What to Expect at a PA School Interview

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Have you ever been in a car wreck you saw coming? I was a passenger in this type of collision in high school. Even though we were stopped, I saw that the car turning left was about to get hit, and would likely collide into us. That split second was so strange because it felt like it happened in the blink of an eye, but time slowed down enough that I anticipated the impact and had time to brace for the crash. That’s how interviews feel. 

Each program varies in how they conduct interviews, and programs like to change up their methods occasionally. Imagine the difficulty of having 10-20 minutes of face time to choose a limited number of students to not only succeed in the program, but get along as a class. While there are some aspects you can expect and prepare for, be ready for the unexpected as well. Schools are looking for applicants who can be flexible and adapt easily without getting flustered.

For the most part, interviews consist of the same components: a tour, an orientation to introduce you to the program, time to interact with current students and meet faculty, and some type of face-to-face interview.  Optional components may include an essay or group session, or even a quiz! Programs could let you know beforehand about a test, or just surprise you after arrival. Again, be prepared for anything. Go into the interview expecting the unknown, so you’re less likely to be thrown off when something comes up you didn’t prepare for.  Keep in mind with these various elements that every single part of your experience is part of the interview, even when you're just chatting it up with current students! 

There are various types of interviews or ways that these sessions can be set up. These include: 

  • One-on-one interviews
  • Two-on-one interviews
  • Panel interviews

And then there are the various styles, including: 

Ideally, if you know what to expect before going into the interview, you'll be able to prepare most effectively, but that's not always possible. In any case, it's worth taking some time to prepare by going over commonly asked questions and reviewing your CASPA application. For more information on PA school interviews, check out the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide. 

Accepted!: Chris from @westcoast_pa_ghost - Midwestern University PA Student

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Undergraduate education: UC Davis

Overall GPA: 3.8

Science GPA: 3.64

GRE: 311 (153 Verbal, 158 Quantitative, 3.5 Analytical Writing)

Total HCE hours: 2000 (Clinical Research Associate for an Orthopaedic Clinic)

Total PCE hours: 705 (555 as a student athletic trainer in college, 150 as an intern at a PT clinic)

Shadowing hours: 181 (5 hours: Primary Care PA-C, 48 hours: Sports Medicine PA-C, 108 hours: Orthopaedic Spine PA-C, 20 hours: Various Orthopaedic Surgeons)

Other volunteer hours: 300 (Volunteer Tutor for School on Wheels Inc., Volunteer for Union Station Homeless Services, Volunteer and Assistant Basketball Coach for The Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena)

LORs: 5 (3 MDs, 2 PA-Cs)

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 25

Gender: Male

How many programs did you apply to? 9 (3 acceptances, 2 waitlists, 3 rejections, 1 declined interview invitation)

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I was invited to interview at 6, but only attended 5 of them. I was accepted by 3 programs and waitlisted at the other 2.

Any red flags on your application? My patient care hours were definitely on the low end. My post-undergrad job required a decent amount of patient contact, but not for the purposes of patient care. Additionally, my background was entirely in a specialized field of medicine (ortho/sports med). I'm sure this set some alarms off for programs that emphasize primary care.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? They were much less intense than I was anticipating. The faculty and current students were extremely friendly and welcoming at each program I interviewed at. I found it helpful to converse with the other applicants during downtime. It helped to relieve some of the nerves! My biggest piece of advice for interviews is to be prepared and to be yourself. Do not tell your interviewers what you think they want to hear. Speak from the heart and be honest! Otherwise, you will end up looking/sounding like everyone else and won’t be able to set yourself apart. Also, remember that interviews are a two-way street! Make sure that the campus, faculty, location and curriculum are in line with what you are looking to get out of your PA school experience. PA programs need to impress you as much as you need to impress them!

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” (Affiliate Link) by Andrew J. Rodican, PA-C is a great resource for preparing for interviews. However, Savanna has just released a new book that reflects a more updated take on the PA school interview process. I would check that out for sure!

