Pre-PA

What is the Easiest PA School to Get Into?

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Alright, I’m going to be honest. There is no physician assistant program that is “easy” to get into. This is a question I’m asked almost daily, and I understand why. Not to be harsh, but I want to discuss what is necessary for gaining admission into a PA program so you can have realistic goals. After researching the PA profession, most people agree that it’s a great career for someone who wants to work directly with patients and have the responsibility of diagnosing and treating without going to medical school. It makes sense that any hopeful PA would want to get out in the field as quickly as possible, but there are some common roadblocks to consider before just applying. 

Getting into PA school is very competitive. It’s becoming more popular every year, which means more applicants. And not just any anyone, but more qualified applicants. The first roadblock to overcome is just meeting the admission requirements of a PA program. This includes taking necessary coursework (and doing well), gaining patient care experience, shadowing, volunteering, and obtaining letters of recommendation. These requirements are non-negotiable and there is no “wiggle room.” Part of the accreditation process for PA schools requires adherence to certain admissions parameters to maintain the quality of the program. It gets tricky because each school has their own specifics to consider. Think of each requirement as a checkbox for you to fulfill, and if you can’t mark something off as complete or in progress (if allowed), don’t waste your time applying. Schools have to narrow the playing field by removing applicants who are not qualified, so the easiest way is to weed out the applications that don’t meet the most basic of requirements. If you check out the Files in The Pre-PA Club Facebook group, there’s a great template for recording what you need for each school. 

What does this mean for you? You can’t assume a course or experience meets a requirement if it’s not exactly what they ask for. A good example is statistics, which is required for almost all PA programs. Some programs are flexible and willing to accept a variety of statistics courses, from intro to statistics to biostatistics to statistics for behavioral science. Other programs are strict and will only accept an intro course within the math department. It’s so important to take the time to meet the exact prerequisites of a program so you don’t waste your time or money. Patient care experience is another example. I get asked frequently whether a certain type of position will “count” as hours, and while I can give you my opinion based on your job description, it’s ultimately up to each program to decide. Some schools think scribing is great PCE and for others it is HCE. 

Beyond making sure you can “check the boxes,” just meeting the minimums is not the best mindset to have. You need to make your application as strong as possible and keep working to make yourself more competitive until you’re accepted. Don’t give up and think you’re smooth sailing after you click submit. It’s a good idea to go into PA school applications with the mindset of having to reapply. Evaluate your application and see what areas are weak and continue working on them. If it’s GPA, take more classes. If you’re lacking hours, look for another position or get additional certifications. 

GPA seems to be the most difficult minimum to achieve. 3.0 tends to be the magic number for hitting the requirement and getting your application evaluated, but keep in mind this is the minimum. The average GPA of a class of accepted PA students tends to be around 3.5 or higher, and even programs touting a “no minimum” requirement will have these numbers because they get more applications. GPA is tough because it’s much easier to lower it than raise it. (If you want to try to calculate your GPA, check out this post.) Essentially, you start with a 4.0, and the only way it can go is down. Schools put so much weight on GPA because academic performance has been found to be the best predictor of whether a student will be able to complete PA school successfully based on the PAEA’s Annual Reports. While it’s frustrating that mistakes from years ago may follow you into your PA school applications, it’s an unfortunate reality. 

I don’t want this post to be completely discouraging, so keep in mind that there are students who go through many application cycles, continue working on their application for years, and eventually gain acceptance. Aaron and Jazmine are great examples of students who got bad news, worked hard, and were successful in gaining admittance. When looking for the schools that will be the easiest for YOU to get into, make sure you’re meeting all of the requirements. If you’re unsure, reach out to the program and ask. And the more specific the requirements of a program, the more likely your chances of acceptance. Don't give up, and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you would like some guidance on making yourself a competitive applicant, consider a Pre-PA Assessment

What is the most difficult part of your PA school journey?


Accepted!: Aaron (@aaronangkor) - Future MBKU PA Student

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To check out Aaron's podcast interview, click here!

