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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.