In the long term: Work on developing yourself, achieving good grades in school, expanding your experiences both in and outside the classroom and building confidence in various soft skills (communications, leadership, etc.). I expand on this in the answer to #4 (see below). Sandy Vuong, a current McMaster PA student has a few articles on how to make the most of your pre-PA education.
In the short term: I truly believe the more informed, and well-researched you are, the more confidence you will have going into the admissions process. My preparation for PA school took place over a series of months and I utilized that time to research as much as I could. If you plan on applying to the PA program soon (within the next couple of weeks/months), here are a few guidelines to prepare:
1. Research the PA profession as much as you can.
What is a PA? Learn about their scope of practice, settings they practice in, history/origins of the profession, and some of the barriers to practice they may have. Read up on the supervising physician/physician assistant relationship. Better yet, speak with a PA, but be sure to ask questions of which answers are readily found by doing a simple google search.
2. Go to Canadian PA Education Sites, PA Forums and Blogs to learn the ins & outs of applying to PA school
Scavenging PA forums (PhysicianAssistantForum.com, Canadian Pre-PA Student Network, and PreMed101) for PA school application/interview advice was probably one of the most helpful things I did. Learning what other successful PA candidates did to get in helped guide my own preparation and gave me the confidence going into the application process. I recommend reading articles like “PA Student Essentials: Tips/Tricks from a Pre-PA Student“, or “Trust Me, I’m a PA Student: CASPA Personal Narrative Tips” which gives tips on obtaining references, and how not to feel intimidated during the interview process. It doesn’t matter if these are American resources either, a lot of the same advice applies. You can Google “Pre-PA Student Tips” or “PA school admission tips for more articles.
McMaster PA Program website has a whole section dedicated to “Pre-PA Students”, including an article written by Irene C. titled “Tips for Applying!”
3. Learn about the Canadian Health Care System.
An important part of PA education and practicing as a PA is knowing the system and values of that system in which you are going to work. What are the four pillars of the health care system? How are ethical decisions made? Read up on issues in Canadian/provincial health care system, and you can better understand the role in which PAs may fit.
4. Write a strong supplementary application.
Before admissions can meet you face to face for an interview, the only impression they have of you (apart from GPA, references if applicable) is how well you can convey your strengths in a written supplementary application. Although it is important that you demonstrate an understanding of the PA role, simply regurgitating what PAs do is not enough – you must personalize your answers and highlight what strengths you would bring to the PA Education Program and Profession. Take the time to write a well-articulated answer. As obvious as this may seem: check for typos, grammatical errors and have friends, family, mentors, counsellors, colleagues proofread your answer and give feedback.
5. Practice and prepare for the Interview
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