Physician Assistant School Admission –
How to Get into Physician Assistant Programs
First, if you haven’t already done so, make a thorough examination of yourself as to whether you really do want to get into PA school and become a physician assistant. Do you know what becoming a physician assistant entails? Spend a few days, or longer, doing this self examination. Just make sure that becoming a physician assistant is really what you want to do. The following may sound cliché to you, but it is very true: so many people just rush into PA school just because they have not explored all their possible options. It may well be that PA school is best for you. So do take a little time out of your busy schedule to reflect if this is what you would like to do for the rest of your life. There is nothing wrong about being a physician assistant. You may really like it. Just make sure that your temperament and personality fit this type of job and that you know what a typical day of being a physician assistant is like.
Different people are suited to different jobs. You will excel and be happier in a job that suits you more than in one that is molded onto you by society. All jobs are worthy because everyone can make a difference to society in any job. We need ca shiers, people dumping garbage, taxi drivers, computer programmers, etc. In choosing your favorite occupation and excelling in it, you will make your stamp in this world most pronounced.
Second: Carefully read through what your schools of choice prefer and emphasize in terms of their admission policy. Some schools like people who have traveled and seen the world, other schools are more academically oriented, and still other schools like you to have taken certain courses even if they are not listed on their list of prerequisites. In this day and age of internet access, it should be easy to look up this information on the internet without having to browse through manual copies of college catalogues at the student service center. Thoroughly read their website, including as many related links as possible. Another angle of this type of exercise that applicants often neglect is to read the online newsletter for their desired universities, and type in “P.A. school,” “school of PA,” or “PA student” into the site's search engine. It will often bring up useful clues about the university's physician assistant program or PA students.
Third: Once you have decided that you really do want to go into PA school and researched through the pertinent information from PA schools on the top of your wish list, it is at this stage that you can put your creative energies to use. Think about how you can increase YOUR chances of getting into PA school. Come up with innovative ideas of your own. Often, the ideas that we come up with on our own, and not by reading books, become some of the most effective strategies that we develop. However, it is still imperative that you do purchase and thoroughly read through perhaps three or four good books on the topic.
Fourth: Prepare as early as possible. There is no such thing as too early preparation. If you suddenly decide to apply to PA one year before applications are due, then you still have some time to work up a good application (assuming you have all your pre-requisite courses). Ideally, though, the more time between your decision and the application deadline, the better chances you will have of getting accepted. One reason for this is that you will be able to do activities that are more relevant to what your schools of choice want, as mentioned above. The advance notice means that in the back of your mind, you are always thinking about which courses or activities you should engage in that will make you a more competitive applicant or a better physician assistant in the future.
Do take the time to decide on the activities that you would like to engage in, and try to excel in them. Do not try to do too many or overwhelm yourself with them. You only have 24 hours a day. Try to use the law of “Conservation of Energy” because if you use up too much energy these days, you will have much less energy once you do enter PA school or after you graduate from PA school, which will really be your years of arduous effort. Also, as hinted above, don't forget about your prerequisite courses, as these are usually quite firm and must be taken by the time stated by the PA school.
Fifth: Take any standardized tests required at the appropriate time. Do not take these tests too early, as you will be wasting time learning the material by yourself instead of learning it during your lectures. Also, do not decide to take it early just because you are afraid that you may not do well the first time, and may need to repeat it to get a higher score. Again, that is just wasting your time. Similarly, do not take these standardized tests too late, or you will have forgotten much of what you have learned during previous years. Depending on when you apply to PA school, you will have to time when you take your required standardized exams. The most important thing is to be able to make the deadline. In summary, do take it before the deadline to make it for your PA schools of choice, but try to take it only when you are ready for it.
Sixth: Keep your grades high. In the midst of dealing with your extracurricular activities, do not forget to keep your grades as high as possible. Yes, it is true that many people feel that grades are not important determinants to predicting a physician assistant's success. At the same time, though, getting high grades does show determination, intelligence, and willingness to work hard. You can always add an extracurricular activity, or do something to rectify weak extracurriculars. In contrast, once you have taken a course, your transcript is basically set in stone. You can’t change it. That is really the reason to fare as well as possible with respect to grades. Furthermore, getting good grades reflects that you have learned what has been taught, and since you are at school to learn, the better you learn, the better you will be able to function in society. What you learn may not directly relate to your future, but it does indirectly help you.
In conclusion: If PA school and becoming a physician assistant are really what you want, go for it! Don’t be afraid of the competition because often, people say they want to go into PA school and succeed in it, but do not really expend the time necessary to get in or excel once they get in. On the other hand, you will be prepared because you have made up your mind to do the best you can. Do not be deterred of all the other keen students applying because there will always be spot for the determined.
Other topics that should be of interest to you:
How to Write Admission Essays and Personal Statements
How to Get Good Reference Letters and Letters of Recommendation
How to Do Well on Admission Interviews