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?

  • 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

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