Follow as many PAs and PA students as you can on social media. Savanna was one of many others that helped educate me on the PA profession and guide me through the application process.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? It is very easy to get caught up in PA programs’ required stats and compare yourself to others while applying. Yes, PA school has become extremely competitive. Yes, there are thousands of experienced, talented and intelligent individuals that apply every year. But you know what? There is only one you and you’re freaking awesome!

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Focus on you and only you when going through the application process. You’ve put in the countless hours of studying, explored the PA profession through your shadowing, work and volunteer experiences and have built valuable connections that I’m sure will provide you with killer letters of recommendation!

So, use the application cycle to show yourself off and COMPETE! Not so much against your fellow applicants, but more so against yourself— that is, the part of you saying you’re not good enough. Because you are!

If you are truly passionate about becoming a PA, you will find a way to make it happen! Looking forward to being future colleagues with you all! “Always be humble. Always be kind. Always be respectful. Always compete.”

Where can we find you? Follow me on Instagram @westcoast_pa_ghost or shoot me an email at westcoastghost22@gmail.com!


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

The GRE + PA School

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While not a requirement for all programs, it's not uncommon for the GRE to be a part of PA school applications. I want to answer some of the common questions that come up in regards to the GRE. Keep in mind that these are my recommendations and there have certainly been success stories of students accepted without stellar GRE scores. 

Why do I need to take the GRE for PA school?

For most programs, the GRE Is not going to make or break your application, but is more of a checkmark for the program. Since the majority of PA programs are Master's level (and this will be a requirement for all programs soon), they need some type of standardized testing to justify this level of education. 

It is important that you're able to show an ability to perform well on standardized tests because ultimately at the end of PA school, you'll be required to pass the PANCE. Granted, these are very different tests. The GRE is a strategy test, and the PANCE is a knowledge test (with some strategy involved). 

Another reason PA schools require the GRE is that they must have some way to screen applicants and essentially weed some out. It's not feasible for a school to evaluate thousands of applications thoroughly so they have requirements to minimize the amount of applications that actually need evaluated. 

What is considered a good score on the GRE? 

This is a very subjective question because many programs don't necessarily have a stated requirement or minimum. If a program does advertise a specific desired score, you need to at least hit that number or percentage or your application will likely be discarded from the beginning. 

As a rule of thumb, shoot for a total combined score of 300 across the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The Writing portion doesn't really matter for PA schools. You also want to try to get higher than the 50th percentile for each section. 

One way to determine if your score is "good" for a particular program is to see if they advertise their class averages. Sometimes programs will put the average scores or percentages of what their most recent incoming students had on the GRE, so you would want to try to make yours comparable to be considered competitive. 

Does it look bad if I need to retake the GRE? 

One of the good things about the GRE is that you can take it as many times as you need to and they will essentially look at the highest scores. The worst part about having to retake the GRE is that it is expensive! But this is one part of your application that you can improve on much easier than something like GPA, so if you don't do as well the first time, I say try again. 

How much does a GRE score affect my application?

Like I mentioned above, the GRE is typically more of a "checkbox" than anything else. It doesn't really tell the program much about you in regards to how you'll perform in PA school or even on the PANCE. That being said, it's not going to be the first thing programs look at when evaluating your application. A low score may get your application thrown out, but a high score isn't going to make a huge impact. 

Can a high GRE score make up for a lower GPA or lack of healthcare hours?

To a degree, it may be helpful to have a solid GRE score and use that ability to test well as a strength, but ultimately your GRE score is not going to completely counteract a discrepancy in other areas on your application. For example, if your GPA doesn't meet the minimums, but you have a great GRE score, your application will likely still be disregarded because of the GPAs. Same goes for healthcare hours. Do well on the GRE, but don't put all your eggs in that basket. 

Why should I take the GRE for PA school? 

