I'm writing this to help prospective PA applicants with their journey applying to PA schools. 2 years later, I can say it was not easy and it's hard to draw generalizations on school admission practices because every school is different. Here are the facts on my admissions process to help you with yours:
3.45 UGPA from a state school, BS in Biology
3.45 GGPA from a private school, MS in Biotechnology
1200 hours HCE as a CNA (800 at an assisted living facility in 2007 and 400 from a TBI rehab in 2015)
GRE V 81%; Q 68%; W 56%
Lots of undergraduate research in a biology lab, presented a poster at a national conference.
Spent 4 years working as an analyst at a healthcare consulting firm (it was a desk job, my bread and butter because there is no f*cking way I can live above poverty level as a CNA in New York City), gave me lots of knowledge in the Affordable Care Act
60 hours shadowing ER MDs and PAs
Applied to 4 schools. Applications submitted late in the cycle, around July-September. Invited to interview at one, and eventually rejected by all.
Between this cycle and the next, I worked to improve my profile. I retook the GRE, shadowed PAs, gained 400 more HCE hours, took two "optional" prerequisite classes at a local college.
Now that I knew how important rolling admissions are, I applied to 22 schools very early in the cycle, with the first application to Tufts in June (Side note: why do so many schools utilize rolling admissions to choose candidates for such an important healthcare professional? Why not pool together all the applications and pick the best rather than the quickest?). The rest were submitted by July with the following results:
All things equal, I have no idea why some higher tier schools have invited me to interview while some lower tier schools blatantly reject me. Schools seem to have widely different standards in the kind of students they're looking for.
Some schools don't acknowledge receipt of the application until weeks or months later, and some schools never do so at all. Frustrating, since we drop over $100 per school (~$60 application fee, $27 to send GRE scores, ~$35 for supplemental application, $25 CASPA fee to send application), the least they can do is confirm receipt.
Although I was invited to several interviews, my chances of admission were not equal with others being interviewed. For example, by the time I interviewed at Tufts, only 10 / 40 seats were left so we were down to the wire. At another school, I was at the first interview session so seats were pretty much wide open. A lot of schools assign an interview date, but if given the option, sign up for the earlier interview sessions to have a better shot at admission.
I found that after interviewing at a couple of schools, the interview questions are pretty much the same (e.g. Why do you want to go this school? Why do you want to be a PA? What are some challenges you've come across while pursing this career?) and my responses got better with practice. Rarely were there any unusual questions. I researched each school thoroughly prior to the interview, found something interesting to talk about about myself, such as a relevant interest. The interviewers need a "wow factor" to remember you by. I would also be chatty with other candidates to show I'm outgoing and friendly.
My schools let me know within a week or two if I had a positive decision
My schools took a long time (weeks or months) to communicate a rejection or waitlist decision
Applying to PA school was hard, there is no tried and true formula to get in and numbers alone do not seem to matter. Standards are high for the obvious reasons. However, improving my stats over the two application cycles seem to have made a difference, but which stats had the biggest effect are unclear. Schools also seem to have different standards across the board. I would even go as far as to say some schools have unfair admissions practices that put applicants on an unequal playing field.
I accepted a seat at one of the two schools in which I was admitted.
I hope this helps you plan out your application plan. I know the wait is grueling and applying costs a lot of money but give it your best and it will be worth it. Happy to answer any questions.