becomes important for letters of recommendation and maybe eventually a job!

4. Lastly, be yourself! :) 

Where can we find you? 

Instagram: lifewithme_pabre

website: lifewithmepabre.blogspot.com

youtube:lifewithmepabre

Guest Post from The Skin Sisters - Why We Became PAs

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You may remember The Skin Sisters from Episode 11 of The Pre-PA Podcast, but they're back today to share a little more of their stories of becoming PAs.  Make sure to check out their blog, "The Skin Sisters," and follow along with them on Instagram (@theskinsisters) for skincare tips. 


Hi! We are Brooke & Lauren and we are The Skin Sisters. We were born just 13 months apart. We went to elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college at the University of Wisconsin - Madison together. We both joined sororities and studied until all hours of the night at Helen C. White library in Madison. But that is where the similarities in our professional path diverge for a bit.  Lauren was studying biology and anatomy, while Brooke was preparing for a career in Tech PR. There are many different paths to becoming a Physician Assistant; ours happen to mirror just two of them.

Lauren: I always wanted to go into medicine. Our mom was a nurse and our stepdad was a physician; from an early age, my interest was piqued and I wanted to enter the health care field. However, I was unsure about going to medical school and completing a residency; I just didn’t see myself going down that path. I remember one afternoon my sophomore year of college; I was chatting with our stepdad and discussing my interest in medicine, but my hesitation to apply to medical school. He suggested that I explore the path to becoming a Physician Assistant. It was 2001 and the Physician Assistant field was growing quickly. His suggestion made a lot of sense to me, so I started to reach out to every PA, physician and nurse I could find to get his or her opinion. I questioned them on how they chose their career path and spent countless hours shadowing Physician Assistants to learn about their career. It soon became clear that I had found the profession for me.

I applied and was accepted to a great program in Nashville, TN, where I was able to get all of the clinical hours necessary to apply to PA School. It was through an organization called Dialysis Clinics Inc. (DCI) that I was able to spend the summer in Nashville reinforcing my decision to become a PA. I spent hours and hours at St. Thomas Hospital and Camp Okawehna providing basic care to both children and adults who were on dialysis or receiving kidney transplant.

I returned from Nashville and started applying to Physician Assistant Programs. I was fortunate to be admitted to a program in New York City, where I wanted to live at the time. It was an interesting time, because PA Programs were not as ubiquitous (or as competitive!) as they are now. Back in 2004, there were 3 PA Programs in New York City, and there were not many Masters Degree programs like we have now; all of the 3 programs in NYC offered only a certificate or Bachelors Degree at the time.

I started PA School knowing that I wanted to practice Dermatology. Through my shadowing prior to PA School, Dermatology had interested me very much and I thought I would enjoy practicing in the field. However, during PA School, there were many times that I questioned this plan - I became interested in each rotation I completed and realized that I could be happy in many fields. Thankfully, this interest allowed me to actively learn and participate fully in each clinical rotation I completed, as I now utilize so much of my general medical and surgical knowledge in my Dermatology career. I love being a Physician Assistant and am thankful that I realized early on that becoming a PA would provide me with a fulfilling, enjoyable, and challenging career.


Brooke: After college, I moved to San Francisco to start a career working in Corporate Communications for a Tech PR firm, where I stayed for just under five years. In that time I learned so much and had wonderful opportunities to learn, grow and live in some really fun places! Over time, however, I realized that I wasn't pursuing what I was passionate about and began to take steps to figure out my next career move. I was always cautiously interested in science and especially the human body, but never really know how to place my interests into a specific career path.

Over almost a year, I took time to talk to and spend time with anyone I could to expose myself to all different types of opportunities. This led to taking night classes in basic sciences and starting work as a Medical Assistant. During my time working at a Pediatrician's office, I start to notice different things that I would later learn are social determinants of health and health disparities within communities. After much discussion with family members, they to helped guide me in the direction of pursuing a Masters in Public Health. I moved to Washington, D.C. and embarked on two years of study that would significantly change my life. Learning about community health and the social determinants of health has absolutely helped shape me as a clinician for the better. During these years, I had the opportunity to complete a Fellowship abroad in India, which gave me the opportunity to see community health and disparity in action, as well as see how health policy works both domestically and abroad. 