This is a question that I actually get a lot. While there are plenty of schools that don't require the GRE at this point, by taking it you increase your chances of being accepted significantly by minimizing your competition. Think about it this way - if a school requires the GRE they may get 1000 applicants who took the test. If a school does NOT require the GRE, they may get 1000 applicants who did not take the test, as well as those 1000 who did take it. The more specific the requirements a school has that you can meet, the higher your chances of landing an interview. 

Accepted!: Jinal from @notoriouspa_c - EVMS PA Student

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PA Program Attending: Eastern Virginia Medical School 

Undergraduate Education: Bachelor of Health Sciences with a concentration in Integrative Holistic Medicine (Oakland University, 2014)

Overall GPA: 3.11

Post- Bachelor GPA: 3.97

Science GPA: 3.32

GRE: N/A

Total HCE Hours: 5,600

Total PCE Hours: 2,500

Shadowing Hours: 80; multiple different specialties.

Other Volunteer Hours: 550

LORs: 4 in total. 1 from a Neurology PA (whom I've worked with and shadowed). 1 from a Dermatology PA (whom I've worked with and shadowed). 1 from my work supervisor/ administrative nursing manager. Lastly, 1 from a professor (whom I've taken multiple courses with and teach-assisted for). 

How many times did you apply? I actually applied twice! However, I was in fact accepted to a program in Cycle 1 later in the cycle. I applied for Cycle 2 just to be safe. I was accepted into a program early on in Cycle 2 as well. 

Age: 25

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? Cycle 1: 15 programs; Cycle 2: 14 programs.

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? For Cycle 1, I interviewed at 1 program and was accepted! For Cycle 2, I was offered 4 interviews, I attended 2 of them, and was accepted to one of them!  

Any red flags on your application? The biggest red flag, in my opinion, was my lower cumulative undergraduate GPA. Round 1, I had a 3.11. Round 2, I had a 3.2. Fairly on the low end. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was always told that interviews are brutal and so nerve-wracking because they hound you hard with questions.... but I had such great experiences with mine! Most of my interviews were "Closed Book," meaning that the faculty and students interviewing me did not know anything about my application prior to meeting me. This made me more relaxed and confident knowing that I could have a great conversation with my interviewer while highlighting great characteristics and experiences. I wasn't worried about if they were going to hound me with questions about my low GPA, I just spoke from the heart. The faculty members were really just trying to get to know me personally and wanted to see how my past academic, volunteer and patient experiences have shaped me into wanting to become a PA and why I was now ready to become one. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? My favorite resources were reaching out to current PA students over social media! They gave me honest perspectives on the application process and how to implement great study habits to help me succeed in the program. When I was preparing to apply and choose programs, I utilized the PAEA website to search programs all over the nation. I also used PAprogramFinder.com to help me narrow down programs that I would best fit based on my GPA and other experiences. To make sure I kicked butt in all my prerequisite courses, I utilized writing all my notes in my own words. Then I would write them on a whiteboard. I learn through many different visual queues; so color coding, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and even teaching material has helped me solidify all the material I learned in my biomedical courses. 

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Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Be confident in yourself! You've worked so incredibly hard to even get to the application process; you should be proud! Also, know that a rejection is NOT the end of the world. Make sure you view rejection as a redirection to push you harder for the next cycle. PA school is competitive, you know this---everyone knows this! Please don't be discouraged if you need to apply multiple times. The bite of victory once you get in will taste even sweeter when you know you have worked extra hard for it! Remember that the temptation to quite is often the greatest RIGHT before a miracle occurs--- don't give up! 

Where can we find you? (website, Instagram, etc): I love helping and mentoring other Pre- PA students! If you ever have any questions, concerns, or just need someone to hear you out, you can always reach out to me! You can find me on Instagram @Notoriouspa_C. You can also reach out to me via email at 1Notorious_PAC@gmail.com


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

5 Crucial PA School Interview Tips (Video)

Accepted!: Tyler - Future Rutgers PA Student

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A huge thank you to Tyler for sharing his stats, and some advice regarding getting into PA school. Tyler has a great instagram account you can follow along with as he starts school at Rutgers in the fall - @tyler.fernandes - so definitely check that out!


