Undergraduate education: I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Spanish.
Overall GPA: 3.2
Science GPA: 3.0
Total HCE hours: 160—I spent one summer volunteering at the Children’s Hospital back home in Pittsburgh, PA and one college semester working as a medical assistant for a cardiologist practicing in Novi, MI.
Total PCE hours: 3,400—After graduation, I spent two years working as a patient care technician (PCT) on a medical/surgical hospital floor.
Shadowing hours: 45—I shadowed a PA who worked for the University Health Clinic, an internal medicine/gastroenterology PA who worked at the University of Michigan Hospital, and a dermatology PA who worked in a private practice. I also shadowed several surgical PAs during open-heart/valve replacement surgeries! It was great to shadow in a variety of settings—surgery, office setting, hospital (inpatient), and a clinic (outpatient).
Other volunteer hours: 350—PA schools absolutely LOVE to see volunteer hours! One of the best decisions I made was to go on a mission trip to Costa Rica with a group of pre-med students, where we spent a week working in a free health and dental clinic, recording patient histories, documenting symptoms, and dispensing vitamins and the over the counter medications from a makeshift pharmacy. It was so much fun to utilize both of my college majors in one setting! I loved it so much that I later became the club’s trip coordinator. Once I moved back home after graduation, I wanted to keep speaking Spanish in a healthcare setting so I became involved with a pediatric bilingual primary care clinic, providing medical services for locally underserved Hispanic families. Outside of healthcare, I also spent time tutoring high school students in AP Biology, Spanish, and Algebra and I was an assistant coach for my high school’s distance track team this past spring!
LORs: Total of five—one from my college microbiology professor, one from an MD, one from a PA (who was also the director of the Michigan Pre-PA Club at the time), one from the club sponsor of my Costa Rica trip, and one from my hospital unit director.
How many times did you apply?: I applied once during the 2017-2018 cycle.
How many programs did you apply to? 17!
How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? Case Western was the only school I interviewed with as well as the only school that offered me an acceptance. Proof that it only takes one!
Where will you be attending? I started at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH this past May.
Any red flags on your application? My red flags were my grades. I overloaded myself with classes and extracurricular activities during my college career and I struggled in some of my upper level Biology courses. I ended up retaking Genetics and Organic Chemistry II for a better grade and I took Anatomy & Physiology I and II after graduation so I could really slow down and focus on those courses. I think A&P is central to our understanding of disease since it’s applicable to everything! So far in PA school, Anatomy has been the course that has demanded most of my time and attention, so I’m happy that I took the time to build a solid foundation first. I think PA schools recognized that and will always appreciate any effort taken to improve an application.
Anything you found surprising about interviews? Interviews are nerve-wracking, but they are totally doable! I spent a lot of time preparing for my Case interview beforehand. I made a Word document with sample questions and I wrote out my responses and practiced answering questions with family members and friends in casual settings. I also got dressed up for a mock interview, printed out my CV, and met with a family friend downtown to go through a series of questions just to get comfortable with the entire process! As it turned out on interview day, there was a lot I wasn’t actually prepared for. My day consisted of meeting with the program director, sitting through a detailed program overview presentation, eating lunch with current students, and then going through my round of interviews. To start, I had two one-on-one interviews, which felt comfortable and natural. My last interview, however, was a two-on-one with two PAs who worked in the area, who asked me a series of ethical scenarios. I remember feeling slightly caught off guard because, of course, controversial topics are tough to talk about, especially in an interview setting. Truth of the matter is, future providers always have to be prepared to talk about tough topics. I later realized that the point of those questions in my PA interview was to demonstrate a proper and logical thought process. A logical construct can serve as the “how” that gets you to your position and you can show your interviewer how you maintain composure and can think critically on your feet. They are tricky questions, but they are extremely important!
Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? My most helpful resources were all of the people that helped me prepare for PA school along the way! Prior to deciding to I wanted to become a PA, two friends of mine gave me a great deal of insight about their PA school experiences and encouraged me to pursue it. I joined the Pre-PA club while I was at Michigan, and I was immediately granted access to so many resources—shadowing opportunities, patient care opportunities, mock interview practice, personal statement editing workshops, presentations from visiting PA programs, and so much more. I took advantage of those resources and kept up with it even after graduation. I reached out to PAs in the Pittsburgh area, became more active on the social media platform in regards to networking, and I used Magoosh GRE prep to take practice tests, answer sample test questions, and to make flash cards (referral link). While I was also working, I took the time to go visit some programs that I really loved! I emailed program directors, scheduled advising sessions, and sat in on classes to get a feel for how class time was spent. During the process, I got to meet so many current PA students who were thrilled to talk about their programs and why they chose to become PAs! It was so encouraging to become part of a group of people who are so passionate about the profession and it instilled a huge motivation in me to keep working hard and to go after it too!
Any other advice for other pre-PA students? PA school has been one of the most challenging points in my life so far, but it has been worth every minute of hard work I’ve put in. My advice would be to stay focused and to make PA school your top priority, because with the right mindset, you will get there no matter what. If you are having difficulties with the application process, take the initiative to call the programs you want to apply to, and set up meetings. Put yourself out there and show others you WANT this. The rest will fall into place!
Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) @clairekintner is my Instagram handle and is the best way to reach me ☺