How important is the science GPA when looking at potential students, and, if not provided online, what is the minimum or recommended science GPA for students to have? Typically, the medical core or prerequisite GPA can sometimes paint a more accurate picture of the applicant’s performance in the sciences. At least for our program, we use an applicant’s performance in prerequisite courses, especially in the upper level Biologies and Chemistries, to “predict” if the student would be able to handle the demanding and rigorous PA curriculum. Our program, along with most programs, recommends an applicant have at least a 3.2 or higher prerequisite GPA to be competitive with the applicant pool. You will find the average prerequisite GPA for most programs to be between 3.4-3.6.
What kind of clinical experience is preferred, including those from the list of suggestions online? On average, most of our (and other programs) incoming students will have a certification as a certified nursing assistant (C.N.A), EMT/Paramedic, medical assistant, physical therapy assistant, or phlebotomist. We would prefer to see applicants get paid for the hours, but have had many students accumulate all 500 hours through shadowing a PA and physician. It is important to understand that not all programs accept shadowing as a way to fulfill their clinical experience hours, but you will see that many will recommend shadowing in addition to paid hours. Shadowing is a great way for applicants to get a feel of the role of the PA within the medical team and also help applicants understand what they are getting into. I think most programs would say that the purpose of clinical experience is exactly for the reasons listed above. Acceptable hours for any program should be on their website.
Is research recommended for hopeful applicants, or is clinical experience the only thing needed? Research is not something our program puts a lot of emphasis on simply because the role of the PA is not really research driven. That being said, there are many PAs who contribute to medical research, but our program’s goal is to produce the best mid-level providers through clinical relevant teaching. This is where quality clinical experience prior to PA school is beneficial. Of course a research background may be useful when completing the graduate research paper that is part of the curriculum, but this can be successfully completed without a strong research background. You may find that many medical programs put more of an emphasis on research more so that PA programs.
Do most students take out loans for tuition? Is there any financial aid available, from the college or from outside of the college? I would estimate that about 95% of our students will finance their tuition, expenses for the program (medical supplies and books), and living expenses through student loans. No PA program will ever encourage students to have an outside job while in PA school and many programs do not allow students to work.
The two most common ways for our students to finance their education and living expenses are through the Federal Unsubsidized Student Loan (formerly known as the Stafford Loan) and the Grad PLUS Loan. Both loans require that the student fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The unsub loan will allow students to borrow up to $20,500 and is not credit based. The Grad PLUS loan allows students to borrow the remainder of the tuition balance, funds for their living expenses and is a credit based loan. The amount students borrow through the Grad PLUS loan to cover living expenses will vary from student to student, but its important students understand financial sacrifices that come with attending PA school is unavoidable.
**This is program specific, but an excellent opportunity for students interested in primary care***Currently, the only scholarship our PA students can apply for through our program is the Expansion of PA Training or EPAT scholarship. This scholarship is for students who are interested in working primary care for at least 5 years upon graduation. Primary care, as defined by the grant, is family medicine, pediatrics, or internal medicine. Students who have been accepted and who have paid their enrollment deposit have the opportunity to apply for the scholarship through an application process. The faculty reviews the applications and essays to determine who has the most financial need, skill set/background for primary care, desire to enter into the field, and who has a strong understanding of the importance of primary care. Students who are selected to receive the scholarship will receive a total of $44,000 towards their tuition.
Unfortunately, outside of the EPAT scholarship there are no other PA scholarships available through our University. Many students do apply for outside scholarships that may be at the local, state, or national level. For example, the 2 most common state and national scholarships incoming students apply for are through the National Health Service Corp. and the Forgivable Education Loans for Service.
Is it common for potential applicants to take time off after undergraduate school to accumulate clinical experience? This is a common question we get every year. We have a wide variety of students who are right out of their undergrad, some who have taken 1-5 years off, and some who are now in the midst of changing their career. We do not give preference to applicants who have taken time off between undergraduate and PA school, but sometimes you can find that “real life” experience may be beneficial in adjusting to PA school and being more prepared for the profession you're entering. We will always stress that applicants should not attend/apply until they feel they are ready. If your preparation requires time off in between graduation and PA school, especially to accumulate clinical experience hours, we would strongly recommend time off.
How would you recommend a potential student prepare for their interview?
· One recommendation I always make to our undergraduate students at Methodist is to consider making an appointment with your career services office on campus to prepare. Many of these offices have opportunities for students to participate in a mock interview. Since many students between the ages of 21-24 usually have never been in a “real” interview, it is important to prepare yourself to effectively and succinctly communicate your thoughts without stumbling over your words or rambling on due to nerves.
· One of the most difficult responses for many students to give is telling the admissions committee about you. Although it seems like it would be an easy topic to talk about, it sometimes is difficult for people to talk about especially under such an intense situation. Be prepared to know your strengths and weaknesses...PS- Being a perfectionist is not a weakness.
