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Please help me decide! 2 acceptances, pro/con list

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I received my offers only a few days apart, ATSU before Drexel. Before any of my interviews, Drexel was my number one choice. Looking back, I had little basis for this, other than its reputation and I’ve got a friend who is a first student there who rants and raves about it. My first interview was at Drexel, so I was naturally very nervous. I had no clue what to expect, it was an all day experience and I felt brain fried and overwhelmed by the end. I thought I performed horribly during the individual interview (guess not, since I’ve been accepted), but also felt I was cut off with a lot of my answers. Also, certain tour faculty made some bad jokes, which I know were meant to be taken lightheartedly, but with my nerves, left with a tiny bad taste in my mouth. In all honestly, I felt as though Drexel was out of the question and that I would be denied or at best, waitlisted. The acceptance came as a complete shock, but a happy and grateful one. So that’s why I am in the predicament I am now. As far as my interview at ATSU, it was my favorite interview by FAR out of the 6 I’ve been on. It was my 5th interview. Extremely professional and thorough day. They made me really want to go here and I envisioned myself as a student there. It was the “gut feeling” I had hoped I would eventually find. I was sold on ATSU, it was my #1 choice, since I’d already mentally crossed Drexel off my list, but getting the Drexel phone call only a couple of days later, I now couldn’t be more confused. The gut feeling has drifted and I’m 50/50 divided. Truly.


If it helps, cGPA: 3.50, sGPA: 3.43, GRE: 155 Q, 154 V, 4.0 Writing, 3 years HCE part-time (~1850 hours), 250 shadowing hours, 100 volunteer hours.


LOCATION: For background, I’ve got no real geographical ties to either place. Love the heat and opportunity for outdoor/nature activities in AZ, but also love the city life of Drexel. I know that’s a little contradictory, but I could see myself in either place. I’m from the Midwest and as each year passes, I find myself becoming less tolerant of the unbearable cold weather. Philly wouldn’t be much of a change in that aspect. But, I fully understand that I’ll be locked inside a library 24/7 and won’t have much time for exploring in either place. But at least I’ll want to look out the window and be happy.


With that…ROTATIONS:


Drexel: First year in Philly, second year maybe in Philly and surrounding area, but I know a current student who is just starting their 2nd year and has rotations in PA, MI, NY, and SD…and is expected to pick up everything and move every 6 weeks. I know this is not unusual for a lot of programs)

ATSU: First year in AZ, second year either in the surrounding Phoenix area (no relocation at all), OR relocate for the FULL year to a Community Health Center either in CA, WI, or GA. Less moving around. They are expanding their rotations, but this is a concern seeing as they were on probation for issues with this in the past.



Drexel: Attention to the underserved, rather general and consistent with most other programs across the nation. Liked it, great.

ATSU: Entire emphasis on serving the underserved, and practicing with a holistic approach and incorporation of patient mind, body, and spirit. I love this aspect and am sincerely drawn to underserved populations, but am weary in that I’ve never practiced as a PA in an underserved setting before. Of course, I’m not writing a contract selling my life to the underserved by going here, but you get the point.


RANKING: According to US News 2014…

Drexel: 13

ATSU: 40



Drexel: Didn’t find a whole lot of difference between Drexel and ATSU in this department, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Drexel encourages self-directed learning, but does give a lot of exams to keep the student current and in check. They will really prepare me to be a graduate level, professional thinker. My friend in the program said that the class is broken up for smaller group learning, and enjoys that.

ATSU: A lot of emphasis on out-of-seat and self-directed learning too, which I like. They mix it up with group work, different modules, etc. This would keep me focused and eager to learn instead of sitting in a chair, looking at a board for 8 hours a day. What really caught my attention is that on interview day, current students told us they rarely had sit down, formal exams, but instead were tested in other ways. I trust that I will be prepared for the PANCE at either school, based on percentages.


COMPETITION: This is what I’ve gathered from my interview, talking with current students at both, and from what I’ve read. Obviously, in any program, there are going to be very competitive students and those who are not. I can associate and study with whomever I choose. Probably biased though.

Drexel: More cut throat and competition between students.

ATSU: More encouraging environment.



Drexel: HUGE HUGE HUGE. Hahnemann Hospital. This will be potentially life changing, with all of the doors this opportunity may open for me, the connections I will make, etc.

ATSU: No hospital affiliation. But is affiliated with other programs within Arizona School of Health Sciences. Doubt that affects much though.



Drexel: One of the nation’s oldest programs. That means something with regards to the type of PAs they produce.

ATSU: ASHS began in 1995, but moved to Mesa, AZ in 2001. So, it’s relatively new. BUT, home of the world’s first osteopathic medical school.


CADAVER LAB: Of minimal importance to me. I took a full dissection cadaver lab in undergrad along site medical students. I know it’s not the same training as PA school, but at least I’ve had exposure.

Drexel: No dissections. Limited access to cadavers. Lab work mostly done virtually.

ATSU: Use human cadavers during the first year as a lab component to go along with anatomy. There is dissection.



