Third time’s the charm : Getting into PA school

HEY everyone! My name is Jazmine, a first-year PA student at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. After much contemplation, I've decided to create a blog! Here, I'll be able to document my wanderings throughout PA school with a dash and sprinkle of everything else. 

Here is a question I get frequently: Why did it take you 3 times to get into PA school?

Yes, it took me three attempts to get accepted into PA school and what a journey it has been! It was an undulating ebb and flow- some ups and a lot of downs. In retrospect, it all happened for a reason. This year, the PA profession turns 50 years young and I am so happy to celebrate! I simply want to share my experience and to encourage all pre-PAs to keep striving and of course, share why it took me so dang long!

Rewind to 2012, when I shadowed a PA for the very first time. It was my third year of college and I thought pre-med was the path for me. Before this, I thought PA meant personal assistant. Others did too; some people during that time thought I wanted to be a personal assistant. Nothing against personal assistants however, I want to highlight how far the profession has come in a little over 5 years. I say “I’m going to PA school right now” and many people respond with “Oh! Physician assistant!”

Soon after my shadowing experience in 2012, I made the decision to go pre-PA! I shadowed many doctors and nurse practitioners to get a feel for all three professions and I ultimately chose PA because it just fit! I started researching all the programs and made a timeline for myself. I wanted to get in right after I graduate- no breaks, I want this NOW. Nope. It didn’t quite happen like I wanted.

2014: I applied to CASPA, entered in all the grades I ever had, wrote a personal statement about my life and why I wanted to pursue this wonderful profession in under 5,000 characters and rushed my GRE test. I was so eager to start and devoted so much emotional energy into it.

 

Why I didn’t get into PA school cycle #1: I didn’t read the directions and requirements.

 

Yes. Something as simple as reading the requirements - I didn’t do it and it broke my heart when I realized it was something so straightforward. I assumed that my upper division psychology and sociology courses were acceptable for the prerequisites. I called the programs specifically to check and they said, sorry. I had to wait another year and it was all my fault and it sucked. Boo. 

I didn’t let this deter me, in fact- it prompted me to read every single requirement thoroughly and I realized this was a chance to improve on my overall application- to improve myself. I refused to just wait around, I needed more patient care experience hours and needed to retake some courses. And that's what I did.

 

Why I didn’t get into PA school cycle #2: My grades and hours weren’t competitive.

 

I had an overall GPA of 3.1 and maybe 1,000 patient care hours. The bare minimum for some programs. I increased the number of programs that I applied to from 4 to 8 programs. I received one interview that cycle! YES. “Here’s my chance and I’m so excited!”  I felt as though I did great in my interview but a few days after, I was reviewing what I said and I realized I rambled. A lot. A few days after that. I was flat out REJECTED.

I cried. I was so so close and it all looked so promising. How am I going to do this a THIRD time? And what if it doesn’t work out - a fourth time? Should I give up and reevaluate what I want to do? Am I even good enough? UGH. 

Your harshest critic is yourself. And luckily, I surrounded myself with a loving support system. “You got an interview! This means that you look great on paper. Perhaps, prepare better for your interviews. You’re so close!” Many words of encouragement pulled me out of my funk and I continued to improve myself. I reached out to schools and asked for feedback and worked on my weak points.

 

Third time’s the charm: Make your comeback stronger than your setback!

 

My third cycle, I increased all my hours in shadowing, patient care experience, and volunteering. I retook all my Cs and made them As. I attended PA conferences to comprehend current issues affecting PAs in California. I reached out to current PA students and medical students and coordinated many mock interviews. I audited PA classes in the area and attended more info sessions. I was SEASONED and well-versed this THIRD time around.

To my surprise, I was offered 5 interviews out of the 12 programs I applied to! Year after year, rejection after rejection- it was super refreshing to see these emails. Going into interviews this time around, I felt as if I knew myself better. I had more experience under my belt and felt comfortable in telling others my story. I was then blessed with 3 acceptances and I happily accepted.

 

Moral of my journey: It’s not a matter of IF you’ll get into PA school, it’s a matter of WHEN.

 

Yeah, it got really dark at times and I questioned my worth during those moments but it’s ultimately how you bounce back after the fact. There is always room for improvement. And quite honestly, if I didn’t make it in this time around- I would’ve tried a FOURTH time. Because I simply want to be a PA that bad.

 

You got this.

Jazmine