As I entered into my final year in Public Health I knew that something was missing, and that I was craving the training and knowledge to be able to serve individuals at that patient/provider level. I applied to PA school at the same University and was accepted. Fast-forward two years, and countless library hours later, and I was walking across the stage with my degree as a Physician Assistant. 

I was recently engaged upon graduation and was moving to a city where my now-husband would complete a Fellowship and I knew no one, and certainly didn't have any contacts in the medical field! I put my resume up on several different sites and began cold calling offices in the area to see if they were hiring a PA. I initially wanted to work in Emergency Medicine but broadened my horizons and was so lucky when a Dermatologist called saying they were looking for a PA.

The practice I joined trained me in dermatology and specifically to assist in Mohs surgery for the removal of skin cancer. Over the year I spent there I fell in love with Dermatology, in many of the ways I had previously loved Emergency! I love the fast pace of dermatology, the variety and the ability to do so many different things! When my husband and I moved back to Minneapolis, the practice Lauren was at was looking for another PA and the timing worked out perfectly.

There are so many paths to becoming a PA, and no path is right or wrong. We are both lucky to have found a profession we love, and look forward to working in for many years to come.

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Big Announcement from Savanna!

In case you missed it on Instagram, Baby Girl Perry will be arriving in June! :)

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I'm really excited about this new journey and being able to share with you guys about being both a mom and a physician assistant. If you want to read some of my initial thoughts on being a "working mom," check out my most recent blog post on Medelita's blog, Enclothed Cognition! 

We'll have some more exciting announcements for you guys in the next few weeks, so be on the lookout! 

- Savanna                             

Accepted!: Hailey from @haileyblunt

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Undergraduate education: BSHS in Physiology from the University of Arizona

Overall GPA: 3.28 (yikes)

Science GPA:3.10 (double yikes)

GRE: 318

Total HCE hours: Roughly 500 hours as an EMT Program Director.

Total PCE hours: 3600 with experience as an EMT.

Shadowing hours: 60 (Ortho, Emergency, Dermatology)

Other volunteer hours: 1500 hours as a volunteer EMT.

LORs: Two from doctors I worked with and one from a physiology professor.

How many times did you apply?:  Once!

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 14 (my bank account did NOT like this)

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interviews, 2 acceptances, and still waiting for initial responses from a few schools!

Any red flags on your application? My GPA! It was so low that I thought I would need to retake classes and apply multiple times. I even had a D on my transcript! However, I've pointed it out as a weakness at both of my interviews and the faculty didn't seem concerned. One interviewer even laughed and pointed out that she had been through the process herself with a lower than average GPA. Don't use this as an excuse to slack off on your grades though! My low GPA was balanced out with a higher GRE, a unique background in healthcare, and the fact that my degree program was incredibly difficult.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was surprised at how calm I was once the process began. I was so nervous going in and thought I would be nervous every second of the interview, but the faculty really went out of their way to make all the applicants feel comfortable and all of the applicants were super supportive of each other.

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Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I loved the book "How to Ace the Physician Assistant School Interview"

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Don't be afraid to be yourself! You are a real person and the faculty interviewing you are also real people! You are very likely to have something in common with faculty aside from your interest in medicine. Look for ways to form real bonds and stick out from the crowd. One of the most memorable parts of my first interview was bonding with a member of faculty over our mutual love of Express clothing, we even had the exact same suit! Those little anecdotes will help the faculty remember you and will make the whole process feel more comfortable. Once you have a good rapport, it feels more natural to talk about your interest in PA school.