Undergraduate education: Spent 1 year at Suffolk University as a theater major, transferred to the University of Massachusetts- Amherst and got a BS in public health and a minor in education in 3 years

Overall GPA: 3.68

Science GPA: 3.55

GRE: 313 (verbal: 155 quant: 158 writing: 5)

Total HCE hours:  64 (medical scribe in a prison)

Total PCE hours: 1,262 (CNA in nursing home and in hospital ICU)

Shadowing hours: 48 (ER, Internal Medicine, and Urgent Care)

Other volunteer hours: < 50

LORs: 3 (1 PA, 1 nurse, and my Anatomy professor that I TA’d for)

How many times did you apply?  1

Age: 23

Gender: male

How many programs did you apply to? 11 programs

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

  • Rutgers University- accepted
  • MCPHS Boston- accepted
  • Drexel University- declined interview invitation
  • University of Iowa- interview hold list, denied
  • Cornell University- second application invite, denied
  • Duke University- denied
  • George Washington- denied
  • Yale University- denied
  • Northwestern University- denied
  • Stanford University- denied
  • Hofstra: N/A, heard they filled their class

Any red flags on your application? 

My science grades were pretty much B’s or B-‘s, but I was able to raise my GPA with public health courses, which I found more interesting and I was able to perform well in them. Also since I got my degree in 3 years, I had overloaded on difficult sciences courses each semester so I think schools took that into consideration.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

Both interviews I attended were very relaxed. I felt pretty nervous for the first one but the second one felt like a breeze because I already had a feel for what interviews were like. Something that was surprising was that one of the schools had us do a basic anatomy quiz that I was not really prepared for, but I don’t think anyone else thought to prepare for that either!

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

Thepaplatform.com, medtakeovers and premedtakeovers on snapchat, physicianassistantforum.com, The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School (third edition), How To “Ace” The Physician Assistant School Interview. (Amazon Affiliate links)

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

  • Only do things that you feel passionate about!!! Don’t volunteer for something simply because you want to have more hours for your application. Find something you genuinely enjoy, that you will dedicate time to, and will be proud to talk about during an interview.

  • Don’t compare every nitty gritty detail of someone’s journey/application to yours. Every aspect of your life, even if its non-healthcare related, will play a part in the type of PA you become. For example, I’m proud of the skills I gained through theater and I think its made me a better communicator and team player.

  • Prepare for the interview but don’t over think it. You were invited for a reason and the biggest thing is that they want to see that you are human. Smile, have fun, dress well, meet your future classmates and be yourself. Have candid answers to the basic questions (Savanna has an excellent guide on here), do a few mock interviews, and let the pieces fall where they may :)


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

5 Ways to Stand Out at Your PA School Interview

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Everybody wants to know - How do I stand out at PA school interview? - Valid question. The key is standing out in a good way and not a bad way. After doing a bunch of mock interviews and speaking with faculty and admissions committees, I've found there are some common mistakes and small things you can do to help yourself stand apart from the other applicants at your interview. 

I don't feel like any of these are groundbreaking tips, but just reminders to keep in mind when you're walking in to your interview. It's easy to let nerves get in the way and lose sight of your goal: convincing your interviewer that you are the best person for a spot in their PA program and that you will be a great classmate and colleague! 

 

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  1. CONFIDENCE! This is the biggest thing that seems to be missing when I'm working with applicants. Even if you are terribly nervous and don't feel confident at all, you need to be able to fake it. Confidence goes a long way in an interview setting and can definitely make you appear ready for PA school. Just the fact that you got an interview invitation should give you confidence because it means you had a strong application and they want to see who you are as a person. They want to see mature candidates who can handle themselves in high stress situations, such as a PA school interview. 
     
