How to Make PA School Applications Cheaper and More Affordable

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Applying to physician assistant school is expensive. There’s no denying that. It takes many sacrifices of time and money to fulfill the requirements and steps necessary to become a PA. Jamie (@jamienicole_pa on Instagram) previously wrote a guest post on the unexpected expenses of applying to PA school, but today we’ll get into ways to make the process cheaper.

First of all, there are reasons the process is set up the way it is. The requirement of a bachelor’s degree and the hours of patient care experience, shadowing, and volunteering are what separates becoming a PA from nursing and medical school. You have to put in the time and money up front to get the benefit of a shorter training program. Being married to a medical resident, the amount of money required for medical school and the time and lack of adequate salary for residency is a huge sacrifice as well. For nursing, you would finish sooner, but not make the salary or have the responsibilities of a PA. If the time and requirements were all the same, there wouldn’t be as much differentiation between the various career paths.

For some background on myself, I don’t come from a medical family. My parents were both teachers. They worked extremely hard to give me great experiences growing up and encouraged my education. I’m very thankful for that. I worked hard in high school to earn a state scholarship that paid for the majority of my undergrad education at a public school and my parents helped me with living expenses. When it came time for PA school, there was no way they could afford to pay for it. I took out loans like the majority of my classmates. I come from a financially stable background (at least, that’s what my parents portrayed, but now that I know how much things cost in the real world, I know they made huge sacrifices), but it wasn’t always easy. To complete all of the requirements during undergrad, I sacrificed my time. During undergrad, I went to a CNA program every Saturday for 3 months that was an hour away and did my clinicals during spring break. I actually never went downtown to party, I was too busy studying. I worked full time in the summer while taking classes to graduate early and save my parents the expenses of an extra semester. Looking back, I might would change some of those things, but I achieved my goals and I’m happy with where I ended up.

PAs are known for being resourceful and go-getters. You must have a good amount of self-motivation as a PA because there’s a lot of learning to be done on the job. When it comes to finding time to shadow and volunteer, you’ve got to make it happen. This can be tough as an undergrad having to work multiple jobs or as someone with a family to support. Sometimes the answer may be taking a little bit longer and spreading things out to reach your goals. There tends to be a rat race with pressure to get to the finish line as soon as possible, and while sacrifices will certainly be required, it’s okay if it takes you longer than you would prefer. Make sure you meet all of the requirements of a program before you apply so you don’t waste your time or money. I’ve seen way too many applicants applying with GPAs or grades below the requirements, and the schools will never see your application with that method.

Even if you have small chunks of time, use them wisely. Find something you enjoy doing as volunteer work so it doesn’t just feel like you’re checking a box. Finding shadowing hours is difficult, but eventually someone will say yes if you keep trying. Ask your neighbor’s cousin who works with a nurse if they have any connections and you may be surprised. You’ll never know until you ask. Cold call offices like I did, and even if only one calls you back, it’s a start. Instead of getting bogged down by the many requirements and your lack of time, take it one step at a time and realize that if you’re doing the best you can, that’s all you can do!

Sometimes becoming a PA may mean taking a pay cut to get patient care hours. Many entry level jobs don’t pay that well or even much more than minimum wage. Being frugal for a few years may have benefits in the end. Put the numbers down on paper. Look at everything you spend money on, and see if you can make it happen. Most of us have a good bit of stuff, and I know I’ve personally raided my closet and put things on eBay to reach financial goals at times.

Look for waivers and scholarships. One of my biggest regrets from undergrad was not applying for more scholarships. A simple Google search will bring up many options, and a lot of them are geared toward healthcare students. You never know if you don’t apply, and it doesn’t take that long to fill out a form and write a short essay. Go to your financial aid office and see what’s available from your school. The GRE and CASPA both offer income based waivers to help cover the costs associated with applying. CASPA’s fee waiver covers the first application fee of $179, and is given on a first come, first serve basis so you need to have everything organized before it’s time to apply. The GRE costs $205 and the waiver covers 50% of one testing. On test day, you can send your score to 4 programs for free. Make sure you have a CASPA account set up to take advantage of this. Plan ahead and know the expenses that are to come so you can start saving even if it’s just a little bit along the way.

When it comes time to interview, start thinking about it ahead of time. Pay for everything possible with a credit card that will earn you points for travel, and try to pay it off in time. My bills, tithe, and everything go on my card and those points add up. The Southwest card by Chase is a popular option that helps with flights. Look for cheaper hotels or find someone else to share a room or Airbnb with. Start looking for your suit early so you can get in on a deal. Check out the thrift stores nearby, or ask a friend to borrow theirs. Mine came from the Banana Republic Factory Store clearance rack.

Put in an effort to look for resources because they are out there. If you go back and read through the blog posts on The PA Platform, listen to The Pre-PA Club podcast, watch the videos on YouTube, join the Facebook group, and read previous Instagram posts, I can guarantee you’ll find most of the answers you’re looking for and get great advice. And it will all be free. If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, go to Google, And if you STILL don’t find the answer, email me and I’ll get you one. You’d be amazed at the number of messages and emails The PA Platform receives daily. While we can’t evaluate everyone’s individual application completely, we can point you in the right direction. We continue to put out content in an effort to make this entire process easier for everyone. And I’ll be honest, it takes a ton of time.

Instead of just complaining about the issues, let’s try to figure out ways to do something about it. That’s the point of The PA Platform being a resource offering information to make the application process easier.

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Accepted!: Madison- Indiana University

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Undergraduate education: Purdue University 

Overall GPA: 3.54

Science GPA: 3.43

GRE: 309 (151 Verbal, 153 Quantitative, 5.0 Analytical Writing) 

Total HCE hours: 100 Scribing at an Urgent Care

Total PCE hours: 2000 as a medical assistant at the same Urgent Care

Shadowing hours: 60 (30 with a dermatology PA and 30 with a functional medicine PA). This is one part of my application I wish I had spent more time on. I also had hours shadowing a nurse practitioner which was helpful as well. 

Other volunteer hours: 200 at the Indiana Veterans Home, a nursing home for veterans

LORs: 3--One from the MD I worked with, one from a NP I worked with, and one from the dermatology PA I shadowed. If you work in a medical setting, I highly recommend creating relationships with the providers. It made it so easy for me to ask for LORs, and they were more than willing because they had spent so much time with me and knew my work ethic. I think these helped offset my lower GPA. 

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 23

Gender: F

How many programs did you apply to? 12 schools; originally it was only 9, but as time went on and I hadn't heard from some of the schools at all I panicked a bit (Try not to freak out like me and spend more money!!) 

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I received 3 interview invites, and I attended two: one at the University of South Carolina and one at Indiana University. I got waitlisted at South Carolina and luckily, I got accepted to Indiana University--my dream school! 

Where will you be attending?  Indiana University. Go Hoosiers! 