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) @haileyblunt on Instagram

Guest Post from Taylor - What I've Learned Being a Medical Assistant (Dermatology)

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Taylor has done some guest posts in the past, and if you haven't met her yet, she's my work (and real life) BFF and medical assistant that I work with most of the time. We're basically side by side for 8 hours while we're at the office, and we share a love of Taylor Swift, vacations, and crab cakes among many other things. Taylor is currently on her own journey to becoming a PA, and I'm thankful that she's sharing some of what she's learned along the way. 

If you're interested in how being a medical assistant can help you towards your PA goals, here's some insight into what you can hope to gain from this type of patient care experience. If you have the luxury of getting certified as a medical assistant, check out The PA Platform Search Engine to see if there's a program near you that fits your needs and get more information


When I first started as medical assistant, I had zero experience in the medical field. I had no idea what BID or TID meant, had no idea how to spell medications (Well, I still don’t. Spelling is not my strength. Ask Savanna.), and did not know a 30-gauge needle from a 15’ blade. 

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I had just graduated with a degree in public relations and had a whopping four science and math classes during my college career. The office that I worked in trained me on sight, which was quite a risk for them. I am not too familiar with Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) programs, but I am sure those students going into jobs find it easier than I did. I had a lot of learning to do and had to catch on quickly. Medical terminology and understanding how a medical practice functions were some of the first lessons that I had to learn.

I started off working at the front desk, but eventually began working full time as our PA’s medical assistant. Even from the beginning of my experience in the medical field, being able to interact with patients and assist the physician was my favorite part. I enjoyed learning about dermatology through being in the exam room with her. There is so much that you can learn while listening to a physician examine a patient!

We get to see some very interesting cases and no day is quite the same as the last. Being a medical assistant has taught me how to multi-task and how to work as a team. The biggest and most valuable lesson that being a medical assistant has taught me is that I really do want a career in the medical field. Being able to see the impact you can have on someone and the chance you get to improve someone’s quality of life is very rewarding.

My experience as a medical assistant has led me to pursue becoming a physician assistant and I do not think I would have known this without taking a risk and trying something new. Make the most of every opportunity that you are given, you never know where it might lead you! 


Other Posts from Taylor: 

If you would like to share how your experience has helped you in achieving your goals of becoming a PA, email savanna@thePAplatform.com to contribute. 

Accepted: Amanda from @thisPAadventure

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Meet Amanda. She reached out to share her story of how she was accepted into PA school this year with a low GPA. This is such a common concern with Pre-PA students, and it can be done! You still have to meet the minimums and make sure your application shines in as many ways as possible, but a few bad grades (or a lot) won't completely disqualify you. 

Make sure to follow Amanda as she starts PA school on Instagram by following @thisPAadventure


Undergraduate education: Central Washington University, BS: Paramedicine

Overall GPA: 3.17

Science GPA: 3.38

GRE: 309 (Verbal:157 Quantitative: 152 Writing:5)

Total HCE hours: 520 hours

Total PCE hours: 8,000+ hours (Paramedic, EMT, ER Tech)

Shadowing hours: 30 hours (Emergency and family practice)

Other volunteer hours: 215 hours (Homeless and at-risk youth)

LORs: Chief of Emergency MD, Emergency PA, Paramedic preceptor

How many times did you apply?:  First time

Age: 27

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 17

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interview offers, accepted after my first interview and declined the other interview. Withdrew all my other applications.

Any red flags on your application? Low GPA, academically disqualified from my first University, 7 F’s and a few W’s

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The school that I interviewed at, and was accepted to, was incredibly welcoming and made an effort to put the candidates feel at ease. I practiced hundreds of potential questions; but, when it came time for the interview, I didn’t use my rehearsed answers and just went with genuine gut feeling answers.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? The PA Platform, YouTube, Physician Assistant Forum, Facebook groups: The Pre-PA Club and pre-pa rockstars. Book: How to “Ace” the Physician Assistant Interview, by: Andrew Rodican.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Don’t be discouraged if you have a LOW GPA or some bad grades. Make your application shine in other ways with stellar patient care hours or an amazing personal statement. Be true to yourself and show your passion. Remember, it only takes one!

