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Hello everyone! So I have a BS in Biology (2015) and since then I've been working as a server at a nursing home because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was stuck between becoming a physician or a PA. For a long time I was set on MD/DO but as time went on I realized that it was mostly about the money for me. I grew up poor and that largely impacted my decision. After lots of soul searching and tuning out my family's wishes, I've decided for sure that becoming a PA is what is right for me. Now I have to figure out where to begin and go from here and I need help. So here's a rundown of my current stats:

cGPA: 2.97

sGPA: 3.09 (I used the Berkley gpa calculator that supposedly calculates the same way that caspa does, hopefully these are correct)

GRE: Haven't taken yet

Research: None

Volunteering: 62 hours in cancer center and patient transport at a hospital (ongoing), 50 hours as a tutor at a community center, 20 hours at a day care center, and I will be volunteering at a free clinic soon enough. I enjoy serving others and I have a big interest in underserved communities.

Direct Patient Care (paid): None. Considering LPN (length of time is a concern), CNA, MA.

Shadowing: None with a PA, 8hrs with ER doctor

I know I have lots of improving to do. My grades are my number one priority right now. Are post baccs/smps a common thing with pre-pa? If my gpa calculations are correct, around 44 credits of 4.0 work would push me to a 3.1 (cgpa) and around 3.2 (sgpa). Should I look into formal programs? Is LPN worth the time commitment? I am an African American woman and I am not picky with the schools I'll apply to as long as their PANCE pass rate is good to go. SO HALP MEH! Please.

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Welcome to the community! (And yes, post bacc courses are super common with a lot of us in the pre-PA community.)

First off, yes--grades should be one of your top priorities right now. After finding a good sum of common pre-reqs required at several schools of your choice, take enough post-bacc pre-reqs to bump up both of your GPAs to at least a 3.0 (your sGPA is there, but try to aim for higher for both GPAs). Don't waste your time (and money) on formal programs. You can just take the courses individually at a community college. Since you have a Bachelor in Biology, you may have quite a few more science courses needed to boost your sGPA, but I'd recommend taking/retaking your non-science pre-req courses that you are missing, or the you have C's in. If you have mainly B's, retake those and shoot for A's. This also applies to the science courses. Also, double-check that those GPA numbers are indeed correct: https://help.liaisonedu.com/CASPA_Applicant_Help_Center/Submitting_and_Monitoring_Your_CASPA_Application/Verification_and_GPA_Calculations_for_CASPA

Another top priority should be patient care experience which is required/recommended by the vast majority of PA programs. Try to get a job where you are actually touching a patient and are directly responsible for some aspect of their care (ex: EMT, CNA, MA, PT Aide, phlebotomist, etc.). Keep in mind that some positions (ex: clinical researcher, scribe, etc.) are usually not accepted as PCE. Aim for at least 1,000 hours (equivalent to 6 months full time) of experience, but definitely shoot for higher to offset your lower GPA. Don't bother with the LPN route, unless nursing is something that you want to fall back on in case you don't/can't go for PA. Also, I recommend the PT Aide route b/c it doesn't always require certification. Personally, I got on-the-job training, which was great b/c it saved time and money. See if your local hospitals have this option for you.

In this year (or more) or preparation, narrow down your list of schools (maybe by pre-reqs required, location, PANCE rates, mission, etc.). Try to get more healthcare-related volunteer hours (to count as HCE), shadow a PA (or 2 or 3) not only for applying to programs but to see if PA is really what you want to do, find people who will write you a killer recommendation letter, study for and get at least 50% in each section of the GRE (I recommend Kaplan for test prep, but I've seen excellent reviews of Magoosh), and get A's in all of your classes. Begin working on your personal statement early (it is a very, very important aspect of your application and if you play your cards right, it can tip odds in your favor even if your stats are below average) and apply EARLY if you're applying next cycle (I'm talking anytime between April through early June) to better your odds of getting an interview invite.

