Accepted!: Jeremiah - UTMB Galveston PA Student

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Undergraduate education: Bachelor of Science in Community Health, Texas A&M University

Overall GPA: 3.68

Science GPA: 3.52

GRE: 293 combined. Verbal Reasoning: 145. Quantitative Reasoning: 148 Analytical Writing: 3.5 

Total HCE hours: 606

Total PCE hours: 20

Shadowing hours: 60

Other volunteer hours: 41

LORs: 3 total. 1 PA, 1 Research Professor (PI), 1 Postdoctoral fellow 

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 22

Gender: Male

How many programs did you apply to?:  8

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interview invites (accepted only the first one since I got accepted 3 days later after my interview). I will be attending The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) in the summer.

Any red flags on your application?

My GRE scores are below average! I know myself, and I do not excel in standardized testing. I weighed out the pros and cons if I should retake my GRE and made the decision not to. I knew my GRE scores were low, but I didn’t dwell on it. I trusted the strengths of my application to move me forward. Do not be intimidated if you get a GRE score that is lower than what you wanted. I was below the average, but that did not stop me from applying! 

I also had 2 C’s and Q drop during my freshman year.  It was definitely an eye opener, and I was not expecting the difficulty of undergrad. I thought I knew how to take notes, study, and prepare for exams. BUT I DIDN’T! My freshman year was a big learning curve for me. I tried different methods in studying and went on YouTube for tips for effective note taking. It was trial and error for me, but I eventually found what worked best for me. Do not be discouraged about one or two C’s. Instead, learn from it and make improvements. PA schools love seeing the exponential growth from the beginning of your undergrad to when you apply. It shows that you had a rough start, but took the initiative to improve and get better throughout the years. MAKE YOUR WEAKNESSES INTO YOUR STRENGTHS ☺ 

I lacked patient contact experience. I went on forums, blog sites, and talked to past PA applicants and most everyone had over 1000+ hours in PCE. I am not going to lie, I was intimidated by the numbers that everyone had. So I learned, DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Each applicant is different! I accepted the fact that I was late in the ball game deciding that I wanted to become a PA. It was my junior year fall semester 2016 that I had that realization. I applied that following cycle and submitted my CASPA application in July 2017. I focused on what could do at that time to improve my application. I did not get caught up in “chasing” a magical number for my application. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

I only attended one interview, but I can say that it was really laid back and very chill! The faculty were really friendly, and the current PA students were open to answer a lot of our questions! When it came down to my actual interviews (two 20 minute 1-on-1 interviews), I was a bit nervous at first but I made it into a conversation instead of an interview. That made things more relaxed, and I could express myself more and show more of my personality. At the end of the day, the school invited YOU to their interview, so that means YOU need to showcase yourself! Be proud and confident that they chose YOU! Trust in yourself, show how great you are to them, and enjoy the process!

 TIP#1: Research the staff prior to your interview, read up on their BIOs, and make a connection with them during your interview. This way there is a common ground between you and the individual interviewing you. This will make the interview into a conversation!

TIP#2: Your interview starts when you step out of your car, so be the best version of yourself when you are around potential future classmates, current students, and just everyone you pass by. Walk with a big smile ☺ 

TIP#3: Print out a resume AND a CV. There is a difference, so having both shows you mean business! 

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

One thing that helped me a ton was definitely YouTube. I YouTube “how to be a competitive applicant for PA school”, “interview tips PA school”, and “tips on writing a personal statement.” There are endless amounts of videos on YouTube that can help you on your journey! I am a visual learner, so watching the videos really helped me a lot. I also read a lot of people’s blogs/websites about their journey including the PA platform of course! I went on the physician assistant forums to read on other people’s past experiences when it came to interviewing and submission CASPA applications. 

Any other advice for pre-PA students? 

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For those who are in the process of applying, I know how hard and stressful it can be, but don’t lose site of the end goal and always REMEMBER YOUR WHY!!!!! Remember why you want to become a PA in the first place. Remember that patient you worked with, remember the PA that inspired you, and remember your curiosity in medicine! Remember that all your hard work will pay off in the future, trust the process, and most importantly believe in yourself. Good luck to everyone who is applying this cycle, I believe in all of you guys! 

Where can we find you?  Instagram: jeremiahdvelasco 


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

How To Get Into PA School from Undergrad

There's no denying that gaining admission to PA school is becoming increasingly competitive every year. While we can discuss what you can do to become the best applicant possible, many believe it's impossible to go straight from undergrad into PA school. And that's not true! You can find many of these stories in our "Accepted!" post series, and I was one of these students myself. There are still plenty of applicants who are accepted into PA school while finishing their degrees, and you can take some actions if that is your goal. 