Any red flags on your application? I think the two weakest parts of my application were my science GPA and my shadowing hours. If I could go back, I would retake a few of those science courses I struggled in, and I would find a PA I could shadow for a longer period of time. This is why it's so important to create those meaningful relationships with providers you work with or encounter. I wish I would have taken shadowing as seriously as I did getting patient care hours. It's just as important, if not more, because you get to see how different the daily duties of PAs in different fields are. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was surprised at how quick some of the interviews were. In one of mine, the actual interview with faculty was only 20 minutes. The pressure was on! I had 20 minutes to convince them that I was a good candidate, and it was a bit stressful. Make sure you prepare exactly what it is you want them to remember/know about you because you may not get that much time. Other than that, I was surprised at how comfortable they made everyone feel; in the end it's just a conversation. If you can remember this, it's a lot less daunting and you're more likely to be yourself! 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? The PA Platform was my go to all the way! Guys, Savanna provides so many resources; at first I only used the Facebook page and then her interview book. But, I started listening to the podcast the nights leading up to my interview, and it got me in such a wonderful mindset. Use all of the fantastic educational materials she provides. I also used the Physician Assistant Forum, and believe it or not, I used social media. Instagram and Facebook are great ways to connect with PAs and Pre-PA students. I had remembered that one of my peers at Purdue had gone to PA school and was working in Illinois, so I messaged her about the interview process and CASPA, and she was more than willing to give advice. The PA community is so supportive of each other, so use that to your advantage. 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? While I was applying, I struggled the most with comparison. I would always seek out other students' stats, their GRE scores, what HCE they had, etc. As a result, I would start to doubt myself and question whether or not I would actually succeed at being accepted. The wonderful thing about the process is that everyone has their strengths. Use them! Stay in your lane and focus on all the fantastic things you're accomplishing. The process is tough, but if it were easy wouldn't everyone become a PA? Be kind to yourself and remember that your timeline and the ways in which you get to that white coat are your own, no one else's. You got this friends. Keep hustling! 

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) You can find me on IG @practicingpoise. I also started a blog with some Pre-PA tips www.http://www.practicingpoise.com, or you can email me at bakermadison13@gmail.com. My program doesn't start until May, and I need something to fill up the time, so feel free to reach out! I am more than willing to help in any way I can, or if you just need a good vent session I am always around. Never give up and good luck! 

Accepted: Mallori - Future Franklin College PA Student

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Undergraduate education: Ball State University

Overall GPA: 3.89

Science GPA: 3.84

GRE: Below 300 (Not competitive)

PCE: ~500  (Patient Care Assistant)

HCE: ~400 (Hospice volunteer, Medical brigade volunteer, Hospital volunteer)

Shadowing: ~80 (Family Medicine, Orthopedics, Dermatology, Oncology)

Teaching: ~2,500 (Graduate Assistant, Biology Supplemental Instructor,  Anatomy Study room assistant)

Non-healthcare volunteer: ~100 (Camp Counselor, Habitat for Humanity volunteer)

Leadership experience: ~2,500 (Hall Council President, HOSA Future Health Professionals collegiate chapter Founder/President, Leadership ambassador, Camp Kesem officer team member)

Research: ~400 (Cancer)

Extracurricular: Workout classes, boxing club and a member of various campus organizations

LORs: MD, PA, Biology/Microbiology professor, Pre-health professions advisor

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age when applied: 24

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 10 programs

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I was offered 5 interviews. I was denied from 1 program, an interview alternate at 1 program and have yet to hear from the other 3 programs. I attended 3 of the interviews, denied interview offers from the other 2 programs and I received acceptances from all 3 of the programs I interviewed with.

Any red flags on your application? I had a non-competitive GRE score, low amount of direct patient care hours and two-course withdrawals on my transcript. When applying with my lower GRE score I looked at programs that didn’t require the GRE, did not focus or mention a specific GRE score they were looking for applicants to obtain. Also, with my low amount of PCE hours, I looked at programs that didn’t require a certain amount of hours or required the number of hours where I met the minimum.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? Every interview I attended was completely different! The interview styles I experienced included traditional, situational/ethical and MMI. It was a great opportunity to see how each program used their own unique interview techniques for picking their future students from a variety of diverse applicants. Additionally, I was shocked at how friendly and sociable fellow interviewees were! Interviews are a stressful time yet everyone was talkative and wanted to get to know you. I actually made quite a few friends throughout my interviews and even saw some of the same people at multiple interviews! Overall, I had a wonderful experience with my interview process and just know everyone there wants to see you do well and succeed!

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I used a variety of resources from a plethora of social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Podcasts and various websites. I highly recommended joining the Pre-PA club facebook page/group to meet fellow Pre-PA students from around nation. I followed various PA-S/PA-C on Instagram who talk about their experiences, how to prepare for the PA school application process and write very helpful blog posts. I listened to The Pre-PA club podcast by Savanna Perry, I watched Adanna the PA videos on YouTube and visited ThePAPlatform.com which all helped me get more exposure to information regarding Pre-PA FAQs. To make sure I had a great personal statement I utilized MyPAResource. Then, once I started receiving interviews I visited PAforum and ordered the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide book by Savanna Perry. By using these resources it allowed me to have a diverse outlook on what are the beneficial ways to be the most competitive applicant you can be!

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Start as early as possible! This can be through getting PCE hours, shadowing, taking to GRE and completing prerequisites. As you know this application process for PA school is very competitive so the more you can stand out, the better! I also would recommend trying to become a well-rounded applicant and not just focusing all your energy on one aspect like PCE hours. Also, PA-S’s and PA-C’s are all so willing to help and want to see Pre-PA’s succeed! This is because they were in your shoes and understand what you are going through. With this being said don’t be afraid to ask them for help or questions. Lastly, just believe in yourself and know your hard work will pay off!

Where can we find you? Instagram: @m_wisuri


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 

Accepted!: Lily - Low GPA to Bryant University

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Undergraduate education: Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

Overall GPA: 3.34

Science GPA: 2.95

GRE: 309 - V 157, Q 148, W 4.0

Total PCE hours: 2,560 - working as a physical therapy aide in college

Shadowing hours: 15 - shadowing 3 local PA’s briefly during breaks from school

Other volunteer hours: Teach for America corps member on Chicago’s west side 2014-16, which adds up to about 1,600 hours. I then continued teaching HS science as a TFA alumnus until the end of the 2018 school year.

LORs: Physical therapist (former employer), Physical therapist/Athletic trainer (mentor), and School Principal (current employer)

How many times did you apply?: 3

Age: 27

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 18 total, first cycle: 4, second cycle: 7, third cycle: 7

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2, 1 left me on the waitlist, and the other I was accepted after.

Where will you be attending? Bryant University (Smithfield, RI)

Any red flags on your application? Low (low, low) science GPA and quantitative GRE score

Anything you found surprising about interviews? Honestly, I was surprised at how friendly and kind all of the other interviewing candidates were. Despite being direct competitors, all nervously corralled into rooms waiting to make our best possible impressions, at both interviews I attended I met really interesting, fabulous people. This was a refreshing surprise and made the days far more pleasant than I was expecting.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I read Savanna’s Physician Assistant School Interview Guide cover to cover, completed mock interviews with the PA Life, and listened to the Pre-PA Club podcast on my way to work. I also did something a little unorthodox. I was unsure if I’d get accepted at a school that started in January, June, or September, or simply be rejected all over again so I started applying for jobs. I landed several interviews for positions as a medical assistant and a medical scribe. And even though it was clear to me that I was not interested in working at some of these places, I took the interviews anyways. I was determined to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, so forcing myself into interviewing regularly helped me to practice my answers to common questions and be less nervous in this setting.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? “Never, ever, ever, ever give up.” Seriously, look at my science GPA. It is abysmal. But I have experiences and skills that are unique and unlike many other candidates’. This is something I made a point of emphasizing at every possible opportunity during my interviews. I used the shortcomings of my past to paint a picture of growth and newfound drive, as well as sharing what positives about my background could be useful tools as a PA student and as a provider.

This is the best advice I can give to pre-PA students. Whether you have glaring red-flags academically as I do, or a low number of patient care hours, etc. Don’t ignore it, address it and show the interviewers how it has shaped you positively. Moreso than that, it is very important to impress upon your interviewers what other assets you have to offer the program and the profession, despite these weaknesses. What specifically sets you apart from the next PA- hopeful who walks into their office? Why should they overlook the flaws on your application and dial your number when making acceptance calls? That is where your focus needs to be when preparing for interviews battle. Good luck!

