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Choosing between two acceptance offers: How to chose the right fit?

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Hi All, 


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! 

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Yep. Always go with the cheaper one.


When I went for my masters in OTR (few years ago before I decided I want to do PA), I thought schools mattered. I had high grades, and got accepted into a few OTR programs.


I talked to many people, many OTRs, many PTs, etc. and came to a simple conclusion:


97% of jobs don't care where you went to school as long as your school is accredited and you went on to get your certification/licese. Seriously. I chose the cheap one with a weaker reputation, and before I graduated, had over 7 job offers, 5 of which paid at or above the national average. Granted, it helped I was a male and men only make up 8% of OT, but the point stands. Jobs couldn't really care less where you went to school as long as it's accredited. Seriously.

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It seems to me that program 2 is better. Even though the academic probation status doesn't seem to affect you, it does say that the program might not be preparing their students sufficiently. If you want to mold yourself to become the best PA you can become and really ace the PANCE, I'd choose program 2. I'm also the type of student that really like challenging myself.


But I do understand your situation; i think community is very important.  

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Just some things to think about...

--I'm not sure how a larger class size and having clinicals scattered across west Texas makes you feel like there will be better "community."

--As for rigor, any PA school that is worth tuition will require studying more than you ever have before. 98% pass rate is nothing to scoff at.

--#1 might not be as cheap as you think if you are traveling for clinical or paying for housing. 

Texas has great PA schools, you will be fine either way, just pick the one that feels right.

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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. 


Please don't let this be the reason you choose one program over another. For every seat in that program, they probably got a dozen applications. They only offered admission to the most qualified of those applicants. At most schools, many, many people who would probably be successful don't get in simply because there isn't enough room. You were accepted. So, the people who run the program believe you'll be successful. And they're right.


If you like the other program better, then by all means go there. But don't avoid this one just because you think it'll be tougher. If you didn't have what it takes, we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place.


Congratulations, and best of luck. 

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If I had to choose between a school that was on academic probation, and one that wasnt it would be a no brainer. I'm not saying that school is all bad, or that the you'll be an inferior PA if you go to that school over school B; but it would make me hesitate. I just looked, and of the 222 schools listed by the PAEA (not all are accredited yet) there are only 8 that are on probation. To me that means that the accreditation board found some things that were pretty serious. If it were me, and I was dead set on going to that school, I'd return there and make them sell me the school. Find out exactly why they're on probation, and what they are actively doing to correct those problems. I'd also try to talk to the students in that program and see what they think some of the weaknesses are and if they think those will be fixed by the time you're there. 

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Thank you to everyone who replied. I made my decision and am trying not to second-guess or "what-if". I decided to go with Program 2. I tried to let go of the nerves and intimidation (I didn't work this hard to take the "easier" road out), and chose the program with stronger clinical placement, preferred geographical location, and smaller class size with demographics that are most similar to myself. 

Now T-minus 6 months until classes start! :)

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I know OP made his choice, but I want to chime in on the probation thing in case someone else uses this thread.  It really matters WHY a school is on probation.  One that I know of was on probation purely due to a lack of documentation.  The schools was teaching everything it was supposed to, students were learning everything and passing PANCE, there was just a flaw in the schools recording process to essentially 'prove' this.  We say in the lab 'if it isn't written down, it didn't happen'.  So really, the school took the steps it needed to fix the problem, but there really wasn't ever a question of the program being inferior to others.


Now, if the school is on probation for something bigger, like not teaching everything they should, then yes, definitely avoid it.  They may fix it, but I don't want to be the guinea pig while they try to figure it out.  

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Honestly I am in the same boat right now choosing between my top two schools. I sat down and made a pros and cons list for both. However, after much consideration I always knew my heart was leaning towards one school over the other. Go with your gut and you won't regret it.


Sent from my SM-G900T using Tapatalk



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