Applying to PA School

Sitting in an airport terminal, almost 1,000 miles away from home, I felt like a total failure…

I had just completed my first physician assistant school interview, and to say it went poorly, is a massive understatement.

I had eagerly started prepping for the process over summer, with applications to 16 physician assistant schools. It was now fall of 2013 and my application process to PA school was in full swing.

But, little did I know, after every interview, I kept making mistakes which further impacted my ability to interview successfully.

At the time, I was working 40 hours a week as an environmental laboratory technician, for an environmental chemistry firm. It might sound fancy, but in reality I was simply testing water samples for fecal material…

All. Day. Long.

It was unsustainable, and I hated it, but my interview performance (which was horrific), had me pondering the idea of a permanent position.

What if I didn’t get in to PA school? What if all of my interviews end with the same embarrassing result?


My First PA School Interview

My first PA school interview, has stuck with me all these years, because it is one of the most monumental, and epic failures, I’ve had in my adult life.

I still remember every detail, specifically one question from the panel, that struck me like a ton of bricks:

“What if we told you that in our experience, students from small liberal art schools, that we’ve never heard of, tend not to do well in our program, and that at best, you would be in the bottom one-third of our class?”

It stings my fingers to even type that question out.

Wasn’t it icy?

I still to this day do not know how I responded. I can recall a small amount of rage, disgust, and shame, but I’m not quite sure how I rebutted the question.

Spending time in the airport after the interview, and on the six hour plane ride home, provided insight to what I should have said – but the failure had already occurred.

The remainder of the interview was dismal and drab.

It wasn’t until long after, when the interviews were over, and the acceptance letters had been mailed, that I realized their tactic.

He was trying to rattle me. He wanted to see how I would respond under pressure. He wanted me to defend my college, life, and professional accomplishments.

It was no different from the patients I would see as an EMT, who also wanted to rattle me. The only difference, during my interview, was that I was unprepared, and failed.

Obviously, I would not be writing these articles, if I didn’t get into a physician assistant program.


What I Learned After my Interview

So, after the utter failure and embarrassment was over, I picked myself back up, and did what any pre-pa student would do:

I spent the next week reviewing every aspect of the interview process, and prepped like a mad man for questions, no matter how weird, awkward, mean, and/or odd. I busted my butt and was accepted into PA school.

The point here is that sometimes, in order to succeed, we have to fail. Sometimes that failure has to be really spectacular for us to wake up.

That interview made me realize how poorly prepared I had been for the interview process.

When I looked back on my application, I found other failures. For example, I applied to more schools than I should have. I wasted money on schools I would have never gone to in a million years.

I applied to schools whose deadlines had passed.

Heck, I’m not proud of this, but I even applied to a school that required Spanish, even though I didn’t know a single word.

I’m writing this article not to review my own failures, but to educate others about the PA school application process.

By educating you about the process, my hope, is that you’ll end up making much fewer mistakes. 

We’ve compiled the most requested statistics, for over 5,000 successfully accepted PA students, using data from the PAEA. Specifically you’ll learn:

  • Average age of acceptance
  • The most common undergraduate degrees
  • Average GPA for those accepted
  • Prior work experience
  • Years of health care experience


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