Okay, so you’ve decided that you want to take advantage of this shortage of medical personnel and you want to switch careers and become a physician’s assistant.
That’s great! You’re going to be a member of the medical field who can make decisions for patient care, you get to be part of changing lives, and you aren’t going to go in massive debt like you would if you wanted to become a licensed physician.
But… What you may not account for is how hard it is to get in to a Physician Assistant program, which is a requirement of becoming a PA. Fortunately, we understand your concerns and we’ve got 10 tips that will make getting into PA school a little easier.
Each school is going to have their own set of requirements. You want to make sure that you know these requirements before applying. Your GPA, medical experience, and academic prerequisites will vary from school to school. Fortunately, you can usually go to the school’s website and find out yourself before deciding where you want to go.
While we did say that GPA requirements will vary from school to school, it is usually going to be between the 3.0 and 4.0 range. Don’t worry, your GPA is accumulative, which means if you’re a freshman (or even a sophomore), you have time to turn your grades around. Although, it is much easier just to keep them up from the start.
As you can expect, PA school is full of sciences—pharmacology, chemistry, physiology, biology to name a few. As an undergrad, it would be in your best interest to take anatomy, biology, and medical terminology courses so you are prepared for what’s to come.
Most PA schools mandate that their students have anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 hours of patient care experience. Even if the school you’re interested in doesn’t require medical experience, having some experience under your belt will certainly give you a boost at getting in. Consider getting into job in the medical field that doesn’t require years of schooling.
There are several jobs where you can get started with very little training. These jobs include being a medical assistant, emergency room technician or even a surgical technician.
Volunteering, especially at hospitals or long term care facilities, is a great way to get out there and show that this is what you want to do.
It’ll look great on your application because it’ll make you stand out from the other people applying. Some ways you can volunteer include candy striping, visiting cancer wards, transferring patients in the hospital, or even helping at blood drives.
You can tell when someone cares about what they are doing and someone who is doing it because they “have to.” Don’t be one of those people.
When you put effort into your volunteer work and you show your supervisors that you love what you do, they won’t hesitate to provide you with a glowing recommendation letter—a letter that will help your chances of being accepted in a school.
The sad fact of PA school is that not everyone is going to get in. You can increase your odds by applying to multiple schools. If you don’t have many obligations and relocation is a possibility, apply to schools in other states.
Just remember that you should look at the schools requirements before applying so you aren’t wasting your time on a school whose requirements you do not meet.
Anything that is worth having or doing cannot be rushed. That particularly goes with your application to PA school. You are an adult who is interested in taking part in program that will change the rest of your life. Put some effort into it!
Check and re-check the application for neatness, accuracy, and proper grammar and spelling. You can ask someone like your school counselor or a friend who is already a PA to look it over for you. Be sure that you include transcripts and letters of recommendation as well.
You have no idea how many people screw up their chances to interview for a PA school simply because they didn’t respond to the invitation to interview as soon as they receive said notification. Even if you don’t want to go, you should still decline the offer in a timely (read: immediate) manner.
Just like your application, you want to take your interview seriously. Do some research on the school to figure out why you fit in with the school. Much like interviewing for a job that you want, you want to show the interviewer that you actually want to go there and you know a little bit about the program, the history, and what makes them appealing to you.
Like interviewing for a job, you want to send the school’s where you have interviewed a thank you note. You’re thanking them for considering your application, taking time out of their busy day to meet with you, and telling them that it was a pleasure to chat.
Also, if you do get accepted into a school, it’s nice to send notifications to schools you haven’t heard back from that you received admission to another school (if the school you wanted to get into accepted you). Although this isn’t necessary, it’s still good form, in our opinion.