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My experiences applying to 22 PA schools


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Hi All,

 

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:

 

My Stats:

  • 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

 

2014-2015 Cycle:

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.

 

2015-2016 Cycle:

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:

 

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Observations:

  • 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

Conclusion:

 

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.

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Why would you say you weren't accepted the first time around? I would have thought you were an okay candidate the firs time around.

I think it had to do with applying late in the cycle, having less HCE hours at that time (800 hours at the time of application) and no shadowing experience back then. At the one school I interviewed at, I may have interviewed poorly compared to my candidates as well. I could never pinpoint a concrete reason which is why I applied to so many schools the second time around.

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I think it had to do with applying late in the cycle, having less HCE hours at that time (800 hours at the time of application) and no shadowing experience back then. At the one school I interviewed at, I may have interviewed poorly compared to my candidates as well. I could never pinpoint a concrete reason which is why I applied to so many schools the second time around.

Could you estimate how much it cost to apply to so many schools? How long was the process of applying to 22 schools?

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Could you estimate how much it cost to apply to so many schools? How long was the process of applying to 22 schools?

As mentioned above, it costs around $100 to apply to each school. There are also other indirect costs to take optional prerequisite courses, take the GRE, transportation to and from shadowing sites. I got paid for the HCE hours but it was peanuts.

 

Length of time: CASPA opens their new application cycle every April. As soon as it opened, I started the application, gathered letter of recommendations, transcripts, etc. First application was submitted in June and school I wanted to attend notified me of admission late October.

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Congrats on getting in!  I applied very late this cycle and with about 800 hours of HCE.  I am reapplying this upcoming cycle with an improved GPA, over 2000 hours HCE and more shadowing hours.  My GRE score is 312.  Would you suggest retaking this to show improvement or is it not worth the $200

It really sounds like you improved your stats, nice work! Your GRE score sounds pretty good, and it's completely your call on whether you want to retake it. After I was rejected the first time around, I reasoned that paying $200 to retake the GRE is better than waiting another year to apply in case I was rejected again, so I swallowed the cost. If money and time were not an issue, I would improve every factor in your control.

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This was quite encouraging! 

 

I applied last cycle, but there was a transcript mix-up that ultimately ruined my chances because everything was verified by CASPA in mid-October. This cycle, I want to send everything in no later than the first week of May. With that being said, I have 2 questions that maybe you can help with!

 

I started a post about this very recently, but anymore input would be greatly appreciated. I started racking up HCE hours in January, and by the time I apply, I would have accumulated around 400 hours. I was told that schools who want to see a lot of hours would reject me right away because I didn't meet their HCE requirement. But if I'm continuing to gain hours over the next year, should I call the schools before I apply and explain to them? Or should I only apply to schools that don't need thousands of hours? Besides selecting the option on CASPA that shows schools that this is continuing thing, is there anywhere else I can say that I will have well over 1000 hours by next year?

 

My second question: I will be re-taking the GRE before the cycle opens up this year and I plan on sending the scores to 4 schools for free. I've been told that the schools will keep my scores on file so that when I actually apply, my profile will be complete. However, because I'm taking it before the cycle opens, will I need to resubmit the scores on CASPA?

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Congrats! I'll be applying for the 2nd time this upcoming cycle. If it helps, from what I understand is Misericordia University isn't continuing their program anymore. I have relatives in the area up there and I was going to apply there (I actually know some people on the admission board) something with their accreditation got messed up, and they had to suspend their program. I believe they are letting kids who are already in the program finish or transfer to a different program, but not accepting new admissions. I don't know when they announced this, I think it was relatively late in the application process for this year. 

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@dhans

 

Great questions!

 

To address the first question regarding the accumulation of HCE hours during the cycle - it all depends on how each school treats your HCE hours. Some want x hours at the time of application while some want x hours at matriculation. If you don't meet the standards for those schools that need it at the time of application, you may want to steer clear of them. However, other schools will allow you to supplement your application with new hours throughout the cycle. Contact these schools and find out how they'd like the information. Take advantage of these schools because they are your best bet.

 

Regarding submitting GRE scores before the new cycle opens up -- don't do it. It's tempting because ETS offers to send the scores for free, but CASPA will delete any and all data from the old cycle before the new cycle opens up. This year, the 2015-2016 cycle closes on March 1, 2016. Scores should be sent when the 2016-2017 cycle opens.

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Congrats! I'll be applying for the 2nd time this upcoming cycle. If it helps, from what I understand is Misericordia University isn't continuing their program anymore. I have relatives in the area up there and I was going to apply there (I actually know some people on the admission board) something with their accreditation got messed up, and they had to suspend their program. I believe they are letting kids who are already in the program finish or transfer to a different program, but not accepting new admissions. I don't know when they announced this, I think it was relatively late in the application process for this year. 

Good to know! I don't feel so bad anymore for the "rejection"

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  • 1 year later...

Every school has their own unique formula as to how they build a class based around their education model.  Some schools require no healthcare experience and prefer GPAs closer to 4.0 with a record of hard academic rigor vs. those schools who care about HCE, maturity as a person, ability to handle heavy academic loads, etc.  Know your targets and what they are looking for when you apply. 

G

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I also had no response from LIU at all. Calling them was a pain, they were mostly clueless.  So, I did not apply to their program this cycle.

This just reiterates the statement where people end up where they least suspect it.  This 2nd cycle I was offered an interview at the last place I thought possible.  

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