Where can we find you? Instagram @thisPAadventure

Guest Post from Eryka - How to Optimize Your Relationships with PAs, MDs, and RNs

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Today we have a guest post from Eryka, a student who is currently in the process of applying to PA school.  Eryka and I connected through Facebook, and she has been sharing her advice through The Pre-PA Club Facebook group and I recently did an interview with Eryka on The Pre-PA Club Podcast. We're going to be following her journey so you can get some insight from someone who is going through the process right now. Enjoy! 


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Hey guys! It’s Eryka I am a first-time applicant this year, and I was the previous PA Club president at my Alma Matter, the University of Delaware, Go Blue Hens! I have partnered up with The PA Platform to help share some of the things I have learned along the way to make your journey to PA school much smoother. Today I want to talk to you guys about how to make the most of your relationships with PAs, MDs, and RNs. From every shadowing experience or job I’ve had I made many connections with healthcare providers that have helped me get to the next step in my journey. Using these 5 tips will help you make meaningful connections with clinicians!

1.) Introduce yourself! Every healthcare provider that I have met, I always introduce myself. If there is a new PA at work, I will find a way before the day gets too busy to introduce myself: “Hi, I’m Eryka, nice to meet you. How long have you been a PA? Where did you go to PA school? I will be/am applying to PA school…” This without fail has sparked a conversation about how they got into PA school or what my major was in undergrad. The point is to make a connection. This same strategy works well with nurses and doctors. The key is to let them know you are interested in a career in healthcare and your aspirations to go to PA school. 

2.) Express your interest to learn. If you are shadowing or working in healthcare and you have a question about a patient or about why the diagnosis could be, ASK! For example, I work as a medical assistant in an urgent care, and I can order labs and x-rays for patients. After I triage the patient and take their chief complaint, I talk to the PA or MD. I let them know what the reason for their visit and what I think the diagnosis might be based on their symptoms. Eventually, you start to see that certain symptoms and clinical presentations are often for the same diagnosis. For example, I recently told the PA I was working with that a patient who had a rash on their face that it looked like shingles, as it turns out I was right! I only knew the difference because of a week prior a PA said that one patient’s rash was shingles and she explained how the rash presents clinically and what questions to ask the patient.

3.) Find out more about them. A simple question to get this started is, “What made you want to become a PA/MD/RN?”  You can also ask “Why they chose their path in medicine and what they like and dislike about their profession?”

4.) Always show your appreciation. Even if it was a brief conversation, leave them with a lasting impression of you. Always say thank you for all the advice/information or thank them for teaching me about XYZ. You want them to remember you as respectful, inquisitive, and professional. You never want to burn down any bridges!

5.) Exchange information. If you felt like your interaction was positive, ask for their email! Doing the steps mentioned above, they might even offer their email to you before you even ask! Having contacts in healthcare can lead to shadowing opportunities, letters of recommendations, and potential interviews. Once you get their email, you need to FOLLOW UP! They might not remember if you wait a few days to a week after meeting you to email them. It is very important to follow up within 24-48 hours of meeting, restating your name, thanking them for speaking with you about XYZ and anything you previously talked about, and that you look forward to speaking with them soon. This is a perfect way to jog their memory of you and remind them what they said they were willing to do for you, like writing a letter of recommendation or having you shadow them! If you think you might lose their business card take a picture on your phone to ensure, you don’t lose it!

I hope you like my post, and I will try to write more as my journey to PA school continues. You can follow me on Instagram at @erykalaren, and my YouTube page will be up soon as well!

 

Accepted: Daniela from @d_nicopike

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Daniela is a true example of not giving up and how persistence pays off. She has a really unique story of how she gained acceptance to PA school, and while it may not work for everyone, creativity can work in your favor. Here is Daniela's story, followed by her stats:

I applied for the first time last year and did not get any interviews. I was only waitlisted for interviews to later be removed from that list as well. I gave myself a "deadline hope" until mid spring because one of the schools I had applied to had interviews from about March to April. I followed the that school's thread on physicianassistantforum.com and some time in April people were saying they were the last interview group, so I knew that opportunity had also gone right out the window for me.