Where can we find you? @lilyboyle or boyle.lily@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


Accepted: Emily - North Greenville University

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Undergraduate education: University of Georgia, Dietetics

Overall GPA: 3.68

Science GPA: 3.5

GRE: 300

Total HCE hours: 600 Dietetics practicum, Athens Pregnancy Center Nutrition Mentor and Medical Camp Counselor

Total PCE hours: 2500 Dietetic Technician and Medical Assistant

Shadowing hours: 90 Dermatology PA

Other volunteer hours: 200 Habitat for Humanity and church mission trips

LORs: Physician (from work), NP (from work), Pharmacist (Medical Mentor)

How many times did you apply?:  2 times

Age: 28

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 6 programs this cycle. 3 last cycle.

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

3 invites so far

I chose to commit to North Greenville University. I was one of two students offered a seat in the program immediately following the interview. This is a fairly new program, but after meeting with the staff and current students, I knew it was the place for me.

Last cycle: one interview, one waitlist.

Any red flags on your application? 

Low GRE score.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

I was surprised by the low key and relaxed nature of the interview! I was surprised by the questions asked during MMI but overall, I could sense that the questions were meant to show how I problem solve rather than the answer itself.

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

My medical mentor was absolutely vital in writing and editing my personal statement! Once I landed the interview, I began reading the PA Interview Guide - it was such a huge help in calming my nerves! It opened my eyes to see that programs are inviting me because I am qualified - the interview is a way to show them my personality!

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Stay true to yourself throughout the process! If there's something you're passionate about, stick to it. Use it as an opportunity to find where you belong as a future PA.

Always tell a story when answering an interview question. Any speaking opportunity is a chance to let your personality shine!

If you're a applicant, try not to take it personally! Reach out to other current PA-S, Pre-PAs and PA-C for advice. You'll be surprised just how willing our little community is to support one another. Find out where you can improve your personal statement, PCE/HCE, or interview style. Show these programs how resilient you are!

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @emily.a.pa


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 

Accepted!: Demy - Western University of Health Sciences

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Undergraduate education: BA in Sociology and English

Overall GPA: 3.65

Science GPA: 3.32

GRE: I actually chose not to take it! I knew this would impact my choices for schools to which I could apply, but I was okay with that as most of the schools in which I was interested did not require it. I took it once to get into my Master's program for Sociology and decided I didn't want to do it again.

Total HCE hours: 6500+

Total PCE hours: 300+

Shadowing hours: 15+

Other volunteer hours: 700+

LORs: 4 total. Three Physician Assistants and one MD.

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 29 and feeling fine!

Gender: I identify as male.

How many programs did you apply to? 11

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I was invited to 7 interviews, 6 of which I attended. Out of the six I was waitlisted at 2, accepted at 2, and the rest is history.

Where will you be attending?
Western University of Health Sciences

Any red flags on your application?

I had REALLY low science grades in my undergraduate years! Chemistry in particular was difficult.  I had to retake all my science courses and basically started from scratch about three years ago.  Also, I received a few questions about why I switched majors! That was a tough one to answer during my interviews.  Why would someone with a Master’s in Sociology switch to Healthcare and how would I do in the rigorous science coursework in these PA programs?

Anything you found surprising about interviews?

I was surprised by how inviting they were and also how different each one was. I was so nervous for my interviews but the faculty and staff at each one made sure to make me feel very welcomed and wanted at each program.  The diversity of programs is also a testament to the diversity of what these programs look for when building their class.  People should be aware the no two interviews are the same and they should prepare themselves accordingly.

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

I actually used three books (affiliate links):

I also watched a lot of videos by James Kim and Adana the PA ,and followed a lot of tips from Jazmine K.  The online community is truly an amazing resource and Pre-PAs should most definitely reach out! 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

I know people hear this a lot, but trust the process.  By no means is it easy or quick.  It takes hard work, patience, dedication, and a passion for the profession.  And yea, sometimes we cry and that is totally okay.  I know I felt this rush of anxiety and impatience, and I faced times when I questioned my abilities and qualifications.  Quitting seemed to be the easiest option.  However,  keep in mind the reasons behind why you want to be a PA and really hold onto that during the application process because that will serve as motivation.  Write it down on a sticky note and post it up somewhere where you will see it everyday.  Do not compare yourself to other applicants because you are unique and have experiences that only you can bring to the profession and to the programs.  Play up your strengths and use them to your advantage, but do not be afraid to confront and discuss your weaknesses.  Remember, you are exactly where you are supposed to be, despite sometimes feeling otherwise. 


Where can we find you? Instagram: @thispa_bettawerk


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.


Accepted: Savannah - Methodist University

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Undergraduate education: University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Major: Biology with a Biomedical Emphasis. I will be graduating in May 2019.

Overall GPA: 3.93

Science GPA: 3.95

GRE: 304 with a 4.5 writing score

Total HCE hours: 0 (lol)

Total PCE hours: At the time of application, ~1300-1800. 500 of my hours were not counted at certain schools because I obtained them as a Paramedic Intern. Most of my patient care hours were obtained as a Paramedic and the rest I functioned as an EMT-Basic.

Shadowing hours: 54 with a PA and 8 with a physician 

Other volunteer hours: ~350. Most hours were obtained volunteering at events for our honors college.

LORs: Dean of the Honors College, a PA that teaches at the university I wanted to attend, Biochemistry professor, Physics professor, Supervisor/Owner of company I worked for

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 21 now, and 20 at the time of applying/being accepted

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 10. Still waiting to hear back from 5 schools.

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? Invited to 5 interviews, rejected 4 of the invites, and accepted to the 1 school I interviewed with.

Where will you be attending? Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC. I am local to this area, so Methodist was one of my top picks.

Any red flags on your application? 35th percentile in math section on the GRE, my age, and lower PCE hours

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The faculty was easy to talk to, and they were also transparent about any issues the school had dealt with in the past. Methodist exhibited professionalism throughout the entire process, even before I had applied. Their program director answered emails promptly, and the interview process was explained in great detail. When contacting schools and interviewing with them, please keep in mind how they talk to you and how eager they are to assist you with questions. This process is a two way street, and they are trying to sell themselves to you too.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? For interview prep questions, I used How To "Ace" The Physician Assistant School Interview by Andrew Rodican (Affiliate Link). The book gave me a feel for what questions to expect, but the book felt outdated in some areas. For websites, I used the PA student forum and Savanna's blog posts. The Pre-PA Club on Facebook was also useful. On the forum, I was able to connect with people who were interviewing, and I met up with some of them before we interviewed. Now some of them are going to be my classmates!

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? If you meet the requirements to apply, go ahead and do it. When CASPA opened up, I had made up so many reasons I shouldn't apply (age, GRE score, low PCE). I ended up getting interviews at schools that were my "reach" schools, so I had worried myself to death for no reason. Do your best to prepare for interviews early because sometimes schools give a last minute interview to people, and you might not have time to start prepping like you had thought. Finally, APPLY EARLY!

Where can we find you?  My Instagram is @savannahmelvin and my email is savannahmelvin028@gmail.com


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 

Accepted: Tayler - Francis Marion University PA Student

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Undergraduate education: The University of Texas-Austin ( B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences) 

Overall GPA: 3.54

Science GPA: 2.9

Pre-req GPA: 3.8

GRE: 298

Total PCE hours: about 1550 at time of application 

Shadowing hours: 70 

Other volunteer hours: around 5,000 (I volunteered A LOT)

LORs: 4 (2 PA’s, 1 NP, 1 Professor)

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 24

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? About 18

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 (1 waitlisted, 1 acceptance)

Where will you be attending? Francis Marion University Physician Assistant Program (I started August 20th)

Any red flags on your application? Low science GPA, my GRE wasn’t that competitive, but I met the requirement of my program.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? My interviews were pretty laid back. You can tell they wanted to know who you were as a person and not just giving you a hard time. 