Once I decided I wanted to go to PA school, my priority shifted to making sure I was meeting all of the requirements, and that I would have them complete in time to apply during my senior year. This meant taking a CNA course on the weekends so I could gain some hands-on patient care experience.  (Find programs in your area now!) I had to be very organized when it came to choosing courses, and I had to take some summer classes to meet the deadlines. While that meant giving up some of my free time, it was all worth it once I was accepted to PA school. At one of my interviews, an interviewer even commented that for my age, my application was impressive. It was nice to hear that they took the fact that I was still a full-time student into consideration when comparing me to people who had many more hours than I did. 

Go ahead and make a list of the programs you're interested in, and figure out what you'll need to meet their requirements. That will help you in making a plan. You could also consider a Pre-PA Assessment if you're unsure of what you should do to become competitive. Each program is different so that may take some time. They should have this information listed on their websites. If that seems daunting, you can find all of the program's requirements and stats condensed into the Applicant's Manual of Physician Assistant Programs (affiliate link). 

When it does come time to apply, make sure you get your applications in early. That's one of the best ways to ensure that your spot for an interview because most programs have rolling admissions. That means they look at applications as soon as they are complete and start giving out interviews and filling the class, even if it's before the deadline. On your application, and in your personal statement, it's important to show that even though you are a younger applicant, you are mature and ready to take on PA school. This will be important in the interview as well. 

Even if you feel like you've done all of these things, it's best to go into an application cycle planning to reapply. Keep working on every part of your application in the event that your first attempt is not successful. If you've put in the necessary work and you can successfully say that you meet the requirements of the programs you're applying to, be confident. There are definitely still plenty of students being accepted straight out of undergrad. If you decide to take a gap year, that's okay too! You've got to do what works best for you, and don't let others discourage your plans. 


Accepted!: Neda - Low Science GPA to PA Student

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Undergraduate education: California State University of Long Beach, major: Psychology 

Overall GPA: 3.30

Overall Non-science GPA: 3.36

Science GPA: 3.12

GRE: No GRE

Total HCE hours: 750 hours

Total PCE hours: 4040 hours as a medical assistant and physical therapy aide.

Shadowing hours: 80 - I have also shadowed an Orthopedic PA, Family Practice PA, and a dermatologist PA.

Other volunteer hours: 786

LORs: 3 total: I received letters of recommendation from a Family Practice PA (who I shadowed), professor, and a Podiatrist who I worked for as a medical assistant for two years.

How many times did you apply?:  one

Age: 29

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? 15

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

Any red flags on your application? Definitely my GPA (YIKES). I didn’t have a D or F on my transcript, but I did have one C in Chemistry. Most of my science classes were B’s and I had some A’s. In my statement of purpose, I pointed out my weaknesses and during the interview the faculty members didn’t seem to be concerned, but I did have to explain how I have mentally and emotionally prepared for the rigorous few years of PA school (in my case 33 months). I explained that while I was taking my science classes I was working two jobs, shadowing PAs, and was involved in community service.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? My interview was designed as MMIs (multiple mini interviews), group interview and written portion. I listened to every YouTube video about PA interview tips and read every single page on AAPA website to have a good idea of the news that’s going on in the PA field. At the beginning of the MMIs I was very nervous, however after a few that I went through (total of 8), I felt more comfortable. Throughout the whole MMI process I did have to keep reminding myself that if I mess up on one I have to move on to the next with full confidence and not let that discourage me. The school that I interviewed at had a very relaxed interview environment and the faculty/staff members just wanted to get to know the true me and were not trying to trick me with their questions.

It’s very important to make sure that your answers are truthful and unique to you. Don’t memorize answers. Look up examples, but come up with your own answers. AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE your answers with someone to make sure you are confident.

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

How to “Ace” the Physician Assistant School Interview – by Andrew J. Rodican (affiliate link)

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School - by Andrew J. Rodican (affiliate link)

Aapa.org

Youtube.com

PA Platform, PA Journey, The PA Life

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

I’ve been working hard on my prerequisites, community service, and working two jobs for the past 5 years (Since 2013). It can be discouraging at times and can be very hard, BUT don’t give up. All of your hard work will pay off. Keep moving forward, keep your head up and don’t let anything/anybody stop you from pursuing your goals and your dreams.