I went through my grieving process and eventually accepted the fact that I would be out of school for another two years since I didn't want to apply for this year's cycle because I hadn't done anything to improve my application, so I'd be applying next cycle. One day, early May I received an email from Pace notifying me they were opening a PA program at their Pleasantville campus that would be starting this Fall. I gave it a shot and applied and a few weeks later I landed an interview. I felt I had done pretty well on my interview and was told I'd hear back in 7-10 days. Days passed and I didn't hear anything from them and I began getting so discouraged. I thought, what was the point of this opportunity knocking at my door after I had accepted my fate to only be turned down again?

I discussed my situation with the doctor and PA I worked with and they both encouraged me to be persistent with Pace, to call and tell them how very interested I was in the program, why I was a good choice for them, and to consider me if any spots opened. The PA also called them and argued my case and put in a good word for me. I planned on going to Pace in person to try to speak with one of the admissions people to put a face to my name while I promoted myself for the program. However, the week I intended to do that, I received a call from the program offering me a spot.


Undergraduate education: Queens College    

Overall GPA: 3.6

Science GPA: 3.2

GRE: N/A

Total HCE hours: 3,870

Total PCE hours: 1,470

Shadowing hours: 840

Other volunteer hours: 994

LORs: Internal medicine doctor, dermatology doctor, dermatology PA, orthopedic PA, chemistry professor

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 25

Gender: Fermale

How many programs did you apply to? 15

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 1. Accepted

Any red flags on your application? Low science GPA and C+ in chemistry II

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The admissions committee were all extremely nice which eased my nerves. They clearly wanted to make the interviewees more relaxed and feel accomplished that we had made it to that interview.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? How To "Ace" The Physician Assistant School Interview by Andrew J. Rodican, The PA Platform Mock Interview, physicianassistantforum.com, So You Want To Be A Physician Assistant by Beth Grivett

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Be more persistent than you have ever before. I learned that persistence is a wisdom and it will also lead you to learn that it's not over until it's over. I did not lose faith on being invited to an interview until I found out the last interview group had been selected for the latest interviewing program I had applied to. Then, after not hearing back from my only interview, I persisted and had the PA I worked with call the program and put in a good word for me. I also planned on going in personally to speak with an admissions committee to argue my case and put a face to my name in case a spot opened up. 

Where can we find you? @d_nicopike (instagram)

Interview with @caasapa - Future Palliative Care PA

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Catherine Anna reached out on Instagram to share her interest in the field of palliative care as a PA. I can't say that I personally know any PAs who work in palliative care, so I actually learned a good bit from this interview as well. If you have any questions about UAB or Catherine Anna's plans feel free to reach out to her on Instagram by following @caasapa


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Give me a quick introduction and a little bit on your background (name, undergrad, where you're at in PA school, etc). 

My name is Catherine Anna McCarty. I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for undergrad, my Master's in Public Health, and currently for PA school. Go Blazers! I am currently in my first semester of didactic. 

 

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a specialty that focuses on improving the quality of life for those with serious or terminal illness. Usually, a team made up of not only clinicians but other specialists such as physical therapists, massage therapists, chaplains, dietitians, and psychologists takes care of patients together. The interdisciplinary team works to treat symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue, and anxiety as well as assist in advanced care planning. 

 

How did you become interested in palliative care? 

I accepted a position within a palliative care department working with breast cancer patients. At the same time that I was starting that job and really discovering what palliative care was, I was also experiencing the health care system for the first time as someone with a chronic condition. I realized the necessity of a specialty that focused on improving quality of life and allowed patients to define what that meant. It’s empowering as a patient to be listened to and to take back control from illnesses that directly impact how you experience life. I wanted to be a part of a specialty that had the ability to do so much good in people’s lives.

