A career as a physician assistant is fast growing, dynamic, and highly rewarding, to name a few. U.S. News ranked physician assistant number 2 best healthcare job and number 3 overall best job of 2020 .So, with no surprise, the number of students interested in seeking this career is on the rise making it more and more difficult to gain admissions to a PA program each year. Although students from diverse educational backgrounds and wide array of healthcare experiences are welcome to apply to PA school, there are a set of qualities which differentiate strong applicants apart from average ones!
First, if you are planning to apply to PA school, prepare early! You can do this by finding programs that you want to apply to and reviewing their pre-requisite coursework, health care experience, entrance exam etc. requirements early on. PAEA Program Directory displays an updated list of 2019-2020 participating PA programs along with program requirements and other key information. Research programs that pique your interest by reviewing their mission statement, goals, values, outcomes etc. PAEA program directory is an excellent resource which allows you to browse PA programs in states of interest. After choosing your programs of interest and reviewing their requirements, make sure to complete pre-requisite coursework with A’s and maybe one or two B’s. For pre-requisite courses which you made a C, repeat the course to make an A! This shows your dedication to excellence as well as your ability to master medical-science concepts essential for PA school. Set out to maintain a competitive GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. Take additional coursework in pharmacology, pathophysiology of human disease, human anatomy etc. which will show admissions committee of your capability for mastering rigorous coursework and concepts. Take courses in psychology, medical ethics, communication as these courses add depth to your overall knowledge!
Strong applicants display a robust understanding of the role of a physician assistant as well as self-motivation to continuously expand their clinical knowledge and skills! As an applicant, you can display these critical attributes through direct patient care hours, shadow, and volunteer efforts. Top applicants have over 1000 direct patient care hours in which they were paid through part-time or full-time employment along with certifications in phlebotomy, medical assistant, ER technician, surgical technician etc. Gaining a certification is a great way to enter into a healthcare job and obtain your direct patient care hours. You can become a certified clinical medical assistant in just 8 weeks through eCC fully online certification course designed strictly for pre-health students. Make sure to demonstrate your breadth of experience by highlighting the skills you have developed and how it has strengthened your passion for the profession and patient care. To further your understanding of medical terminology and diagnosis and treatment of disease, obtain additional work as a medical scribe. This is an excellent experience admissions committee loves to see!
Strong applicants not only show skill in their clinical abilities but display traits that are well-rounded and multi-faceted. Volunteering in non-medical related causes such as Habitat for Humanity or Education Reform and Advocacy displays such traits in your application. If you speak multiple languages, have unique talents or interests, or any qualities that set you apart from others, it is important that you make it shine in your application!
In your application essay, write compelling stories of your patient interactions which display your depth of experience, knowledge, and passion. Seek to show qualities of leadership, growth, and clinical maturity through personalized experiences that have shaped your outlook on medicine & strengthened your confidence in becoming a leading physician assistant. Furthermore, your reference letters should be from a science professor, medical provider (MD, PA, NP, DO) which you directly worked with, a physician assistant which you shadowed or worked closely with. Your references should demonstrate enthusiasm & certainty about your abilities to excel in PA school & as a future PA; Additionally, seek out recommendations from people who support you and can highlight your academic strengths, clinical maturity & growth, intellectual capabilities & curiosity, compassion, exceptional patient care abilities etc.