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)

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? You can do this! Do NOT give up. This process isn’t easy but its so worth. If you know you want to go to PA school start getting your patient care hours early. If your GPA isn’t the best that doesn’t count you out! Keep working hard but most of all enjoy the journey. One minute you will be submitting your CASPA and before you know it you will be starting PA School. 

Where can we find you?

I have a blog called ministry in medicine where I talk about my journey! www.ministryinmedicine.com 

Instagram: @Incomparabletay


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 


Accepted: George - Stony Brook + 4 Other Acceptances to PA School!

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Undergraduate Education : City University of New York, Brooklyn College. 

Overall GPA : 3.51 

Science GPA : 3.47

GRE : 301 (Math 151, English 150, essay 4) 

Total HCE hours : 580 (volunteering at a hospital, Medical Assistant) 

Total PCE hours : 4,350 (Medical Assistant at a Vascular Interventional Radiology clinic, where I learned to start IVs and draw blood ; MA at a Pain Management office; PT Aide at a PT/OT rehabilitation clinic) 

Shadowing hours : 240 ( ER PA-C and an ER Attending Physician, honestly loved this experience, learned a lot by observing the PA and the attending Physician) 

Research hours : 38 (Emergency Medicine research At Maimonides Medical Center) 

Other Volunteering hours : 265 ( At St. Vartan Cathedral in NYC) 

LOR : A&P 1,2 professor, Biochem 2 professor, Organic Chem 2 professor, ER PA-C , ER- Attending, Anesthesiologist (My Previous Boss), Radiologist (My Current Boss). 

How many times did I apply : 1 time 

Age: 22

Gender : Male 

How many programs did you apply to: 10 

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes:  I attended 7 interviews, got into 5, and 2 rejections. 

I will be attending Stony Brook University PA program , class of 2021. (I start next June). 

Any Red Flags ?: I had a D in Orgo Chem 1 Lab and a C+ in Orgo Chem 2 Lab.. I had to explain those grades in every interview I had. 

Anything you found surprising about the interviews?: 

Honestly, I was surprised how nice everyone was, and how they are genuinely trying to get to know you. They are not there to make  you feel uncomfortable. They just simply want to get to know you and that was comforting. Luckily, I didn’t have those MMI interviews, because I really have no idea why those even exist. For Stony Brook, I had a tour of the entire facility, and 2 individual, 25 minute interviews with different faculty members. 

I purchased PA Interview Guide by Savanna Perry, which was definitely super helpful. I bought the electronic version and had it in my phone and just read it twice before my interviews. 

My advice to Pre PA students is don’t get discouraged!!!! When I got a D in organic chemistry lab , I went to my professor and wanted to speak to him about my grade. He asked me what career I wanted to pursue and I told him that I wanted to become a PA and that my dream school is Stony Brook. He told me that the most I’ll ever be in life is an EMT. That was the most discouraging moments ever. So work hard guys . Study your butts off. Don’t let disappointments derail you from your goal. Grades are super important but PCE hours are JUST AS IMPORTANT!!! Don’t slack on hours! And ask for LOR as early as possible. You don’t want that to hold you back from applying early. 

Where can we find you? Instagram: @georgethepas


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 


Accepted: Whitney - University of Kentucky

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Undergraduate education: I obtained my Bachelor's of Science in Kinesiology and Health Promotions from the University of Kentucky in May 2018!

Overall GPA: 3.37

Science GPA: 3.42

GRE: 150 V / 147 Q / 4.5 A

Total HCE hours: 2,100 (Sterile processing assistant and ER scribe)

Total PCE hours: 3,500 (CNA in a variety of settings - nursing home, private, large university hospital, and rural hospital)

Shadowing hours: 620 (PA's in different fields - ortho, ER, primary care, and pediatrics)

Other volunteer hours: 3,450

Leadership hours: 7,600 (Student-athlete)

Research hours: 0

LORs: 5 (PA, MD, APRN, Assistant Athletic Director, and a Professor)

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 21

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? 4

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I had one interview with UK and was accepted before the other 3 programs extended interview invitations. 

Where will you be attending?  University of Kentucky - Morehead Campus (Go Cats!)

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I really enjoyed interviews because it allowed me the chance to know more about the students and staff, even future classmates! The interviews were much more of a conversation and I felt very comfortable.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I purchased the PA Interview Guide and read through it after submitting all of my CASPA and supplemental apps. I would go through and quiz myself on questions in the book and practiced with my family. I also scheduled a mock interview with Hanna while I was waiting for interview invitations. I was able to review how I interviewed and fine tune some of my weaker points.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? My advice for Pre-PA students is to become involved in your favorite PA program and your state's PA chapter. Start learning about staff, the program's mission, disparities in healthcare, attend your PA program's fundraisers and join their pre-PA club if they have one! By the time I applied to UK I felt like I was part of a family (who all happen to be very intelligent and compassionate PA's!) I would also say to enjoy your hours as a CNA or EMT and don't be afraid to ask questions to ultimately learn more about medicine and science. I feel very strongly that patient care is the most valuable asset someone can possess as a future PA. You learn to appreciate not only how hard you work to pursue the PA profession, but how hard each individual in healthcare works to provide quality care to our patients. I would also suggest trying to scribe whenever possible! It's a wonderful opportunity to shadow providers and learn about the medical decision making process!

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @_whitness5
Twitter: @_whitness5


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 


Accepted!: Carmen - University of Manitoba (Canada)

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Undergraduate education: 4-year honours B.Sc degree majoring in Biology

Overall GPA: 3.6/4.5 scale

Science GPA: n/a

Recent 60 credit hour GPA: 3.8 (this is the GPA our program uses)

GRE: n/a

Total HCE hours: 400 hours

Total PCE hours: 1500 hours

Shadowing hours: 16 hours

Other volunteer hours: 400 hours

LORs: 3: One from my manager at the restaurant i work who I’ve known for 3 years.
One from a PA I shadowed and who has been my mentor through this process over the past few years.
One from my honours project lab supervisor.

How many times did you apply?:  Two

Age: 24

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? One

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I interviewed with the one and was accepted a week later!

Where will you be attending? University of Manitoba in Canada

Any red flags on your application? I was most concerned about my lower GPA

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I actually had a lot of fun interviewing and it truly was just them getting to know me as a person.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I read Doing Right by Philip C. Hébert which was a book on medical ethics that helped with interviews. (Affiliate Link) I also used many blogs and forums focused on PA/Medicine for interviews and MMI’s.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? I think gaining experience is not only important because the programs require it but it also makes you a well-rounded person and gives you vital life experiences that anyone going into a healthcare profession needs. Between my first year applying (and not getting an interview) and my second year (getting accepted) I gained experience by working with people who had neurological motor disabilities. I found that I learned so much from the experience not only about working with people but also about myself and I feel more prepared and equipped to enter the PA profession because of it. 


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 


Accepted!: Tarika - Future Georgia PA Student

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Undergraduate education:  University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Overall GPA: 3.8

Science GPA: 3.7

GRE: 314

Total HCE hours: 250

Total PCE hours: 4500 (MA and scribe) 

Shadowing hours: 1000

Other volunteer hours: 320

LORs: 3 (1 PA, 2 physicians) 

How many times did you apply?:  2

Age: 24 (by the time I start) 

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 5

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? so far, 2. Accepted from one, waiting on the other. 

Where will you be attending? Not sure yet, but somewhere in Georgia! 