PA Program: Marshall B. Ketchum University in Fullerton, California

Undergraduate education: University of California, Riverside

Overall GPA: 3.13

Science GPA: 2.93

Last 60 sGPA: 3.83

GRE: 311

Total HCE hours: 584

Total PCE hours: 6,215

Shadowing hours: 529

Other volunteer hours: 1,384

LORs: 4 (1 Family Medicine PA, 1 Pediatric MD, 1 Science Faculty & 1 Women’s Studies Professor)

How many times did you apply?:  Twice

Age: 27 (Applied and accepted at 26)

Gender: Male

How many programs did you apply to? 1st cycle: 12 2nd cycle: 23

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? The first time I applied, I received 0 interview invitations. My application was automatically rejected by almost half of the programs due to a unit discrepancy for my microbiology pre-requisite. The second time I applied, I received 4 interview invitations, declined 2 of them and attended the other 2 in which I was offered a seat at both. The reason why I declined the 2 invitations was because I was accepted to my top choices.

Any red flags on your application? First and foremost was my GPA, both overall and science GPA. However, I submitted my application to programs I felt took a holistic approach in evaluating their applicants. I knew I had strengths in other aspects so I made sure to showcase those on my application. I also demonstrated a high upward trend in my courses after undergrad and maintained grades that did not drop lower than a B- my last 3-4 years or so of taking classes. Another red flag was being put in academic probation early on in undergrad. However, again, I demonstrated and explained my maturity level at that time as a student and showed how I was able to respond, grow and maintain as a student. This showed my dedication and potential as a PA student.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was pleasantly surprised by how many interviews I got first and foremost. The first interview (Dominican University of California) invite caught me off-guard as did the second (Sacred Heart University), third (Marshall B. Ketchum University) and last one (USC). My third interview invite was from my top choice and I received it literally the day before the interview date. My last interview invite was to USC which I was also not expecting. Despite declining my interview invites for Sacred Heart University and USC, I was extremely grateful for these opportunities though.

I was also surprised by how natural the interviews felt. I was most nervous in preparing for the interviews and driving to the campuses. However, once I was there, I felt at home and felt as if I was just having a conversation with the admissions committee and students. They genuinely wanted to get to know us and wanted us to feel comfortable, which I absolutely was. I thought I would be grilled and asked heavily about my grades and numbers, instead, they were more concerned about myself as a person and future PA student at their university. I would say I was extremely fortunately to be invited by these two programs I interviewed at.

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

For me, this road to PA school has been a long and tedious one. Facing numerous rejections, obstacles such as scheduling conflicts between classes and work, losing supporters and having doubters as well as being lost with what to do with my application and essentially, my life, all led me to where I am. I would not have had the opportunities I've had nor would I be in the position I am without folks that have helped me along the way. These resources definitely helped throughout the process, my mentor Anthony from "Journey To PA School",

Samantha and Savanna from "PA Platform" with the interview process, as well as Brian from "My PA Resource" in regards to personal statement revisions. Additional sources that helped me (please take with a grain of salt) were:

Physician Assistant Forum - https://www.physicianassistantforum.com/

PA School Directory - http://directory.paeaonline.org/

AAPA - https://www.aapa.org/

CAPA - http://capanet.org/

PA vs MD

Infographic Understanding the Differences

Personal Article by Stephen Pasquini PA-C

Videos

What is a PA?

James Kim: Low GPA & GRE score

James Kim: Interview Tips

Kendra Lynne: PA over MD

Dave DuBose: The PA Coach

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

My biggest advice for everyone is to “Keep working hard. You’ll get there one day and it’ll all be worth it.” It’s simple (and somewhat cliché) but it’s absolutely true. It encompasses the entire journey in getting into PA school. There will be some days during your studies where you’ll feel like giving up and feel like you don’t want to study anymore. Don’t give up! There will also be patient encounters that make you not want to pursue medicine anymore. Don’t give up! Those long stressful days, nights, shifts, and classes will all be worth it. When I got my acceptance call, I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders and the hard part of getting into PA school was over. At the same time, I knew that it was going to be even tougher during PA school and more was at stake, my patient’s lives. So regardless of where you are in the process, keep working hard. You’ll look back and realize how amazing the journey has been and how much you’ve grown and matured as a future PA.

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

I’m always a DM or email away for any questions or inspiration. If you want to know more about my story and path or contact me, please check out my website: www.aaronangkor.com/medicine or on my Medelita’s HIP Ambassador Profile www.medelita.com/community/aaron-angkor/ 

You can also message me and follow my instagram (@AaronAngkor). Thanks for allowing me to fulfill my life goals of “Aspiring to inspire”.

