What kind of advice would you give for someone who wants to go to PA school?
First off, I’m sorry for taking forever to reply to this. I got a little side tracked with finals & holidays. With this being a bit of a loaded question, I wanted to take the time to give a full answer.
1) Shadow PAs & gain valuable HCE.
Shadowing PAs is the best way to learn about the profession and learn if it’s really what you want to do, plain and simple. Even after you are accepted to PA school, I highly recommend shadowing to get a feel for what it’s like to practice in different areas of medicine.
I cannot stress the importance of valuable healthcare experience enough. I think a lot of applicants see it as a means to an end. It’s so much more than that. It provides a great base of knowledge prior to starting school, you can learn how to assess and manage stressful situations and can lead to future employment. I can tell you a substantial number of my classmates will have jobs waiting for them the day they graduate.
2) Don’t be discouraged by a few bad grades.
Grades are only ONE component of an application. I can tell you personally, I had my fair share of C’s in undergrad. What’s more important than looking at a grade in a class is looking at the big picture…especially if that C was in o-chem. Like every application I looked at had a C in o-chem. If your grades trend up every semester, that gets noticed. If you had one semester or year where they were not on par with the rest of your grades, that gets noticed too. If a class was just really hard, that’s ok. If something happens, mention it in your personal statement. Also be prepared to talk about it during your interview. Showing how you rebound from a stressful situation is more beneficial than that bad grade is harmful.
3) Study your application inside & out for your interview.
I can tell you from having been on my school’s adcom and doing interviews, this is so important and overlooked by so many students. A lot of questions you’ll be asked during your interview will come directly from your application. You may be asked to expand on work or shadowing experience. You maybe be given a hypothetical work related situation and asked how you would solve the issue. From a personal standpoint when doing interviews, leadership experience and conflict resolution are two big things you can expect to address during an interview. Be sure to include as much as you can on your application, and if it’s not there do your best to mention it during the interview.
After getting in:
1) Be prepared to work harder than you ever thought you could.
I heard this a ton before starting classes, but it cannot be understated. You will be flooded with information. The material itself isn’t difficult (except for renal phys…my arch nemesis), but the quantity of material is absolutely bonkers. By no means is it impossible, but it requires discipline, time management and teamwork. In the terms of my study group, it also requires a lot of coffee, kit kats and peanut butter cups. Get a good study group together and be prepared to work your tail off. Do not try and make it through PA school by yourself. You will fall behind within 3 weeks.
2) Be sure to make time for yourself.
After reading that first piece of advice, this might sound like a pipe dream. Regardless of what it is, it’s important to take that time away from school and do something fun. It can be very easy to fall into that sense of “I have to study every second I’m awake”, but that quickly leads into a downward spiral. Your mental and physical health are more important than any grades. Once those first 2 start going, it’s hard to recover. So if you’ve been studying all day on a Saturday, I’m telling you now it’s ok to leave the books at home and go do something.
3) Get involved.
I know what you’re thinking…how am I going to fit this in after studying and then some me time? You’d be surprised. There’s a lot you’ll find time for, and you won’t be doing it alone. Things like blood pressure screenings, toys for tots, food drives, etc don’t take a lot of time, but can be great benefit for everyone involved. It can give you valuable experience in organizing and working with people while providing a great benefit for your community.
4) Be a team player.
I’m throwing this is because for whatever reason it’s an issue with my class. I hope it’s not with yours. Some of my classmates have issues with sharing notes (even those given to them from previous classes), and with helping out other students when they have a lot of experience with a particular subject. I’m not sure where it all stems from, but your classmates are your family for the next 2+ years. The more you help each other, the better professionals you will all become. Unless you’re shooting for a residency with a minimum GPA, high grades don’t matter much in PA school. If you see a classmate is having trouble with anything, do what you can to help them.
If you’re looking for a good example of what not to do when applying to PA school read digiti-minimi’s post “Don’t Be That Guy” http://digiti-minimi.tumblr.com/post/106328007843/dont-be-that-guy