Any red flags on your application? I still have a prerequisite to complete. The first time I applied, I asked a PA who I only shadowed ONCE to write me a letter and that was a mistake.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? My interviewers were surprisingly super warm and they made me feel really comfortable! They just wanted to get to know me rather than "grill me" with hard questions. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I read "how to get into PA school" by Andrew Rodican. (Affiliate Link)

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Have patience! Good things happen when the time is right. Don't lose focus and don't give up if this is something you really want! Form good relationships with the PA's/Doctors you shadow and work with because your recommendation letters really matter! DM me if you have any questions! 

Where can we find you? @tarika03 on instagram! 


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 


Accepted!: John - UAB

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Undergraduate education: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) 

Overall GPA: 3.93

Science GPA:
3.92

GRE:  313; 157 Verbal (76%ile), 156 Quant (61%ile), 5.0 Writing (92%ile)

Total HCE hours: 900 hours (400 at primary care corporate internship, ~500 in research at time of application)

Total PCE hours: ~20 hours

Shadowing hours: 130 hours

Other volunteer hours: > 2,000 hours (in addition to many other volunteer opportunities, I worked pro-bono at a summer camp that I lived at for the entire summer)

LORs: 4

How many times did you apply?: Only once! 

Age: 21 at time of application

Gender: Male

How many programs did you apply to? One; due to having so few PCE hours, I opted to only apply to my home program the first year, and then if I was not accepted, I intended to work and gain more PCE and re-apply the next cycle to far more programs. 

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I interviewed at one school and was ACCEPTED! 

Where will you be attending? I will be attending UAB!

Any red flags on your application? Of course, my abysmally low patient care hour count. I’m thankful for the fact that UAB did not have a hard-and-fast PCE requirement, as that allowed me to supplement my application elsewhere with a variety of HCE and other leadership positions. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

I was pleasantly surprised at just how low-key the interview was. Of course the stakes were high and there was a lot of preparation that, appropriately, should go in to the interview, but I was very quickly put at ease by the entire body of faculty, staff, and students that helped orchestrate interview day. You could tell that the entire team wanted the applicants to be put at ease, and they truly want their future students to succeed, meaning there weren’t any ridiculous curveballs that were thrown at us. The whole process was truly enjoyable and I feel like I was able to leave with confidence in hand. 

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

To be totally honest, other than a few articles on interview etiquette around Google, as well as some really helpful articles on thepalife.com that surveyed PA vs. MD (the other career I was considering early in undergrad), most of my preparation came through on-campus career development resources, my wonderful Biomedical Sciences advisors, and some really insightful professors. One in particular was my former communications professor who graciously gave me audience a week or so before my interview to really coach me through useful things to say. Making friends and building bridges with those who are a few chapters in life ahead of you is so invaluable.
 
Any other advice for other pre-PA students? 

Aside from the comments I made in the last response about making connections, building bridges, and picking others’ brains, one of the biggest things you can really do to serve yourself well in your journey to PA is to find out what it is that makes you tick, and why becoming a PA is the most fulfilling and appropriate way for you to apply yourself as a professional. In other words, why PA? Why do you want to practice medicine? When a respectable salary and a relatively short schooling lose their luster in yet ANOTHER long and challenging work day, what is going to motivate you in your medical career? For me, it was through my shadowing experiences that I recognized firsthand the kind of impact a PA was able to make while having a wonderfully broad scope of practice. I was enamored with having a career that would allow me to see patients, perform H&Ps, order tests, perform diagnostics, make a diagnosis, deliver or order treatments, and even perform surgery, all while allowing me to do so at a much lower cost in less time than medical school. To really be able to challenge myself every day in a field that I love where I can think critically and analytically about my patients, all while delivering compassionate medical care to those who are relying upon me is truly the most fulfilling career that I, personally, can see for myself.  

This is one of the things that, outside of your stats, will do the most to propel you out front in interviews: know yourself well and spend the time discovering and thinking through your motivations. Portray yourself as someone who has carefully thought through their decision, who has shadowed and worked and studied and researched to the point that you can precisely say why a career as a PA is the absolute best decision you can make. That’s an applicant that I would want in my program. 

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc): Find me on Instagram with the handle @the.musical.pa, where I will be documenting my journey through PA school and offering a glimpse into what it’s like to evolve into a healthcare professional. You may get a taste of my music career here and there as well. ;) 


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.

Accepted!: Ananya - Florida International University

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Undergraduate education: B.A. in Sociology from Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL

Overall GPA: 3.4

Science GPA: 3.3

GRE: 316 - Verbal: 156 Quantitative: 160 Writing: 4.5 

Total HCE hours: ~1500 - Worked in medical records for a physician's office in summers from 11th grade through sophomore year in college; went on medical missions trips twice

Total PCE hours: ~3000 - Worked as a medical assistant in the summers at a physician's office from junior year through graduation and then full time through my gap year, in my senior year of college I worked as a triage specialist for a clinic that served patients without insurance

Shadowing hours: 200+ - I shadowed in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Critical Care and ER

Other volunteer hours: I was involved in a lot of extracurricular volunteer opportunities through clubs I was in and organizations on campus

LORs: I had one from the physician whose office I worked in from 11th grade - my gap year; one from my mentor who's an internist, one from a teacher I had when I was in medical school (for a year), and one from a PA who I shadowed

How many times did you apply?: This was my first cycle

Age: 24 (almost 25!)

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 18. (I don't necessarily recommend this - I was told to apply to more schools due to the idea that some schools might reject me right off the bat for having attended medical school previously. Then, I got nervous in November because I didn't have any interviews at that point so I applied to 6 other schools whose deadlines hadn't passed and weren't on my radar before)

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 6; I was accepted to 2 and on the waitlist at the other 4 (also 3 of the schools were ones that I applied to earlier on in the cycle, and the other 3 were schools that I applied to later on)

Any red flags on your application? I spent a year in medical school in the Carribbean, so I'm sure that was a red flag; Also had Cs in 2 classes (but I retook them and received As)

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was more nervous before going into the room than I was during the actual interview. I think the way the conversation evolved really gave me insight for whether I was a good match for the program. The schools I was most comfortable with were the ones in which it seemed like I was having a conversation rather than being interviewed. Also, I participated in one MMI style interview and it wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be. I think it's best to get rid of preconceived notions and truly showcase who you are as a person in all of your interviews - In the end, I believe that's what matters the most. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I followed and connected with pre-PA, PA-S, and PA-C instagrammers :) For GRE prep, I used Magoosh (and LOVED it) & for interview prep I used The 100 Interview Questions from The PA Platform (thanks Savanna!).

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? YES - STAY POSITIVE! It is so easy to get bogged down with trying to get everything done right, making sure you're competitive and then waiting to hear back about interviews and acceptances. Remind yourself of all of the great things you've accomplished, continue working hard and know that in the end, it will all pay off. 

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) Instagram: @livingthatPAlife is where I am documenting my journey through school and eventually in the field. In addition, feel free to email me anytime at amahajan.pa@gmail.com and I will help as best I can. 

Accepted!: Bailey - South University (Savannah)

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Undergraduate education: The University of Georgia; Nutritional Sciences- B.S.F.C.S.

Overall GPA: 3.92

Science GPA: 3.90

GRE: 311; 156 Verbal, 155 Quantitative, 4.5 Writing

Total HCE hours: 84 (EMT ride-along clinicals)

Total PCE hours: ~1,200 (~900 as a full-time medical assistant in a family practice, ~300 as a personal care aid for a college student with spinal muscular atrophy)

Shadowing hours: 164 (130- Orthopedics, 15- Dermatology, 19- Gastroenterology)

Other volunteer hours: ~50

LORs: 4 (1 from the physician who I worked with as a medical assistant, 1 from my junior year anatomy professor, 1 from my boss at the boxing gym where I coached fitness classes, and 1 from my college advisor)

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 7  

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I received an interview invitation from one of my top choices 15 days after submitting my CASPA. Exactly 1 month later, I was accepted. I received another interview invite about 1 week after the first and attended that interview as well. The programs that start in January move fast!! 