  2. Be yourself. One mistake many candidates make is trying to mold their answers to what they think the admissions committees are looking for. The problem with this is losing yourself in the process and not showing your personality in the interview. As a PA, you need to be able to connect with patients and just be yourself. It's evident if you are not showing your true colors so when you're practicing, video yourself to make sure you're giving the impression you're trying to make. 
     
  3. Avoid negativity. This should be a given, but no one really likes a negative person. Try your best to stay positive throughout your interview. If you're discussing a tough situation, focus on the good parts and learning lessons. Avoid putting down any other professions as this is typically looked down upon. 
     
  4. Interact with fellow applicants. Some of the other applicants at your interview may end up being your classmates! Working as part of a team is a big part of both PA school and being a PA, so they'll be watching at your interview to see how you interact with everyone else there. Learn names, refer to other applicants, and just be cordial in all of your interactions. 
     
  5. Have thoughtful answers. This is addressed in the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide very thoroughly, but one issue I've noticed is some applicants don't think about why a question is being asked. It's great to provide a story or example, but it needs to have a lesson that relates to you becoming a PA. When you're practicing, consider bringing your answers full circle and making sure they fully explain what you learned and make those connections to how you'll be a better PA student or PA for it. 

If you need interview help, and would like to schedule a mock interview with one of The PA Platform coaches, we would love to give you some feedback! 


Accepted!: Marian - Low GPA to PA Student

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The majority of emails we get at The PA Platform are about how to get into PA school with a low GPA. Once your GPA drops, it can be very difficult to overcome, but Marian is an amazing example of how it CAN be done. It wasn't easy, but Marian kept working hard and didn't give up, and now she's going to be a PA! And she rocked her mock interview, so I wasn't at all surprised to hear of her acceptance. 


Undergraduate education:

  • Undergrad - University of California Riverside - BS Biological Sciences 
  • Graduate - Chatham University - MS Biology 

GPAs: 

  • Overall GPA: 2.85 
  • Science GPA: 2.76
  • Post Bacc GPA: 3.34
  • Graduate GPA: 3.89

GRE: 301 

Total HCE hours: 6,280

Total PCE hours: 10,396

Shadowing hours: 1,560

Other volunteer hours: 1,134

LORs: 1 PA, 2 Science Professors 

How many times did you apply?:  2

Age: 28 

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? 15

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 1 interview invite, 1 acceptance, waiting to hear back from 6 programs. 

Any red flags on your application?  My undergraduate GPA was the biggest red flag in my application. I did everything in my power to compensate for that by completing a post bacc, a masters and having lots of patient care and volunteer hours. I also excelled in getting my Masters in Biology, which I felt I had to pursue to she admission committees that I could handle the rigor of PA school.  

Anything you found surprising about interviews?  I found it comforting that when I interviewed I felt so relaxed. The faculty and staff made Interview day fun and i really felt at home with the program. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process?  I basically studied everything on the PA Platform! Lol. From the webinars, the Top 100 interview questions, to the practice Mock interview I wanted to be prepared as possible. I also read the book "How to Ace the Physician Assistant Interview" by Andrew Rodican (Amazon affiliate link). 

Any other advice for pre-PA students? 

As a student with a lower undergraduate GPA, I never thought I would see the day I got accepted. The first time I applied, I thought I did everything the right way but I made so many mistakes. So here are my tips.

1. Apply Early!!! Submitting your Application in April or May is key especially for schools that utilize rolling admissions. 

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2. Research the programs you're applying to. I only applied to programs that had a holistic view on my application, due to my lower GPA. Therefore I applied to schools that had "recommended" GPA requirements or would put heavier emphasis on the last 90 units of my coursework. I also applied to schools based on the mission statement. 

