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
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
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.
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 you’re proud of? Why PA? What is the biggest mistake you’ve 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions at all!