Where will you be attending? South University, Savannah

Any red flags on your application? I worried that my patient care and volunteer hours were too low, but I hoped that the admissions committees would notice the quality of my hours rather than the raw numbers.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the faculty members made the candidates feel! Both of the interviews that I attended were two days long. The first day consisted of a presentation, meet and greet, student Q&A, tour, etc., while the actual interviews took place on the second. On the inside, I was super anxious, but once I was one-on-one with my interviewer, I was extremely calm. I could tell that the faculty genuinely cared about their current students, and wanted to explore my personality to determine if I'd be a good fit. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I read and annotated "How to Ace the Physician Assistant Interview" by Andrew Rodican (Affiliate link). One of my friends was also kind enough to set up a mock interview in a coffee shop. We pretended to not know each other, and it really helped my confidence in my answers.  

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? In my opinion, the most important part of your application is your GPA. Focus on your classes in undergrad and maintain a high GPA. It's easy to jump at patient care opportunities while taking classes, but there's time after graduation to gain experience. It's hard to raise your GPA once it starts dropping. Also, once you have an interview invite, set the tone for your interview by walking in the room with confidence, smiling a lot, and even cracking a joke! 

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) I’m happy to talk to pre-PA students and help them in their journeys! My friend, Skyler, is in her first year of PA school and together, we run an Instagram account about our pre-PA strategies and programs that we chose! Find me on Instagram @pa.pals

Accepted!: Amanda - MEDEX PA Student

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Undergraduate education: Bachelor degree in Clinical Physiology

Overall GPA: 3.96

Science GPA: 3.99

GRE: I did not submit my GRE to the PA programs because it wasn't that good, haha. I graduated from my undergraduate degree in June of 2015, and immediately began an intensive one year Masters in Medical Sciences program from 2015-2016 so when I applied for PA school, I had both an undergrad and a graduate level degree, therefore eliminating the need for submission of my GRE. I did not do the Master's program solely to replace the GRE, but knew it would increase the strength of my application while also demonstrating my commitment to the healthcare, since I worked full-nights in an emergency department while completing the Master's degree. 

Quant - 155

Qual - 152

5.0 

Total HCE hours: 4,000

Total PCE hours: 2,500

Shadowing hours: 300 with MDs in an ER, PA in an ER, PA in an urgent care clinic

Other volunteer hours: 500 at a nursing home over 5 years, doing manicures and game days.

LORs: 5 (2 professors, 3 MDs/PAs)

How many times did you apply?: Once

Age: 25

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 2

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

Where will you be attending? University of Washington MEDEX, Tacoma cohort

Any red flags on your application? I had substantially less patient care hours than the 'competitive applicant' (UW considers a competitive applicant to have upwards of 10,000 hours of PCE) 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? They were surprisingly really, really fun. Completely exhausting, but if you can relax and try to make a few fast friends, it makes a world of difference to make your more personable and more outgoing, even with the nerves. I was also surprised to find that I truly am a worthy and competitive applicant. I think the majority of us go in to these things and think "oh my gosh, am I really good enough, qualified enough, competent enough compared to all of these other people?" Once the day gets going and you realize, hey, I actually am ready for this! and can accept that you were chosen out of thousands of applicants, it is so encouraging, and to see that the other amazing people you are interviewing with have a lot in common with you (work background, education background, similar personalities). Allow yourself to be open to accepting that you are a qualified, competent, competitive applicant! 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? A fellow PA I worked with gave me a copy of How to Ace the Physician Assistant School Interview (affiliate link) by Andrew J. Rodican and that was so helpful to even begin to fathom what the day would be like. My undergraduate university (Central Washington University) offered mock interviews tailored for whatever the need was, and I took full advantage of that. I think I did two mock interviews at CWU, and those were oddly nerve wracking and even more intense than what the real interview day was. But it made the interview process day of feel familiar and subsided my nerves immensely. I knew what I was going to say, I knew somewhat what questions might be posed, I learned how to reign in my excessive hand gestures, but to still show enthusiasm and fine tune my body language. 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Don't compare your chapter of life with someone else's chapter of life. Being unique, totally your own, and your own timeline has INCREDIBLE value. Someone else's story and specific chapter in life are totally their own, but yours and theirs are equal in valuable. Mock interviews are invaluable. You cannot prepare for the interview day enough, and mock interviews eliminate a huge source of nerves. PA school is becoming more and more competitive, and even though interviews are where you sell yourself as a competent, compassionate and capable PA student, the GPA and personal statement are what gets you noticed in stacks and stacks of applications. Spend time on your personal statement. Don't have more than 4 or 5 people review it as to not overwhelm you, but I spent the better part of 12 months working on it to make it as perfect and concise and a "story" as possible. Getting through the initial review process is critical, and making the strongest application on CASPA will get you to that interview!

Where can we find you?

@amanda_rae_the_PA or @amandababy1292

Ultimate Physician Assistant Gift Guide - 2018

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Wondering what to get for all of the PAs in your life? Whether Pre-PA, current students, or practicing PAs, we’ve got you covered with this 2018 Holiday Gift Guide. We’ve broken it down by category and you’ll find more practical options to go with some of the more fun choices. Feel free to pass this guide along to your family and friends to give them some hints about what’s on your shopping list. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means we get a small percentage if you make a purchase as no extra cost to you. This list is just in time for Black Friday so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for deals!

To Wear

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Looking professional is a staple as a physician assistant! Medelita is my go-to brand for medical wear in clinic. A gift card will provide a choice between the various scrubs, white coats, or scrub jackets, but I’ll share some of my favorites.

Medelita offers free shipping, the option of embroidery, a 1-year warranty, and at-home try-on. What more could you ask for? I recommend any of the scrubs, and my favorite white coats are the Ellody or the Rebecca. If you’ve never bought anything from Medelita, you can set up a new account and get $20 off your first purchase over $70. Use the code PAPLATFORM4 for a 20% discount.

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If you’re looking for something more casual, check out Medthusiast for the cutest and comfiest T-shirts and sweatshirts. Both Medelita and Medthusiast are companies that were created by PAs, which makes them even cooler!

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To Read

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For the Pre-PA Student - To help future PA students reach their goals, there are some must have resources out there to make the process much easier. The Applicant’s Manual of Physician Assistant Programs provides information about all of the current PA programs. This is a huge time saver because it can be difficult to track down that info. After applying, the interview is the next step, so the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide is a great present for anyone in the application process.

For the current or soon-to-be PA Student - There were 2 books that were extremely helpful to me while I was in PA school - the “green” book and Lange Q&A. I used these the entire time and particularly when studying for boards. I’ve also heard great things about PANCE Prep Pearls.

For anyone and everyone - Dr. Atul Gawande is my favorite non-fiction/medical author. His books should be mandatory reading for anyone in medicine. Better and Complications would be welcome stocking stuffers for any PA!

For School

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While PA school is thankfully a somewhat distant memory for me, there are a few things I couldn’t have survived without.

A great computer. If you really love your PA student (or soon-to-be student), make sure they have a functioning laptop. I’ve heard great things about the iPad Pro and Notability for taking notes, so that’s a good option too. I started school with a MacBook Pro and ended with a Microsoft Surface. I wish I had my Surface at the beginning of my program so I could have taken notes directly on our never ending PowerPoints. I’m back to a MacBook now, but the Surface was great for studying for boards.