· Committee members will throw you questions, at times and on purpose, to ruffle your feathers. It is not meant to be a personal attack on the applicant, but it is meant to see how you handle pressure situations and to see how you react. Be prepared on how to handle questions like that because you will encounter situations such as these throughout the program with instructors and preceptors.
· There may be some questions that eventually lead to a discussion about an emotional time in your life. It is ok to show your emotions, but be able to compose yourself so you do not appear emotionally unstable.
· Do not ramble on in an individual interview. Be able to elaborate, with thought, on questions, but leave room for the admissions committee members to talk.
· Dress professionally. Business attire is always expected.
· Be on time. Being late is the number one sign to a program that you are not respectful of their time and tends to show them that you are not interested.
· Be respectful to EVERYONE associated with the program. Remember applicants are being judged the minute they walk through the door. Interaction with students, faculty and staff are always top priority. These interactions are a way for the committee to judge if you will ultimately “fit in” to the program and is a true sign of how you treat others-it kind of goes along with the whole compassion idea.
· We do not expect every applicant to have a bubbly personality, but we sometimes can get that one applicant who seems “bothered” with the fact they had to interview or interact with others, or they seem completely disengaged from everyone, including the other applicants. Even if you get the feeling the program is not the best fit for you during the interview we do expect applicants to act professional and respectful at all times.
· Our program has group interviews to see how people work as a team.
· Do your homework on the program that you are visiting. As much as we are trying to get a feel for you, it is important to make sure our program is a good fit for you. Prior to the interview I encourage applicants to make sure they know not only about the program, but also about the school to which they are applying and maybe even the health care needs of the surrounding areas. Programs are in different regions for a reason. You may find as you go through the admissions process that the school you thought was your first choice really is not a great fit for you after visiting other programs.
· Have genuine questions prepared for the interview teams, even if you have to ask the same question multiple times. I would not recommend your typical interview questions that you can find on the internet; rather I would recommend you consult with your career services office or even an academic advisor about good questions.
· Finally, know the PA profession and their role within the medical field. It is amazing the number of applicants who say that “PAs do not have to work as hard as physicians and I want to be able to have a life as a medical provider.” We get these comments all the time and it demonstrates to the committee that the applicant really has not done their research. This is where shadowing and asking questions of the PA you are shadowing really is beneficial to your understanding of the profession.
Many students put more work into the application than the interview without realizing your academics get you the interview, and the interview really secures your spot in the program.
What are some of the most common mistakes individuals make when applying?
· Writing a bad personal statement: Be able to communicate in your personal statement that you understand what you are getting into-meaning you understand the role of a PA, how PAs will benefit the health care system, and what experiences (through clinical experience) have lead you to believe that the PA profession is a good fit for you. One common opening sentence for many applicants is something along the lines of “Ever since I was five years old I played with my dad’s doctor’s kit or read my mom’s anatomy book…” We see this so often and to us it does not tell us anything we have not heard before. Be unique. Make sure to have someone else read your statement before you upload it. We see a lot of grammatical and typos in personal statements.
· Find 3 people who can write GOOD letters of recommendation. We realize it is impossible to predict what another person will write on your behalf, but make sure they can elaborate on your skills and potential as a PA. We have some physicians who only write 1 sentence as their letter or many providers do not take the time to review transcripts to ensure their evaluation of the applicant’s intellectual ability is accurate. Our program requires one letter from a professor/advisor and 2 from supervisors within the medical field and another job. Our goal is to see how you are evaluated on your academics and in the clinic-the two components that make up our program. If you lack classroom ability it will be a very difficult road through PA school if you are admitted.
· Being over anxious and, or for lack of a better term, “nagging” programs about your application status. It is important to follow up to make sure GRE scores or transcripts are received, but constant (meaning once a week or several times a month) communication about an application status is a red flag.
· Making sure you meet the requirements for the program to which you are applying. Some applicants do not bother to pay attention to the requirements when they apply and are “shocked” at the fact that they are deficient in coursework or hours. I recommend applicants keep a spreadsheet that outlines the requirements and deadlines for each program to ensure they will be eligible for admission. We never make exceptions for coursework so some people have wasted time and money applying because they do not do their research prior.
· Meeting the selection factors and being realistic about their chances to be granted an interview. Most programs have a minimum recommended overall GPA of 3.0 or higher, prerequisite GPA between 3.2-3.4, clinical experience requirements, and at least a recommended GRE score of 297-300. Some people hope programs make exceptions for their past performance. With the number of PA applicants applying each year, programs, including ours, will take the most competitive applicants based on the selection factors above.
· Finally, apply early. Many people will wait until October through December to start the CASPA application. Each year it opens in mid-April for entry into the next year’s class so it is important to start as early as you can. Many programs have rolling admissions, including ours, so it is first come, first serve.
Edited by paadmissions, 18 June 2012 - 07:09 PM.