Study Resources for the GRE

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I recently did a post about why the GRE is required for PA schools, so now I want to discuss some resources that you can use to make sure you get the scores necessary to impress the admissions committees and score an interview. One thing is for sure, you need to study for the GRE! Don't write it off and waste your money on the test without taking the time to prepare. I'll discuss things I used, what I wish I used, and recommendations for what you should use to study. This post includes some affiliate links. 

Let's start with my technique. The first thing I recommend doing is taking a practice test to gauge where you're at and what areas you need to focus on. This will also help you to familiarize yourself with the testing software so you're more comfortable on test day. I have good news! There are two free practice tests offered on the GRE website. There are also two full-length practice tests that you can purchase for $40 each. Once you have targeted your weak areas, you can tailor your studying more specifically. 

Now for the actual studying! My technique consisted of using 2 different books - one that focused on strategy and one that had practice problems. to save some money, these books can often be found at the library, Goodwill, or other second hand book stores. Just make sure that you're using a book for the most recent GRE because the format was changed in 2011. Anything older than that may be inaccurate. 

Here are some options for strategy books: 

 

And the practice problem books: 

 

I would go through and study the strategy in one book and then immediately do the relevant practice problems. This helped me to see if I was really understanding the techniques. The GRE is not a knowledge-based test. If you have the basics down, then you need to focus on the problem-solving part of the test by understanding the various question types and how to address them.

After you've put in the time to actually study, I recommend taking a second practice test. Hopefully, you should see some improvement from the first test, and then you'll be able to determine what areas you need to revisit. 

I'll be honest and say that I did not do the best job of planning out my studying for my GRE. I finished finals, and then I had 1 week to study. I locked myself in my room at home and crammed for 12 hours each day. (Try to do better than me and plan at least a month to study.) Traditionally, I know that I do pretty well with standardized tests, but the one part of the GRE that is impossible to learn last minute is all of the vocabulary. If you know the GRE is in your near future, start studying vocab ASAP! There are a lot of different options: flashcards, apps, podcasts, etc.

If you feel like you need more structure or a set plan, you may want to use an organized program. Although I didn't personally use one of these, I've heard great things about Magoosh. You can try their GRE program free for 7 days and get 25% off with this link! (You should see a pop-up if on a computer, or use the code SAVE25GRE at checkout to save on the 6 month plan through January 2019!) The Magoosh prep includes video lessons, practice problems, and practice tests (basically everything I recommended in this post). 


Accepted!: Tally from @the.posh.pa - Touro University CA PA Student

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Undergraduate education: I majored in Kinesiology with a concentration in Health Science/Public health

Overall GPA: 3.46

Science GPA: 3.21

GRE: 303

Total HCE hours: 0

Total PCE hours: 3,000

Shadowing hours: 60

Other volunteer hours: 100

LORs: 4: one from a PA, one from an MD, one from a professor, and one from my office manager at the clinic where I got my PCE

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 23

Gender:  F

How many programs did you apply to? 8

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? Interviewed and accepted at 1

Any red flags on your application? I think the biggest red flag was that my science GPA was on the lower end. I got a C in physics and I didn't realize at the time that it would really count for anything because it wasn't a prereq. It definitely counted! But what I lacked in science GPA I made up for with a ton of PCE.  

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I actually really enjoyed the interview process and it wasn't as scary and intimidating as I thought it would be. My school really emphasized that they wanted to look at each applicant as a whole and they wanted us to feel comfortable during the process. There was even a light breakfast and lunch provided. 

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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 heavily utilized the PA Platform Blog and instagram! I also got advice from PA students and practicing PAs on instagram as well. Lastly, I used the book “How to Ace the Physician Assistant Interview” (Affiliate Link) by Andrew J. Rodican.  

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? My advice to Pre-PA students is to get involved in as many things as possible during undergrad. I know there is a lot of time being devoted to getting good grades and a good GRE score but PA schools want to see that you have other things that you’re passionate about. Aside from my volunteering and PCE, I designed and conducted my own research experiment. I didn't have the best GPA or GRE score but got accepted because I was really involved in a lot of different things. 

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) You can find me at @the.posh.pa on instagram and theposhpa@wordpress.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. 

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)

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! 


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. 

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!


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!

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!

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!


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!


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. 


Looking for ways to get certified or find opportunities for healthcare experience? Check out this search engine!


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. 

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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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. 


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!