A functioning printer. Even though everything is online these days, I’m still a pen and paper type of person at times. I like to write things out and take notes by hand, particularly for last minute studying before a test. I have the HP Envy, and it’s wireless, and does the job.

A water bottle. I’m the first to admit I’m the worst at staying hydrated. At work I use one of the large Tervis tumblers to keep my drinks cold or a good Yeti cup. I love this water bottle that helps to remind you to drink frequently by glowing to help increase water intake.

Amazon Prime. Having 2-day shipping was a lifesaver during PA school and clinical year. When my feet and back were so sore during my surgery rotation, I was able to get some compression socks and better shoes on the way ASAP because by the time I got off work nothing was open and I just wanted to sleep.

For Clinic

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If you’re in the market for a new stethoscope, and want one that functions excellently and looks sharp, check out the ERKA stethoscopes from Medelita. I don’t use a stethoscope frequently in dermatology, but my husband has claimed by ERKA as his own and uses it daily at the hospital. There are plenty of color options, and the tubing holds up nicely even with frequent use.

For a coffee drinker, Medthusiast has amazing ceramic coffee mugs with gorgeous artwork on them. These mugs will be the envy of everyone else in the office!

For CME

While I wouldn’t recommend booking a full CME trip for someone else, travel essentials are always a great gift. After going to a few conferences this year, I’ve realized I don’t have great luggage or carry-ons, so those are at the top of my list this Christmas.

Lecture halls at conferences are always freezing for some reason. While I dress business casual and professional when I go to CME events, I’ve been carrying my Medelita Ionic scrub jacket with me to keep me warm. It’s a great weight and still looks professional, so I’ll just leave it at my seat in between sessions. Mine is embroidered so I don’t worry about it going missing. These are available for men and women, and they fit true to size. This is also my husband’s favorite jacket to wear at the hospital, even more than his white coat. (And don’t tell, but even all of the non-medical people in my family are getting these jackets this year!)

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At conference, I always take a good size purse or bookbag to lectures, and I have my trusty Lilly Pulitzer notebook and a ton of pens. You could create a little conference survival kit and that would be an awesome present. Don’t forget the candy and snacks!

For Fun

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Makeup and skincare are always a nice present because who doesn’t love a little pampering. Put together a basket with some bath bombs, sunscreen, and skincare kit for someone who needs to relax a little bit. I’m the first to admit that I’m a product junkie, but most recently, I’ve been using the FRÉ Skincare line. Being a dermatology PA, I’m very picky about products, but these are easy to use, gentle, and leave my skin feeling fresh. The choices aren’t overwhelming and I love that I only have to leave the Detox mask on for a few minutes. You can use the code SAVANNA1 for 15% off, and make sure you’re following me on social media for extra deals (and there’s a really good one coming for Black Friday!)

For more of my recommendations and favorites, check out my Amazon list.

Accepted!: Alexandra - Western University

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Overall GPA: 3.90

Science GPA:3.85

GRE: Did not take it

Total HCE hours: ~2,000- I work in a clinical microbiology lab and had some experience working in a clinical research center at a hospital.

Total PCE hours: I didn’t have any at the time of the application, but before the interview I had just started volunteering in hospice care, so I was able to bring that up in conversation.  

Shadowing hours: None. Just work with PAs at my current job.  

Other volunteer hours: ~1,700. I was involved in Relay for Life, Catholic Newman Club, Compton Initiative, Pomona Beautification Day, and was a Resident Advisor for three years.

LORs: 3.  Two from professors I was close with and one from my supervisor from when I was a Resident Advisor.

How many times did you apply?:  Once

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? Only Western University. I didn’t quite meet the PCE for other programs just yet, and since Western was always my number one choice, I couldn’t wait to apply!

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I only interviewed with Western and I got in!

Any red flags on your application? I had no PCE at the time and there were a couple misspelled words on my app. Get someone to proofread your personal statement and app before you send it!

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was surprised how short it was and how detailed the questions were, but I ended up liking it better that way. I was SO nervous leading up to it, but when I got there it was more like having a genuine conversation with the students and faculty rather than an “interview” feel.

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

YES! For prerequisites I felt that teaming up with people to study was how I got through them best. I used Khan Academy for certain concepts that were harder to grasp and made fun mnemonics with my friends to help with memorizing some of the material.

 For the interview I read How to "Ace" the Physician Assistant School Interview by Andrew Rodican which was very helpful in preparing me for a wide variety of questions (affiliate link). I was/am avidly on “The PA Platform” as well as getting some helpful tips from Jazmine Kwong, a PA student at WesternU who also has an incredible PA blog/instagram (@jazminek_pa). I did mock interviews with my professors and family and made it my goal to talk to ten strangers within my community about their life goals when the opportunity came (work/school/gym). This helped me quickly adapt to different personalities and connect with people I wasn’t very comfortable with. This is also important to practice for the profession itself.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

Ever since I was younger I dreamt of being a PA and as I got older I felt that there were a lot of people, even supervisors, who told me I shouldn’t pursue it because it’s too competitive. This really discouraged me, and I know there may be people (even yourself) that will try and do the same, but just know that if it’s your passion, find the people in your community that will help you reach your goals. I had incredible professors, supervisors, and friends who believed in me and pushed me to this point and it was just a matter of finding those individuals who have your back. So, find your people!

One thing I didn’t know is that there are non-licensed medical assistant jobs out there that are just difficult to find. I think I would have done this if I knew earlier because not only is it an incredible way to get experience, but you also get paid without having to go through the MA certification process.

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

My Instagram is @alexgionta and feel free to add me on facebook!


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 

Accepted!: Alexis - James Madison University

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Hello everyone, my name is Alexis. I am super excited to share my acceptance story and some of my pre-PA advice. Hopefully, you pre-PA peeps find this information helpful. Also remember every applicant is unique, so try not to get too caught up in the numbers.

Undergraduate education: B.S. in Biological Sciences with minors in Chemistry and Psychology at Florida State University (Go Noles!)

Overall GPA: 3.72

Science GPA: 3.79

GRE: 317 (Verbal = 159, Quantitative = 158, and Written = 4)

Total HCE hours: ~270

Total PCE hours: 266 at application (over 2,000 hours currently)

Shadowing hours: ~40 

Other hours: I performed research in a neuroscience lab for a year to complete my Honors Thesis project and, afterwards, I worked in my neuroscience lab as a researcher/vivarium manager/lab manager for another year. So I had ~3500 research hours. 

LORs: My neuroscience lab PI (also an assistant professor), my nursing director, and the ER PA I shadowed.

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 23

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 10

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I received 6 interview invites and 4 rejections. Out of the 6 interview invites, I only attended 3 interviews and I was accepted into all 3 programs.

Where will you be attending? James Madison University

Any red flags on your application? My PCE hours were the biggest problem with my application. I truly did not think I was going to be accepted with PCE hours that low as a CNA. Also I received a D in Calc 2 during my first semester at FSU. To compensate for my low PCE hours, I put a lot of time and effort into making a strong personal statement that showed the diversity of my experiences and the importance of my experience in the neuroscience lab. I also worked really hard while at FSU to compensate for my one bad grade, so I practically only got straight A's after my first semester (plus 3 B's sprinkled over 2 years).

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The vast differences between each program's interview process. Some programs will provide you with a reassuring "application received" or "application under review" email after you submit CASPA, while other programs will leave you completely in the dark. Some programs will invite you for an interview 4 months in advance, while other will give you 4 days notice. The programs may have one-on-one interviews, three-on-one interviews, group interviews, or multiple mini interviews (MMI). So the point is to be prepared! I bought my suit, bought the "How to Ace the PA School Interview" by Andrew Rodican (affiliate link), wrote out answers to interview questions, thought of applicable patient care stories, practiced out scenarios, saved my money, and made friends at work (so they would be willing to switch days with me) BEFORE I was even invited for a single interview. There is absolutely no harm in preparing early, only benefits! 