Drexel: Not a whole lot. You can go over to the hospital and there is a lot of helpful staff willing to teach you things, but this is really reserved for second year.

ATSU: Not a whole lot, again. But, 3x each term, there are great opportunities to clinical experiences in clinics, medical examiner offices, fire department, surgery, community health centers, etc.


Factors that are also less significant in my decision making process:

Cost: ATSU is more expensive tuition-wise, but living in Philly will hike up the costs. Both are relatively similar.

Class Size: Drexel ~80, ATSU ~70. Similar.

Grading: Drexel 71.5%, ATSU 70%. Trust me, I am not trying to just slip by and get the minimum grade possible during PA school. I take a lot of pride in my work, but do not gauge my eyes out when I don’t get 100%. I also understand that the PANCE is based on all of this info I’m learning during that didactic year, so I need to thoroughly know and retain the information. Regardless, there isn’t much difference between the two.

PANCE: I hate that everyone emphasizes this so much. I’m going to pass the PANCE wherever I go. They’re both right around the national average. I’ll be okay.

Length: Drexel 27, ATSU 26

Simulations: Both have great, new, state-of-the-art simulation labs.

Electives: I’m not basing this choice on this.



Drexel: I’ve heard and read that their attrition rates are super high. That the class will start out with 80 students and lose 15 due to failing anatomy. Or those students have the choice of waiting a year to retake anatomy and end up on a 3-year track. I know I cannot make my decision based on the anticipation of failing anatomy, but it caught my attention.

ATSU: Probation. I know it’s no longer on probation, but I don’t want a future employer to say, “Oh you’re from ATSU, isn’t that the program that was put on probation?” I’ve read two things. One, the program was on probation because students were missing out on required rotations. Two, the program was on probation because the PANCE scores dropped to 81% in 2011. I know it’s fixed now and that at the end of the day, I’m going to pass the PANCE, since scores since then have been 94%+ (last year 96%).


I would say from the gut feeling I got at the interview, my choice is ATSU. But I feel like I really really cannot pass up the opportunity at Drexel. Don’t get me wrong, I really like their program as well. Everything I’ve read says, “it doesn’t matter where you go, go where you feel best suits you, it won’t matter.” But when we really get down to it, I do believe that it does matter. It will influence who I meet in my future and future opportunities.


If anyone has additional questions for me, please let me know. Also, please correct me if any of what I’ve written is incorrect! Sorry for the long post, but this is a huge decision for me here! I greatly appreciate your time and effort in reading and responding to this. 


Thank you!

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Hi! I'm a Drexel student, and I wanted to say congrats on your acceptance here. It sounds like you already know your choice, but I wanted to make a few corrections with regards to your pro and con list, just in case it might help you cement your decision one way or the other.


1) there is no competition between myself and my classmates. We are a family, from day 1. We all try to help everyone succeed as best we can!


2) we have anatomy lab once a week, and full access to the cadavers in the lab. True, we use digital software as a great resource, but we still have a lot of hands on time with the cadavers. Also, in my opinion, I'm glad we don't have to do dissection. We don't waste time trying to *find* the structures we are talking about, we just get to see them. Trust me, dissection isn't all its cracked up to be.


3) we have clinical exposure starting the second week of first year. We go to the hospital in pairs at least once a week to take a full history and perform a physical exam. This gets added to throughout the year as we learn more and more about medicine. Mind you, we are only *required* to go once per week, but are allowed to go as often as we choose.


4) Our attrition rate is not very high. True, some students don't pass anatomy the first time, but are given the chance to retake it. Most do, and most continue the program, even if it took an extra year. To me, this shows dedication on the part of the faculty, as they know that one rough class doesn't mean you're a terrible student, or a bad PA.


I hope you find this helpful, and I wish you the best of luck on your choice! Congrats to you!

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Thank you so so much, WWUViking1983, for all of that information - it helps so much!

I'm glad to hear, first hand from a current student, that the competition isn't really there. That makes me feel great! I guess I just felt sort of intimidated that the program is ranked so highly, but now see that it shouldn't be a worry at all.

I do definitely see your point about the time taking to dissect being a bit unecessary and very time consuming. Plus, I have already had that experience in my undergrad, and enjoyed it, but it's crunch time during PA school and I have to focus my time elsewhere.

Thanks for clearing that up about the clinical exposure. I knew I had that part a bit goofed up. So in that department, Drexel definitely gives more first year expsoure. Plus (bonus perks!), it's in the hospital.

I figured what I read about the attrition rates was probably a bit exaggerated. I do agree that one bad test is not going to make or break one's ability to become a great PA one day.

Thanks again! So very helpful.

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  • 3 weeks later...

If you can get yourself into PA school I think you are well capable of choosing a program yourself

I agree, but it never hurts to get a little help. I ran into this and happily have an awesome wife with whom I could talk it over and decide between two programs that I really loved. Some people don't have that and it's nice to bounce ideas off of people. I guess I really don't have any major advice to give...just go with wherever you felt the best and don't look back.

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