Also, I cannot stress enough how much you should read into and watch pre-PA blogs, articles, and YouTube vlogs throughout the year. They supplied me with a wealth of information. It may seem like a lot, but it is very possible to do all of this and succeed. Just read about the people here who have done it. I've done it as well, and I'm telling you all you need to do is remain motivated and committed. Good luck! :)

 

Edit: Forgot to mention! Also look into programs that like underrepresented/underserved applicants. Off the top of my head, there's Rutger's, Franklin Pierce, Touro California, USC, CCNY, and many others.

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5 hours ago, NikkiO said:

Don't bother with the LPN route, unless nursing is something that you want to fall back on in case you don't/can't go for PA. Also, I recommend the PT Aide route b/c it doesn't always require certification. 

 

I agree with NikkiO about LPN being a waste of time. EMT-B is quicker, and I personally think it is a higher quality of experience. Regarding PTA certification, I guess it all depends on where you live. Where I live, all PTA's are CNA certified, so you cannot get a job around here without at least having that cert. I would focus on increasing your healthcare experience to at least 2k hours (a year if full-time, less if overtime). I feel like a hypocrite saying this because I have minimal HCE, but I had a very strong application otherwise. If you have a competitive amount of HCE, above average GRE scores, wonderful LORs and a well written and researched PS, I think you could get in. Get your GPA above 3.0, work hard, and study HARD for the GRE. As you will find with research, the adcomms only like to see that your GRE is above the 50th percentile in each area, but I believe it can help offset a lower GPA if you score higher on it. 

 

One final suggestion--this is a theme I see a lot here when discussing lower GPAs and not my personal suggestion--take hard upper division science courses and ace them. adcomms want to see that you can handle science classes during didactic year. 

 

If you work hard, you will get in. It may not be on your first try, but you will get in. 

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Get your EMT-B licenses. It's quick, cheap (cost less than 1K), and is the most versatile license you can get. With an EMT license you can apply for many entry level positions like; EMT, ED Tech, PCT, NA, MA, Radiology Tech Aide, CT Tech Aide, OR Tech, Anesthesia Tech, L&D Tech, and any other *tech* position. 

I agree that becoming an LPN is generally both time consuming and costly. But to even get that far, you must focus on that GPA. If I were you, and I'm not, I would pursue a MS or a second BS and try to get a 4.0 to show adcoms you can handle the rigors of PA training. Post-bacs are good and all but in my opinion, if they cost as much as a second bachelors, might as well get that BS in something that can provide a backup career should it take multiple cycles to get into PA school. 

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@NikkiO I cannot express to you how helpful all of this information is to me. I've searched for PT Aide positions near me and there seems to be a lot that don't require certification so I will definitely be pursuing those! Your advice totally put me at ease and broke down what I should be doing and aiming for step by step. Thank you so much! I'll be looking into everything that you said.

@Wellness Thank you so much for your advice! I am thinking of getting a CNA cert to ease my job search and hopefully I can get a position at a hospital near me. Looking up upper level science courses to take are on my to do list :)

@Diggy Thank you so much for your advice! I mentally tossed EMT-B out of my mind because there are barely any jobs around here for it but I didn't know that it could help with other positions like the ones that you listed so I will definitely look into that! I also thought about volunteer EMT positions. I'm also weighing the cost factor or a formal MS. Most of the programs that I've researched near me are around $25K and I'm not sure if that will be a great idea.

You have all given me more encouragement than you know. Thanks again <3

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On 7/9/2017 at 10:55 AM, Diggy said:

Get your EMT-B licenses. It's quick, cheap (cost less than 1K), and is the most versatile license you can get.

 

Worried now I am overpaying. Always less than 1K even if a course at a CC?

To OP good luck! Your commitment and hard work will pay off! CNA can be a great route to go. Do a quick job search now to see what you can do with a CNA in your area, (I find that can be helpful). I don't think I can top the comments of everyone else as they have made solid and great points. (I agree do not go for LPN.) I also suggest EMT or CNA over MA. When I took my CNA class a lot of students were MAs but couldn't find jobs, as they did not have prior experience. This could be due to location or other factor so I do not want to completely knock down anyone set on MA. You seem like you know a great applicant and with a little work on PCE and your GPA, I see a bright future for you in medicine! Good luck and you have got this!