 

Why is it difficult to find PAs in specific specialties?

In regards to palliative care, I think it comes down to the history of the profession and exposure. The history of the PA profession is that of clinicians that practice curative as well as procedure-driven medicine; that which palliative care is not. The most recent literature I have found notes there are only 15 PAs practicing in the field of palliative medicine. Therefore, there are limited opportunities for exposure for pre-PA or PA students. I hope to increase the visibility of PAs in palliative medicine throughout my career and see a huge growth of practicing palliative PAs during my lifetime. 

 

What advice would you give to an applicant who is very interested in a specific specialty?

It is great to have a passion for a specific field of medicine, but it's important not to discount the value of other specialties. Most of your clinical rotations will take place outside of the specialty you’re passionate about. It’s important to be open to absorbing as much knowledge and skills as you can from as many specialties as you can. 

 

What has been most challenging about PA school so far? 

Reframing how I think about learning. During my undergraduate career, I was able to study the night before and make an A on an exam. All of my efforts were focused on obtaining a certain letter grade whereas in PA school, my efforts have shifted to learning the material I need to be a competent and capable clinician. 

 

What is your one best tip for Pre-PA students?

Invest the time, effort, and grit it takes to master your prerequisite courses so you have a strong foundation to start from once you begin a PA program. It will make the adjustment to PA school a little easier. 

Accepted! - Jenna from @jennagipperich

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Any college athletes out there? Jenna is a great example of how to incorporate different interests into your admissions process for PA school. I also love her advice about taking the vibe you get at interviews into your consideration when choosing a program. 


Undergraduate education: Mercer University in Macon, GA

Overall GPA: 3.52

Science GPA: 3.24

GRE: 309 (I took this test 2 times. I got a 299 first try, and then studied harder and took it again.)

Total HCE hours: 30 (Macon Volunteer Clinic)

Total PCE hours: 2,000+ (Worked as a Patient Care Assistant on the Ortho/Neuro PCU floor for 7 months, and then 1 year on the Stroke ICU)

Shadowing hours: 50 (Orthopedics and Family) It was super difficult to find PA’s to shadow in my city of Louisville, KY because it is a NP heavy area.

Other volunteer hours: 170 (President of Student Athlete Association Committee at Mercer University, Macon Volunteer Clinic, University of Louisville Hospital)

LORs: Nurse Manager on the ICU where I was a PCA, Organic Chemistry professor, Family PA I shadowed

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 24

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 6 programs

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? So far, I have heard back from 2 programs. 1 waitlist, 1 acceptance. Happy to say I got accepted to my #1 choice, University of Kentucky! GO CATS!

Any red flags on your application? GPA, but I believe PA schools took my D1 running schedule into consideration with my difficult classes.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? At one interview I noticed that the questions given to me were mostly “challenge” questions. The 2 interviewers asked why my science GPA was low (my running schedule) and why I think I could handle their program. It caught me off guard because I felt like they didn’t believe in me. I didn’t end up accepting their waitlist offer because I didn’t feel like they had an encouraging and friendly atmosphere.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? Any other advice for other pre-PA students? 

My biggest advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help! If I was struggling in a prerequisite class I always went to the professor or other students and discovered ways to help me succeed. Whether that was tutoring, studying with students in the class who excelled, or looking online for tips. For example, I found Khan Academy super helpful for Organic Chemistry.

For the interview process I practiced common interview questions in my head and got a general answer for each. I practiced these with family and friends. I remember I was so nervous for my first interview, but my second interview I knew what to expect and was so much more comfortable! My biggest advice for interviews is to be confident in yourself and all the work you’ve done to get to this point.

Throughout the application process I followed @thepaplatform and blog. Savanna is great about discussing common pre-PA topics and questions. The blog is full of information for the whole process from start to finish!

Where can we find you? Follow my upcoming PA journey on Instagram @jennagipperich

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If you've been accepted to PA school, and would like to share your stats and advice with other students, shoot me an email at savanna@thePAplatform.com