In your personal statement show who you really are. Be unique and don’t try to write what you think the reader wants to read – SHOW YOU, BE YOU.

Where can we find you?  I’m not in any social media but you can reach me at nedatahami@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. 

Q&A with a Paramedic

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After a recent post on Instagram, I connected with Mike, and he graciously offered to answer some questions and add his insights into being a paramedic. It's a great option for getting patient care hours for PA school, but there's a lot involved and I am certainly not an expert, so I'm happy to share his firsthand experience with you. I learned a ton from his responses! On a side note, Mike just got his first interview invite, so send him all of your good vibes. 


What steps does it take to become a paramedic?

Becoming a paramedic is certainly not an easy task, but if you are willing to put in the time, it is extremely rewarding. 

Step one: Become an EMT- Basic. Many people under value their time as EMT-Basics. People tend to want to jump straight into becoming a paramedic because you get to administer medications and perform all types of procedures. A common phrase you will hear in the EMS world is “you can’t have good ALS (advance life support) without good BLS (basic life support).” My time as an EMT Basic was essential in properly learning how to assess and determine if a patient was sick or not sick.

Step two: Find a good program and enroll. A great deal of programs will be run by community colleges (which keeps the cost down) and vary in length. Typically, it takes 12 months to complete the certification program or 2 years to complete the Associates degree. During this time, you will meet anywhere from 2-4 days a week during the day or night. My program met twice a week for 8 hours a day. Classes will run for a full year, including winter and summer. On average you will take between 15-18 credit hours a semester, but do not fear, the classes tend to piggy back off each other (i.e. Medical Emergencies and Pharmacology will be taught together). While in class, you will also be responsible for scheduling multiple ride-along shifts. This will be done during your free time and is required by all programs. Ride along shifts can be equated to clerkship time found in PA school. It is time for you to put into practice the skills you are learning. You will be required to perform a set number of assessments and practical skills to be check off by your preceptor. It may seem intimidating, but it is probably the most exciting part of class. 

Step three: Take the National Registry. The National Registry Exam is the national certification exam for paramedics that is accepted by almost all states. This is a two-part exam which consists of a practical portion and written exam. Each phase of the exam is usually taken on separate days and your program director will need to approve you to take the test. 

Step four: Find a job/state licensure. Once you have passed both the written and practical exams you will be a Nationally Registered paramedic, but that does not mean you can practice just yet. To be able to practice, you must be affiliated with an agency or hospital. As a paramedic your certification or license will need to be tied to a Physician/Medical Director. Being affiliated means that the agency recognizes you as a provider and the Physician/Medical Director approves you to operate under their license. Essentially, you need to have a job to practice. 

Side note: Most states accept national registry certification alone, but there are others that require Registry and state licensure. This will require you to take an additional state specific protocol test. 

If someone wants to become a paramedic, what is the first thing they should do?

The absolute first thing a person should do is become an EMT basic. If you are already an EMT-B, reach out to your local paramedic program and find out what their program requires for admission. Typical prerequisites for a paramedic program are Anatomy & Physiology, and basic English and Math. Some programs used to require a certain amount of experience as a EMT Basic. Programs are starting to shy away from this due to the shortage of providers. Check locally to find out.

What is the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?

In the field of EMS, there are multiple levels of care. The most basic level is called an EMT-B or Basic. This is what most people think of when they hear the word EMT. At the basic level, school typically is a couple months. What an EMT can do is usually determined by the state and or the Medical Director, but common practices are assessments, splinting, administration of low level medications (i.e. Tylenol, aspirin, glucose paste) and the assisting of already patient prescribed medications (i.e. nitroglycerin, albuterol inhaler). Again, this is a state/physician-based decision. A paramedic is typically the highest level of EMT care found out in the field. Paramedics carry a wide range of medications as well, and the portable monitor. Paramedics are trained to make differential diagnoses and follow protocols established by the medical director when treating patients. Paramedics can perform a wide range of skills such as; intubations, IVs/IO, Needle Decompression, Cardioversion, Defibrillation, Pacing etc. As a paramedic, I also carry a drug box and based on protocol and assessment, can administer a wide range of medications.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

I work in a fire-based EMS system in a major metropolitan area that borders the District of Columbia. That means my department is extremely busy! The best answer to this question would be there is no typical day. That is one of the exciting parts about being a paramedic. My department works a 24/72 schedule, meaning I work 24 hours on and then have 3 days off. Shift change is at 0700hrs, but it is customary to arrive at least 1 hour before. This ensures the crew coming off does not get stuck on a late call and gives you time to settle in and mentally prepare for the day. After dropping a pot of coffee, I head over to the Medic unit with my partner and begin our morning checks of the unit and equipment. During checks we replace any expired medications or damaged equipment, perform basic maintenance checks on the unit (oil, washer fluid, tire depth, lights, sirens), then finish up by ensuring the narcotics are locked up and signed over. 

