Lorae.the.PA : Applying to PA School - Six Tips to Standing Out
It’s no surprise that getting into PA school gets increasingly competitive every year. The profession is still relatively young and continues to grow. High job satisfaction, lateral mobility, plenty of job opportunity, and more entice those of us who are interested in pursuing medicine. One of the hardest parts is just getting in!
Applicants usually have the biggest advantage when they decide on the PA profession years before it comes time to apply. This blog post is mainly aimed at this population – maybe you are still in high school or just started college. Maybe you are planning a career change in the future. Either way, here are some tips you can keep in mind when building your application and preparing for graduate school. They are in no particular order, and I think they are all equally important!
1. Apply (and interview) early.
This is something you can do right off the bat that will impress admission committees. Why? Applying as soon as you can demonstrates your organization and preparedness for the application cycle. It shows you knew what you were getting into and how to ready yourself for it – qualities that directly apply to starting PA school. Even more than that, you are standing out because you’re being compared to fewer applicants.
2. Volunteer – a lot.
Dedicating your time to something is intrinsically valuable because it’s something you can’t get back. I feel like this is something that tends to get put on the back burner because it’s not always a requirement. Pre-PA students are understandably busy racking up clinical hours, shadowing hours, and putting in the study time necessary to secure a competitive GPA. And that’s not even getting into extracurriculars, holding jobs, or having a family (if you’re at that stage of life)!
Each one of you pre-PAs can easily say that you don’t have time to volunteer. It’s true – you probably don’t. That’s why volunteering, especially a lot of volunteering, is so impressive. I encourage applicants to accrue as many hours as possible both in and outside of medicine. For example, I had 3,000 hours when I applied – half of which were clinical, and the other half were as a college men’s basketball team manager. Weird, but I stood out!
3. Go beyond just appearing well-rounded.
Sure, you can volunteer for six hours in one place, ten hours in another. Do research for three months, maybe work a job for six months, etc. Essentially, you can dabble in a bunch of different areas in an attempt to show you have multiple interests and strengths.
Here’s the thing. You can spread yourself out like that, and it may technically portray you as being “well-rounded” in a sense, but it doesn’t convince admissions committees that you have a true passion outside of medicine. It just kind of shows you bouncing around from one thing to another to cover all your bases, for lack of a better phrase. There’s nothing wrong with doing that! My recommendation is to choose one or two of those things and stick to it – preferably outside of medicine. Passion often reveals itself through dedication. It makes you more memorable and interesting as an applicant.
4. Seek out unique opportunities and positions.
This sounds vague and pretty obvious, but keep your eyes and ears open. And yes, this includes things that might be completely unrelated to medicine. I recently put up an Instagram post on an unforgettable and unique study abroad program that I went on called Semester at Sea and that was my pursuit of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Luckily, there are endless ways to accomplish this – you just have to be open to it! You never know how your experiences will come back to benefit you as a PA student or even as a person in general.
5. Demonstrate different forms of leadership.
Different forms? Yes, there are different ways to lead people! This isn’t a post on leadership (I’ll bet there are plenty of TED talks out there to watch about the topic, though). Being a leader is a powerful asset, but showing that you are a dynamic and flexible one is even more important. Your leadership style often changes depending on the setting and team you are working with.
So, as you prepare to apply for PA school, seek out multiple leadership roles. You will undoubtedly be asked about your leadership experiences and styles during the application process, whether through essays or during your interview. Be able to speak about the specific things you learned about your leadership abilities from these different experiences.
6. Write a powerful personal statement.
I had to include this one! Remember, simply writing your personal statement won’t make you stand out to the admissions committees. This is your only opportunity to write whatever you want about yourself – so make it count, and make it stand out! For more details on writing your personal statement, check out my YouTube video here.
Questions? Check out my Instagram page @lorae.the.pa and send me an email or a message! I know Jazmine’s inbox is always open, too. 😊