A HELPFUL ARTICLE
Everything You Need to Know BEFORE Applying to PA School
Starting out on your journey as a Pre-PA can be daunting & I am here to help you with everything you need to know before applying to PA School. I still remember the day I decided I wanted to become a PA and I had no idea where to start when it came to prerequisites, gaining clinical experience or even the application process. As the first one in my family to enter the medical field, I was exploring unknown territory and had little guidance. I was living alone in my early 20s, broke, working 2 jobs and taking classes to try and get it all done before application season. I starting looking at requirements on CASPA and thought OH MY GOD this application is like trying to play jenga when you’re drunk. So many pieces of information, different schools with different requirements, how could I not miss a piece and knock over the tower. How I wished I had someone to counsel me on where to start so I was not completely overwhelmed. Now that I survived this process and am spending more time with PA students, I decided I wanted to be this person for YOU! I have made it part of my mission to guide you through the stressful Pre-PA process and give you my take on the essentials you need to know BEFORE applying to PA school.
First things first, you better know the difference between a Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA), and a Medical Doctor (MD) before applying.
I think we can all safely say we know a PA is different from MD, but do you know the distinctions between an NP and PA? This is one question you will hear A LOT as a PA and future PA, so here is the quick skinny on the details.
The truth of the matter is, you must have patient care experience to get into PA school. Why? Because it is a 2 year program not a 4 year program like medical school. You get your experience BEFORE hand to know how to best care for patients when you do become a PA. About 80% of applicants that get accepted have worked in healthcare prior to applying to PA school, and most will have about 3 years of experience. If you just read that and freaked out..DONT!! Because about 35% have less than a year of experience..like I did. With that being said getting this experience is not always easy. Some schools are very specific about what type of work is considered “direct patient contact”. You also could spend a fortune on programs to get your experience rather than focusing on the end goal. The good news is you can earn that back while working to get your experience, but you will have a lot more money to fly out of your pockets during the application process, so here are my picks for obtaining clinical experience for $1000 or less.
And here are some links to learn more about each one!
Find your shadow.
Identifying a PA that would be willing to let you shadow can seem like an insurmountable task. Plus, if you are like me, you probably feel annoying asking. I can tell you that as a practicing PA, I am NEVER annoyed by this request. And if you really want to get into PA school, you will need to get over yourself and get out there!! Here are my recommendations for finding a Shadowing Opportunity NEAR YOU:
- Local, Regional and State PA chapters are excellent resources. They often have a list of PAs willing to take a pre-PA student
- Research local MD offices and hospitals in your area to see if they have practicing PAs..Hell, walk into an urgent care or ER and you are sure to find one in there! Be resourceful.
- Dig into your extended family and friends for resources..someone has got to know a PA!!
- SOCIAL MEDIA..What an amazing resource to look for shadowing opportunities. The PA community on Instagram is amazing (if you don’t follow me there..GO NOW!)
Resources and the Damn GRE.
You could go crazy and buy every book on amazon, but you really want to focus on resources that will guide you through each step of the process from personal statements to interviews. As for the GRE, this test was the absolute bain of my existence. I am generally NOT a good standardized test taker. PSAT, SAT..not my forte. But in order to get to my goal to become a PA, it had to be done. I did not take a course but there are certainly ones out there you can take if you prefer. I used GRE study books to give me tips and just did tons and tons of questions until I got better. In the end, my score was average, but good enough to get the job done. Here are some great resources for conquering this boring exam and some amazing books to help you on your journey. This PDF of the image below has all the clickable links directly to each book on Amazon. Go prime that baby!! My Picks for Best Books for Guidance for Pre-PAs_ (1)
Get Organized Early for the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).
Do yourself a favor and check out the CASPA quick start guide. It gives you a timeline to keep your application process on track. Also, make yourself an excel spreadsheet or written list of schools that you are applying to and see what each requires. You can then check off each thing on the list as you go along. If you are like me I love to check boxes!!! This process can seem overwhelming so if you start organized and stick to the timeline, you will feel more at ease. https://help.liaisonedu.com/CASPA_Applicant_Help_Center
Take care of YOU.
This process can be extremely stressful. With all the prerequisites, hours, jobs, money, it is SO easy to neglect your health and fitness. You can come up with every single excuse not to exercise, not to eat that burger, grab the quick bag of doritos..trust me, I did too. But I wish I would have had someone tell me back then how important starting a daily fitness routine and eating healthy would be in reducing stress, improving energy and staying focused. I wish I had started reading personal development back then to give me confidence and improve my mindset. What you do for yourself is as important as what you do to get into PA school. I did not have these resources back then, but I do have it NOW, and I want to share it with YOU…….. I am introducing, The Pa Posse!!
Be sure to check out my newest program to help Pre-PAs, PA Students, & Practicing PAs navigate their way through their goals at The PA Posse!