How to Prepare for PA School Interviews
Each leg of the PA application process comes with its own unique kind of stress. First, there’s the chaos of preparing and submitting your CASPA. You have to round up letters of recommendation, order and input all of your transcripts, send out GRE scores, perfect your personal statement and keep track of supplementals for each program. After submitting, there’s an eerie quiet that settles over. You patiently wait to hear back from schools… or you check your email repeatedly hoping for news. Same thing, right?
Some schools will get back to you in days, others may take weeks or months. Eventually the madness culminates in an interview invitation, which brings on a new kind of stress. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, but how exactly do you prepare for the next step in the process?
Research interview questions. There are many lists of PA school interview questions that you can find with a quick google search. Some major categories to focus on are behavioral, ethical, situational and standard PA interview questions. There are also books about the interview process with commonly asked questions. A good starting point is “How to Ace the PA School Interview” by Andrew Rodican.
Brainstorm and practice! It was helpful for me to create a working document with a list of the questions I found. I brainstormed with each question in mind and made bullet points of things I could touch on in my answers. Often times these points were in reference to specific situations I found myself in or relevant experiences that I had. I was careful not to write out word for word answers. It’s important to maintain authenticity and some degree of spontaneity in your answers - you want to avoid sounding too rehearsed.
I then made it a point to review my list and practice answering each question out loud. I would do this with friends or colleagues, but oftentimes I would just practice by myself when I was driving in the car.
Research the program. When walking into an interview, you should be well informed about the program and faculty. Scour the website, reach out to alumni or current students and try to become as educated as possible.
There are many things to keep in mind when researching a program, but here are a few things to consider:
- Is there anything unique about the curriculum format?
- How long is the program?
- Is the program well established?
- Is there a cadaver lab? If so, are cadavers prosected or are they dissected by students?
- What kind of opportunities are there for early clinical exposure?
When researching, keep a list of questions that come up. Make notes of interesting aspects about the curriculum and clinical rotations. This will prepare you to ask thoughtful questions on your interview day and will ensure you don’t forget to ask about something that is important to you.
If possible, arrange a mock interview! This is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for the interview process. It’s an excellent way to work through the nerves associated with interviewing and it can help you understand your weak spots. Mock interviews can be done with colleagues, peers, friends, family, professors and even through paid services online. My undergraduate institution offered free mock interviews for students, so be sure to check with your university to see if this is an option.
Stay up to date about the PA profession. Be informed about issues facing the profession. Understand the role that PAs play in healthcare - be sure that you can articulate exactly what a PA does and how that can differ from NPs and physicians. Understand any state specific laws about practice.
Know your application. This is a big one that can easily be overlooked. Know your application inside and out! The details should always be fresh in your mind. Maybe you worked on a research project sophomore year and the details are now long forgotten. You may have written your personal statement months ago, and it’s easy to forget what you chose to emphasize when talking about yourself. Anything you put on your application is free game, and you should be ready to answer questions accordingly.