3. Don't Give up! No matter how hard reality may seem, just hold on to your dream! It's never too late! Don't let anything or anyone stop you from fulfilling your destiny! Sure, It may take longer..but if you don't give up on yourself, stay focused, and trust that you can do it...YOU REALLY CAN! All it takes is one interview and one acceptance letter and I am a living testament to that! 

Where can we find you?  Instagram: @_mae0711


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

10 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting into PA School

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Everyone wants to know how they can be the best applicant possible, right? Well, there are some steps you can take to increase your chances of getting accepted to PA school. 

  1. Apply early! - Many PA programs have rolling admissions, which means they will evaluate your application as soon as it is complete. If you wait until later in the cycle, there's a chance that the interview slots will already be full. Typically, May or June is still considered early. 
     
  2. Focus on your weaknesses. - When you evaluate your application, what do you see as your limiting factor? If you have a lower GPA, it can sometimes be easier to just keep getting patient care hours, but you really need to work on the factors that may hold your application back. Figure out what you're lacking in the most, and work on it. If you need help coming up with a plan, consider a Pre-PA Assessment
     
  3. Apply broadly. - If you want the best chances, you'll likely need to apply to more than a couple of programs. The average number of programs applied to for students who were accepted to PA school is 6. If you can swing it, I recommend 10-12. 
     
  4. Make sure you meet the requirements. - When choosing programs to apply to, don't waste your time or money if you can't check all of the boxes. Requirements are not flexible, and schools do not make exceptions. There are plenty of people applying who have completed all that is asked of them. 
     
  5. Make your application as complete as possible before submitting. - While it is very important to apply early, the more complete your essay the better. Try to get your classes, experience, and GRE completed before submitting if possible. 
     
  6. Have a killer personal statement. - I've said it before, but your personal statement is what gets you an interview. It's your one chance to show the admissions committee who you are and why you deserve a spot in their program. If you need help with editing, check out myPAresource and use the code "thePAPlatform" for a discount! 
     
  7. Triple check your application. - There's no reason to have any errors in your application. Make sure the information you entered is correct without any typos. This is an easy one, but you don't want to look careless. 
     
  8. Apply with the mindset of reapplying. - It's not uncommon to apply to PA school more than once these days. After you submit, go ahead and start thinking about reapplying. You don't get to take a break and if it comes to that, you should be able to show that you have improved your application since the last cycle. 
     
  9. Make sure you're prepared for interviews. - The interview is what ultimately gets you accepted to PA school, and sometimes it's easy to be a little too nonchalant about this step. Even if you have a great personality, put some work into your interview prep. Check out the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide (Amazon affiliate link) as a first step. 
     
  10. Follow up on your applications. - While waiting is the most difficult step, you can be proactive by keeping tabs on your applications. If you get a rejection, try to find out what you can improve on. In that waiting phase, you can send updates on any additional hours or coursework you're continuing to work on. 

Those are just a few suggestions to take into consideration, but ultimately, just don't give up! If becoming a physician assistant is your dream, keep pushing forward. 

Accepted!: Katie - Future Temple PA Student

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Katie was one of the initial members of The Pre-PA Club Facebook group, and she does an awesome job of answering questions that other members have. I was SO excited when I heard she got her acceptance to PA school at Temple because I know that she's put in the work and really deserves it. Here are her tips and tricks! 


Undergraduate education: University of Pittsburgh, BAs in English Writing and Anthropology

Overall GPA: 3.5 (at time of application)

Science GPA: 3.25 (at time of application) 3.5 now that I've finished with pre-reqs. Yes, I applied with 6 outstanding pre-reqs! 

GRE: 309 - 163 verbal 146 quantitative 5.5 writing (second attempt) 

Total HCE hours: ~100

Total PCE hours: ~1600 (Patient Care Technician, Dental Assistant)

Shadowing hours: 128 (3 PAs, 2 MDs, 1 PT)

Other volunteer hours: ~100

LORs: 1 PA, 1 organic chemistry professor, 1 MD, 1 biology professor, 1 writing professor

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 25

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 15. Still waiting to hear from 5, but have gone with Temple as it is my first choice!

