From Anne: I met Christian a while back on an online community. We stayed in touch and it was fascinating to learn she had decided to become a PA! Christian had some health care experience prior to applying to American PA schools. Here Christian outlines her experience with the American PA school system, and I insert (here and there) some commentary about the difference in the Canadian system.
How I heard about the PA profession
I originally wanted to go to medical school, but after my first semester of Freshman year at UGA, I quickly realized that I did not want to spend the next 10 years of my life studying to have a career in health-care. I bounced between wanting to go to nursing school and then going to NP school, switching my biology major to a dietetics major, or aiming to become a physical therapist.
My father was actually the one who told me about the PA profession when he realized that I was struggling with what I wanted to do with my future life. He told me that several physicians he met through his career in the US Military (who originally heard that I wanted to go to medical school), advised him to tell me to look into the PA Profession. After our conversation, I did some research. After seeing that most programs were only about 2 years in length, that demand for PAs in health-care was just increasing, and that the PA training allowed them to be flexible in where they practiced, I decided that the PA profession was perfect for me. Thus, here I am!
How I decided what PA schools apply to
I knew I wanted to stay close to home and didn’t want to have an incredible amount of loans to pay off after graduation, so my FIRST cycle I only applied to 3 schools: Augusta University (in-state tuition), Emory University, and the University of Florida. My second cycle I decided to not limit myself, but stay within the southeast. I applied to Trevecca in Nashville, TN, UAB in Birmingham, AL, Augusta University again, Mercer University in Atlanta, GA, and Wake-Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.
- Augusta University: Cheapest, close to home
- Trevecca University: Somewhat close to home, in Nashville
- University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB): Close to home, qualified for AL in-state tuition, surgically focused program, well known medical community
- Wake-Forest University: Pretty campus, well known medical community
My Preparation for the PA Applications Process
To be honest, I was not very prepared. A lot of undergraduate programs these days have “Pre-PA” as a major like “Pre-Med,” but I did not have that luxury when I was in college. I had to figure a lot of it out myself and it was a struggle to remain on top of different deadlines, pre-req requirements, and volunteer/clinic hours.
I had an excel spreadsheet that listed the schools and their requirements for applying. I checked off each as I completed each one for each school, as many programs have differing deadlines and differing requirements. I needed a place where it was all organized in one location so I wouldn’t confuse myself!
Some programs require a secondary application, so make sure you don’t miss these!
My experience with the PA admission interviews
I only went to 1 interview – at UAB. I did receive interview invites to Trevecca and Mercer; however, I heard about my acceptance to UAB not long after I received those interview invites. I knew UAB was the perfect program fit for me, so I withdrew my applications from Trevecca and Mercer so that another deserving candidate would have the opportunity.
I was very nervous, but it was not as intimidating as I expected it to be. I often heard that if you got an invite, the admission directors like you on paper and want to ensure your personality matches well with their program and other potential classmates. I felt this way at UAB.
At UAB it was a day long event: Orientation first thing in the morning, where we learned about the program and what it has to offer. Then we were split into groups, where we had a tour of the campus and facilities, wrote an essay on a medical ethics question, and had 2 individual interviews (one academic and one general).
I cannot speak for other program interviews and this is solely based on my personal experience at UAB. I have heard other programs be quite intimidating and utilize multi-mini interviews as well as group interviews. So do some research on the interview process of the programs you’re applying to! Physicianassistantforums.com is a great resource.
What made me stand out on applications
I think it was my honesty. On paper school wise I looked like any other applicant, but I was honest about some downfalls in undergrad. I tried to 100% transparent when answering questions, but twisted any negativity into a positive.
My PA Classmates
A lot of my classmates went the traditional route with undergrad. Many are from the state of Alabama and many are from Florida. A lot of us went to large state public schools while some went to smaller community colleges. Several have families and several are taking this route for their second career. We have 77 people in our class and I would say the average age is around 26-27 years old. It is dominated by females.
Preparation once I started PA school
I relaxed and enjoyed my time with my family as much as possible because I knew the next two years would be spent in my room studying away and freedom would be limited! I also continued to work at my job at the local running store.
Tips for Pre-PA Students looking to apply to PA school
Be honest, assertive and true to yourself. Work hard, be kind and stay humble and you’ll get where you want to get. Study hard, but don’t sell your soul to academics. Learn a healthy school/work life balance and cherish each moment you have to learn and to play! Enjoy the process. You’ll get to where you want to be eventually 🙂 Volunteer, take extra courses, try to get a job in a hospital. Show you care through actions.
Canadian students can (and have) successfully applied to American PA schools. Once you graduate from an American PA- school and successfully complete the PANCE exam, you are then Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C). PA-Cs are able to practice in Canada.
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