After my two interviews this past month, I am finding myself in the situation of having to choose between two programs: it's an incredible opportunity and a dream to even get a choice, I realize, but I'm also really having a hard time because there are definite benefits and drawbacks to each program.
I'm trying to figure out 1) what matters MOST in determining which program to pick and 2) which program will ultimately help me get the best job as a new grad. I would also like to give myself the best chance to succeed and have the best quality of life as a student along the way. I'm in Texas and both programs are in-state.
Both programs: Both have a very high PANCE pass rate- 98% and 100% respectively. Both have been established for 15-16 years, and have extensive alumni networks.
Program 1: located in a small city in West Texas, the program is currently not ranked (was ranked at about the 50% mark in previous years). Class size is 60, PA progam is in an entire building by itself and staff/faculty are entirely devoted to PA students. Clinical rotations are in various cities throughout (primarily) West and central Texas, considers student preference. No thesis project, classes seemed really fun, students were a very tight-knit group.
I absolutely loved the environment of this program. The students were all very enthusiastic about making it through the program, there are "buddies"/mentors assigned to you from the class above, and the faculty were supportive and dedicated to making sure everyone succeed. I felt welcomed and could absolutely see myself going there. I was surprised, because I had not anticipated feeling like that at all!!
Benefits: shorter program (27 months), more affordable, have offered me a small scholarship, I loved the impression of the program and student life, they seemed happy!
Biggest drawback: The school is on Academic Probation status until March, when it will most likely be lifted. As a currently admitted student, there is no risk to me- all students matriculating now, or prior to any future decision will graduate from an accredited program and take the PANCE. Not sure how much reputation matters in job placement??
Program 2: Located in a huge city in central Texas, high ranking program (top 20-30 ranking depending on the source), associated with a medical school/health sciences center/hospitals in a medical center. Class size 45, PA program within the health sciences center, shared faculty among disciplines and shared classes with med/PT/OT. Clinical rotations in central texas (San antonio, surrounding areas, some clinical sites in rural Texas areas). Research thesis project, program seems VERY intense and intimidating. Lots of alumni, great reputation.
This program was my first choice going into interviews, but I was honestly intimidated and felt as if I should feel lucky even to be sitting there (much less offered a seat), students emphasized how much time (24/7/365) is devoted to studying, how hard the material was, etc... I felt like the faculty were conveying a similar message. Less of a sense of community than Program 1, for sure.
Benefits: reputation, location in a large urban city, affiliation with a med center, possibly better clinical placement.
Drawbacks: I'm afraid I won't be able to make it through the program. Intimidated by how difficult and rigorous the program seems. Don't want to be miserable, worried about an uber-competitive, 24/7 studying tortuous process. Less affordable, 3 month longer duration of the program, no scholarship offered yet.
So I'm basically choosing between academic reputation and quality of life. I have no idea what to do, I know that 3 months isn't that much in the grand scheme of things, so duration of program isn't that big of a factor.
Location doesn't really matter as much for me, I would be totally fine living in a small town in West Texas. My parents are moving out of the country so I won't really have a "home base" anymore.
How much does academic reputation factor in getting a job out of school? I would love advice from someone who had to weigh program choices.
Basically, the program where I think I would be happiest in terms of quality of life and academic success is not nearly as well-ranked, and has the probationary status flag.
Any advice is very welcome, thank you for reading this giant post! I know wherever I choose, I'm going to be a PA at the end. Living the dream!