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 - waitlisted at Chatham, accepted at Temple

Any red flags on your application? Low initial GPA, low quantitative GRE. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? Group interviews were surprisingly frustrating as it didn't give the interviewers a chance to ask more personal, specific questions. 

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

I highly recommend using the PA Platform's 100 interview questions to prep for interviews and the site in general for preparing your application, Varsity Tutors for GRE prep, and the Princeton Review's book for prepping for the GRE on your own (affiliate link). 

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Any other advice for other pre-PA students? If your GPA is on the lower end, make sure to build your PCH and shadowing hours as much as you can, have KILLER LORS (befriend your professors) and write a compelling personal statement. I would also suggest making sure to clearly explain (in your personal statement and interviews) the story behind your lower GPA (for me it was one singular F in Gen Chem 1 my freshman year) and demonstrate how you've grown since then (I made sure to explain the F and that now, I've clearly grown and mastered the sciences while maintaining a 4.0 post-bacc GPA while working 3 jobs and taking 2-3 classes at a time.) Also, utilize your community colleges and take that gap year after college to grow as a person and adult! Never be afraid to major in something non-science during undergrad. It will help diversify you as a candidate, you'll bring something new and interesting to the program, and can help expand your mind, your experiences, and how you interact with people as a whole. Don't ever, ever give up -- if you get rejected make sure to set up an appointment with an admissions coordinator to go over your application and get insight into where you can improve for next year! 

Where can we find you? Instagram @katieemartin04 :)


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

Accepted!: Sarah - Future Duke PA Student

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Everyone wants to go to Duke, right? Well, Sarah is doing it! Huge thanks to Sarah for being willing to share her experience and tips that she's picked up while applying to PA school. 


Undergraduate education: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Overall GPA: 3.67

Science GPA: 3.76

GRE: 309, Analytical Writing 4.0

Total HCE hours: 600

Total PCE hours: 2,754

Shadowing hours: 30

Other volunteer hours: 288

LORs: 3-RN supervisor, Associate Medical Director MD, and a professor

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 27

Gender: female

How many programs did you apply to? 4

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I luckily interviewed at all four schools. I received 1 rejection, 2 admittance letters, and am still waiting on the fourth response.

Any red flags on your application? I had a few withdrawals on my transcript.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was given a 1 month notice for two of the interviews, a week notice for another, and a two day notice for the last interview! Always be ready! It was a bit tricky getting work off for the last interview. I also found that each school has their own individual vibe. Pay attention to that! Wherever you are most comfortable is likely a good fit.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, it apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? After my first rejection letter, I read The Physician Assistant School Interview: Essential Strategies to Blow ‘Em Away and Claim Your Seat in Class by Paul Kubin, PA-C. He has great advice for practicing without sounding rehearsed and providing authentic answers. You're going to stand out if you just tell them who you are and what you have to offer, because you are unique!