The most surprising part of the interview experience was the fact that I just knew when the program was right for me! Going into the interviews, I was planning on choosing a program based solely on their resources and cost. However, I ended up choosing JMU off of my gut. I got this amazing feeling from the faculty and current students that I would not only learn a lot and feel supported, but I would also have fun doing it. Obviously, JMU has an excellent PA program with great resources, but it was the most expensive school with which I interviewed. So I was very surprised at how little cost mattered and how important the program made me feel was for making my final decision.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? Well my main resource for studying during undergrad was quizlet.com, flashcards are amazing! For the application and interview process, I read a lot of blogs to help prepare me as much as possible: thepaplatform.comlifeasapa.comdoseofpa.blogpspot.compajourney.comapthepa.blogpot.com. I also utilized thepalife.com's personal statement revision service to help ensure my personal statement was top-notch. As mentioned earlier, I used Andrew Rodican's interview book, but Savanna also has a PA school interview guide recently made available. I definitely suggest picking up one of those helpful interview books. I would not have felt so comfortable or performed so well in my interviews without thoroughly preparing beforehand. Side note- don't prepare by memorizing answers, just get an idea of the points you want to get across and a handful of experiences you may want to use.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? 

Don't let one weakness in your application prevent you from applying! Practically every applicant has a weakness in their application (GPA, PCE, GRE, etc), but they compensate for that weakness with strengths in other areas of their application. After reading all the accepted student stats on multiple PA programs' websites, I genuinely thought that I was going to get rejected from all 10 programs because I had very low PCE as a CNA. However, my application was very strong in every other way to compensate for my one weakness and I was invited to interview with 6 PA programs! So my advice is if you have a low GPA, then take some extra upper level courses during the application cycle to boost your GPA. And if you have low PCE, then work full-time during the application cycle to increase your hours. By working on your hours and grades even after submitting your application, you will be able to show the committee your improvements at the interview or, worst comes to worst, have a stronger application for the next cycle.

Be yourself! I think a lot of people try to alter their application or their interview answers to create this alternate persona that they believe the program's committee wants to see, but in reality they want to know about YOU! The committee genuinely wants to know who you are and to see your true passion for the PA profession. 

Get involved in things you are actually passionate about. Again, a lot of applicants feel the need to show that they are "the perfect applicant" by volunteering for things in which they are not genuinely interested. Not only will you be unwilling to repeatedly commit your leisure time to something you are uninterested in, but also the people you are volunteering with will recognize your disinterest. If you get involved in a passion project (mine was my neuroscience research, some people play sports), then you will be excited to dedicate your nights and even weekends. Plus it will be an interesting topic of discussion for your interview that will allow the committee to see who you are and what your interests are. 

My biggest piece of interview advice is to try to relax and enjoy yourself. You have already prepared for the interview, the work has been put in. Now is the time to socialize with your possible future peers and ask the current students all your burning questions (studying, housing, clinical experiences, etc). Also don't be scared to interview the program as well! Deciding which PA program to attend is a big decision. If you want to know how they compensate for not having a live cadaver lab or why their PANCE pass rates are lower than average, then don't be afraid to ask! You are investing your time and money into this program, so make sure they can take you across the finish line and help you pass your PANCE!

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) If you want to read more of my pre-PA advice or follow along as I stumble my way through PA school, then check out my blog www.alexisleighpa.com and follow my instagram account @alexisleigh.pa_s. If you have any questions about my stats, the CASPA application, or the application process, please feel free to message me on instagram or email me at alexisleighpa@gmail.com. Thanks for reading my acceptance story!


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.

Accepted!: Anna - Rocky Vista University PA Program

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Overall GPA: 3.0 - My lowest semester was a 1.5 and I was placed on academic probation. By the time I graduated, I made Dean's List Honors and my last 60 c.h. was 3.56.

Science GPA: 3.1

GRE: 313.5 (162 quantitative, 147 verbal, 4.5 analytical writing)

Total HCE hours: 3,456 hrs - mostly from working in an oncology research lab conducting animal research.

Total PCE hours: 1,520 hrs - mostly from working as a research coordinator for lung cancer clinical trials' patients.

Shadowing hours: 171 hrs. - I shadowed a variety of PAs, MDs, NPs, and RNs to better understand the different roles.

Other volunteer hours: 36 hrs. - I volunteered as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and also as a member for an advisory council collaborating with Colorado's Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to improve access to Medicaid.

LORs: 4 - 1 from academic professor/PI, 1 from mentor/pre-health pipeline program (MD), 1 from PI of oncology research lab (MD), and 1 from mentor (PA).

How many times did you apply?:  I applied 3 times.

Age: 26 yrs.

Gender: F

How many programs did you apply to? A total of 31 programs over 3 years. The first time: 3, second time: 12, third time: 15.

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I received one interview invitation, and they accepted me! :) I am so grateful!

Where will you be attending?  Rocky Vista University - I will be in their inaugural class of 2020. 

Any red flags on your application? Definitely my GPA, and the fact that "academic probation" was stamped on my transcript. I think it's important to demonstrate growth (both academically and personally). I didn't retake many of my classes; instead, I took higher level classes that were similar (e.g. physiology AND mechanisms of human pathology, chemistry AND organic chemistry 1 and 2 AND biochemistry, etc.) and excelled in them. During my interview, I had the opportunity to explain this and how this turned out to be a huge learning opportunity that brought me to where I am today. Also, most of my healthcare and patient care experience was through research, so I had to really explain well how those skills would translate. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The most surprising thing was how peaceful I felt after the interview. There was so much pressure leading up to it -- I mean, this was my 3rd application cycle and my ONLY interview invite thus far... But I left feeling like, "OK, I did my best. WOW, everyone that I interviewed with was amazing. If I don't get in, it's completely fair, because every. single. person applying is seriously, really amazing and that's just how competitive PA school is right now." Knowing and understanding that really helped me find peace in all of it, and kind of gave me the strength that I needed to prepare for my 4th round of applications if I didn't get in. :)     

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? There are so many! The social media platform that PAs and other PA students are using have been so helpful, including blogs, YouTube videos, Podcasts, snapchats, and IG accounts. Books: How to get into PA School by Andrew Rodican, How to Ace the PA School Interview also by Andrew Rodican, So You Want to be a Physician Assistant: Your Guide to a New Career by Beth Grivett, and The Applicant's Manual of Physician Assistant Programs by Mark Volpe and Brittany Hogan. (Affiliate Links)

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Good luck and don't give up. Don't make any assumptions (e.g. I made the mistake of assuming that people know that a research coordinator is direct patient care experience, without explaining the capacity of how closely I worked with patients to manage their care). BE YOURSELF and be able to articulate why you care on a PERSONAL level - the most helpful thing for me was just being able to talk to people about it! It's hard and puts you in a really vulnerable position, but it's good practice because that's exactly what you'll be doing for your personal statement and also for your interview. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE, and don't lose your voice in your application by framing your answers around what you think people want to hear. Most importantly, rejection is likely but it's NOT personal, as everyone else applying is a really great applicant... But guess what? SO ARE YOU! Try to enjoy the process as much as you can -- you really learn so much just by going through the process of applying and getting into PA school. And remember that it's not IF you get in, it's WHEN. :) 

Where can we find you? IG: @anna_the_pa, feel free to email me if you have questions too! annatn15@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.