Following morning checks we drink more coffee, have breakfast, and wait for the calls to start. On average my department as a whole, runs just under 500 calls a day. The average number of calls for a medic unit is around 8 a day. A long, detailed call will take me around 2 hours to complete and a simpler call can take as little as 30 minutes. 

How will your experience as a paramedic help you to become a PA?

I have heard that PA schools really value the patient care experience paramedics bring to the table. As a paramedic, you learn the basic steps to diagnosis and development of treatment plans. You also learn how to work as a team and think on the fly. I’d like to believe that PA school admissions respect the time and discipline it takes to become a Paramedic and believe that this will translate into your studies as a future PA. 

For me personally, when I think of this question, people will automatically assume the clinical aspect of being a paramedic is most important. While I do feel I have learned a lot clinically, I also have seen that there is so much I do not know. More importantly, my time as a paramedic has taught me life qualities that I believe will help me be successful in medicine and life. Here is my not so short list.

  • I have learned how to lead and how to follow. 
  • I have learned how to be humble and ask for help. 
  • I have gained confidence in myself and my decision making. 
  • I have learned how to work as a team
  • I have learned to do more with less and think on the fly
  • I have also learned the true meaning of empathy and compassion. 

What is the craziest thing you’ve seen?

In 2015, my partner and I were dispatched as the only advance life support unit to a single vehicle motorcycle accident in the parking lot of a strip mall. A rescue squad and a basic life support ambulance was dispatched with us to make a total of 7 providers. As we were approaching the scene, the officer on the rescue squad in a panicked voice asked for an alternate channel. When questioned why, the officer yelled to start an EMS Taskforce and give him the channel. A motorcycle attempted to run a red light when he was clipped by another vehicle. The motorcycle slid into a crowd of people including several children. There were multiple critical patients requiring advance life support intervention. My partner and I jumped off the rig and were directed by the basic crew to assess a young child that was fatally injured. I began to assess the patient and directed my partner to go quickly assess the condition of the other patients. Both my partner and I were brand new medics at the time (only 1 year of experience) just off our internship. Neither of us had experienced a mass casualty incident and as the highest level of care on scene, everyone was looking to us to make decisions. What a crazy and stressful experience. 

What is the hardest part of your job?

I think so far, other than very specific calls, the hardest part of my job has been telling someone that their mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter or friend has died. I feel that never gets any easier to say the words. I will never forget the first time I had to tell a mother their child had died. It will be an experience you will never forget. I think that is why it is important to find balance while working in medicine. Find a healthy way to relieve stress and let work go for a bit. 

Where can people find you?

People can find me on instagram @ mike_jeffe or on facebook. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about becoming a Paramedic or what it is like to be a paramedic. I will also be providing updates on my journey from EMT-P-PAC and updates of my application process.


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My name is Mike. I am a first-time applicant this year and currently in my last semester of undergrad. When complete, my degree will be a Bachelors of Science in Emergency Medical Care with an Administration focus. I have been working in emergency medicine for almost 8 years now. I first discovered medicine as a transporter in the hospital. I walked through the halls of the hospital, amazed by what I saw. I honestly felt like Harry Potter when he discovered the wizarding world. Everything was new and exciting to me. I was captivated by the amount of skill, knowledge, and selflessness that surrounded me. Over the years I worked my way from hospital transporter to EMT in the Emergency Department, finally landing in the fire department where I obtained my paramedic certification. I have been with the fire department for over 6 years, operating as a firefighter/paramedic for the last four.

Accepted: Gaby from @healthymode.pa

You may remember Gaby from Episode 35 of The Pre-PA Club Podcast. She has some great insights for getting into PA school with an international background. 


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Undergraduate education: B.S. Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University. Registered Dietitian (3 years), and Certified Diabetes Educator (1 year).