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

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  • Don't let rejection get you down! Sometimes a school decides not to select you simply because they thought you weren't a good fit for their program, NOT because you won't be a great PA.
  • Use failure constructively! My second interview at Elon went terribly! I froze, my mind went blank, and the examples I gave weren't representative of what I wanted to say. After feeling like I surely ruined my chances of getting in this cycle, my fiance told me not to worry because my feelings were subjective! I have no true idea of what they thought of me. Also, to use this experience as motivation to knock the next opportunity out of the park. Strangely enough, the following day I received another invite to my reach school, Duke. Due to that awful interview, I was able to pull off my best interview yet at the school of my dreams! A week later, I found out that I was actually accepted to Elon even though I thought I had crashed and burned! You truly never know!
  • Don’t compare yourself to others! You will be surrounded by super accomplished individuals. Their experiences and merits are great, but in no way diminish YOUR value and what you have to offer! Show them what you got!
  • Exercise methods to stave off nerves. I realized that I had let my anxiety get the best of me at the Elon interview. At the Duke interview, I practiced deep breathing and thoughts of positive reinforcement when the nerves bubbled up. It worked! I was able to be genuine and thoughtful in every answer I gave. You can prepare all you want, but you ARE going to get questions on which you didn’t premeditate. A clear head is needed to successfully maneuver those questions!
  • Practice builds confidence! Give yourself plenty of practice, BUT don't memorize an answer. Make sure that you practice using different verbiage so that you don't sound robotic. They are looking for originality. They know how to sift out cookie-cutter responses. Take advantage of your work relationships and have a PA or MD give you a mock interview! Practicing answering questions while being nervous is invaluable and something you won't get when practicing with a friend or spouse.
  • Write down all of your patient experience stories and brainstorm different ways you can use them. For instance, yada yada yada experience can show teamwork, stress, an ethical dilemma, etc. It's important to realize what you have in your goody bag and how you can utilize those stories. You can always get more than one lesson out of an experience. That way when they ask you, “Describe a time when you had to rely on teamwork” or “Tell me about a stressful experience and how you dealt with that” you have a multitude of examples ready to go!

Where can we find you? - Instagram @saracha821


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

Techniques for PA School Group Interviews

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When applicants hear that the interview day will include a group portion, oftentimes it makes the nerves go through the roof! No reason to fret though because we'll go through some tips to help you feel more relaxed, and group interviews can actually be fun. You're all in the same boat and instead of viewing it as a competition, consider that your fellow applicants may soon be your new classmates. 

There are 2 types of group interviews: Panel or Activity

A group panel interview is more like a traditional interview, but with multiple applicants. You'll still be asked questions, but may be asked to all answer in a specific order or on a volunteer basis. 

There are benefits to being assertive and going first, but if you need time to think, it may be in your best interest to hold off on answering right away.

A common fear is that another applicant will "steal" your answer. Instead of getting flustered and shutting down, you’ve got to think on your feet. If you have a back-up answer, go with that, but if not, use the technique of building off of the other applicant's answer. You should be interacting with your other applicants. It looks weird if you just ignore them. This is a great chance to show that you're paying attention, and demonstrate your knowledge of the subject and experience. 

Since you will be hearing from the other applicants, it's common to feel intimidated by their experience. Someone will always have a better GPA or more hours, but you have things they don’t! This knowledge should give you confidence. Don’t let self doubt hinder your ability to shine or feel shy discussing your strengths and experiences, even in front of other applicants. 

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A group activity tends to be more of an ice breaker or problem solving task to see how you work together as a group. Even if you don't feel comfortable taking on the position of leader, make sure you contribute to the conversation with your opinions. 

Whether in a panel or activity, if you have a group portion, try to be slightly more aware of the length of your answers. It's not as important to limit yourself in an individual interview, but you need to be considerate of everyone else. Try to keep your answers to 2 minutes or less. Be as direct and concise as possible when answering. 

If you want to learn more about interview techniques, check out the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide on Amazon (affiliate link) or The PA Platform


If you need interview help, and would like to schedule a mock interview with one of The PA Platform coaches, we would love to give you some feedback!


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!


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

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. 
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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! 


If you need interview help, and would like to schedule a mock interview with one of The PA Platform coaches, we would love to give you some feedback!

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  


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

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. 


If you need interview help, and would like to schedule a mock interview with one of The PA Platform coaches, we would love to give you some feedback!

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


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

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! 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. (Amazon affiliate link)

    • Also, I would recommend reading the emails sent to you by the PA Platform! Sign up at this link!

    • 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. 

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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. 

For more help with MMI style questions, check out Chapter 7 in the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide.  Available on Amazon or The PA Platform. (Affiliate link) 


If you need interview help, and would like to schedule a mock interview with one of The PA Platform coaches, we would love to give you some feedback!