Overall GPA: 3.79

Science GPA: 3.69 (4.00 on my Post-Bacc classes, I had to re-take 2 physiology courses, psychology and microbiology with lab because I initially took these over 5-6 years ago. I also took Post-bacc medical terminology and ethics as pre-requisites for the programs I applied to)

GRE: 302 (151 verbal, 151 Quantitative, 4.0 writing)

Total HCE hours: 5866 hrs, as a Dietitian and Diabetes Educator for pregnant women with diabetes in the Maternal Fetal Medicine Department (High risk pregnancies)

Total PCE hours: 5704 hrs. (work experience, other volunteer opportunities as nutrition educator)

Shadowing hours: 47 hrs shadowing PAs (Emergency Dept. Urgent Care, OB Triage). 12 hrs shadowing an endocrinology MD

Other volunteer hours: 92 hrs 

LORs: 3. Physician Assistant, Nurse Manager (my supervisor for the past 3 years), Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine (my supervising physician for 2 years)

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 27 at the time of application 

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 2

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 1 rejection, 1 interview and was accepted to that program. 

Any red flags on your application? I submitted my applications to each school about 4 months apart. For the first school I submitted, where I was rejected, I did not have as many shadowing hours, had no volunteer experience over the past 2 years, and was not a member of any PA organizations. Once I received the rejection I made sure address these issues so my next application was better. I became a member of MAPA, found more shadowing and volunteering opportunities, and truly believe this helped me quite a bit.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? This may not necessarily be surprising, but I thought it was nice that there were 3-4 current students who the interviewees could speak with before going in to the interview with the faculty. The students were very nice and gave us a little insight as to how the actual interview is, and their perspective as current students, what they like or not about the program. Meeting the students before the interview, as well as other candidates, really helped me calm down and going in feeling more prepared. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? Yes! Books: "How to write your Physician Assistant personal Statement" by Stephen Pasquini PA-C, and "How to ACE the Physician Assistant School Interview" by Andrew J. Rodican PA-C. (Amazon affiliate links) I read them cover to cover and highly recommend both! Also, several social media accounts and YouTube videos by current students and PAs. I also submitted my personal statement to myPAresource for review, which was helpful to figure out what to include and what not.

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Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Research the schools you might be interested in, look at all of their pre-requisites and minimum requirements and compare what you have, also compare your stats to their current class' stats. Then, apply to the schools you know you fully meet the requirements. The application process can be very expensive, and I personally think that it is better to apply when, and where you know you have great chances. I don't believe in "I'll apply this year just to test the waters". If you don't think or feel you are ready to apply yet, maybe wait, and make sure you do everything to better your profile as an applicant. Schools have application deadlines almost all year round, so if you get a rejection from one, then try to fix what you can so the next you submit is better. This is actually what I think helped me. I got rejected in October and submitted the second application in December - I had 3 months to do more shadowing and volunteering, and singed up for AAPA and the state chapter. I felt like I improved my application and had better chances. 

Where can we find you? Instagram: @HealthyMode.PA YouTube: HealthyMode


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, shoot me an e-mail to savanna@thePAplatform.com 

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)

Accepted!: Tyler - Future Rutgers PA Student

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


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

Overall GPA: 3.68

Science GPA: 3.55

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

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

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

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

Other volunteer hours: < 50

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

How many times did you apply?  1

Age: 23

Gender: male

How many programs did you apply to? 11 programs

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

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

Any red flags on your application? 

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

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

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

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

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

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

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

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

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


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

5 Ways to Stand Out at Your PA School Interview

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

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

 

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

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


Accepted!: Marian - Low GPA to PA Student

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


Undergraduate education:

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

GPAs: 

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

GRE: 301 

Total HCE hours: 6,280

Total PCE hours: 10,396

Shadowing hours: 1,560

Other volunteer hours: 1,134

LORs: 1 PA, 2 Science Professors 

How many times did you apply?:  2

Age: 28 

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? 15

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

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

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

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

Any other advice for pre-PA students? 

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

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

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

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

Where can we find you?  Instagram: @_mae0711


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

10 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting into PA School

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

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

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

Accepted!: Katie - Future Temple PA Student

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


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

Overall GPA: 3.5 (at time of application)

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

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

Total HCE hours: ~100

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

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

Other volunteer hours: ~100

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

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 25

Gender: Female

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can we find you? Instagram @katieemartin04 :)


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

Accepted!: Sarah - Future Duke PA Student

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


Undergraduate education: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Overall GPA: 3.67

Science GPA: 3.76

GRE: 309, Analytical Writing 4.0

Total HCE hours: 600

Total PCE hours: 2,754

Shadowing hours: 30

Other volunteer hours: 288

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

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 27

Gender: female

How many programs did you apply to? 4

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

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

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

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

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

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

Where can we find you? - Instagram @saracha821


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