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CNA will be easier to get a paid job with. EMT is a cheaper, quicker alternative, and way more versatile as a license and gained experience, but without any prior experience, it'll be extremely hard to get a paid job right away as an EMT-B. Focus on your schoolwork - whether that be taking prereqs to bring up your cGPA, or going into an MS program to start a "new" GPA that reflects the student that you are now (obviously the more expensive route). Many options, but may I ask - did you have any upward trend of GPA during your undergrad? This always is a factor to consider as well, and might help between deciding post-bac or MS courses.

@oolivia1 CC EMT courses that charge over 1k are a huuuuuuge astronomical rip-off, trust me because I was ripped off. Areas like DMV will charge 1-1.1k for the course, where if you take it in the south anywhere, or with an agency it'll either be free (the station will pay for it) or around $400-600.

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3 hours ago, oolivia1 said:

Worried now I am overpaying. Always less than 1K even if a course at a CC?

To OP good luck! Your commitment and hard work will pay off! CNA can be a great route to go. Do a quick job search now to see what you can do with a CNA in your area, (I find that can be helpful). I don't think I can top the comments of everyone else as they have made solid and great points. (I agree do not go for LPN.) I also suggest EMT or CNA over MA. When I took my CNA class a lot of students were MAs but couldn't find jobs, as they did not have prior experience. This could be due to location or other factor so I do not want to completely knock down anyone set on MA. You seem like you know a great applicant and with a little work on PCE and your GPA, I see a bright future for you in medicine! Good luck and you have got this!

I paid 1100 total for my EMT course which included the book and the CPR/BLS certification. This was not at a CC, this was a local EMS school. 

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@mmchick Thanks for the response. Continuing my 5th year of undergrad and taking courses at my university and decided to take the EMT course at my local CC. (I am in the DMV area.) I figured a 10 credit  EMT course at my the CC, which is a very good CC, would be worth is as CASPA lists EMT courses as science credits if taken at accredited universities. Total so far is slightly under $1,500 not included books etc. I already have my CNA and work in urgent care. My starting pay was very nice, I was trained a lot on the job and really enjoy it.

@Diggy Thanks for the feedback. I am also already CPR/BLS certified. I just took a 4.5-hour recertification class through work, and really don't think I am interested in going through the BLS motions again unless they are something different in an EMT course. Any input on this?

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@oolivia1 well my course instructor told us it was required regardless if we already had it. I was BLS certified through my University but had to sit there in my EMT class for the BLS portion and ended up with 2 CPR/BLS certificates lol. I really didn't mind taking it again.

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@Diggy I assume I will be required to sit through it again, and I won't put up a fight I would just rather learn new material in the class. (I understand this is an important skill that everyone should know.) I feel bad as I am getting off topic about OP's original question. I am more curious if I have made the correct decisions to take the EMT course, (if I will learn a lot of new information etc.). Maybe I could PM you about this? Or anyone else that may be able to help? I appreciate all the feedback.

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@mmchick & @oolivia1 I am leaning heavily towards CNA and I've even found a 6 week weekend program under $1K near me. I did a job search for EMTs in my area and there aren't many openings sadly. I will likely revisit EMT in another year or so because I'm very interested. I did have an upward trend in my gpa actually! I started off very rough due to being away from home and working through some childhood issues. I'd love to hear your opinion on whether MS or post-bacc would be better in this instance. Thanks for your encouragement and advice! I appreciate it so much!

 

 

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9 hours ago, TheKingsDaughter said:

@mmchick & @oolivia1 I am leaning heavily towards CNA and I've even found a 6 week weekend program under $1K near me. I did a job search for EMTs in my area and there aren't many openings sadly. I will likely revisit EMT in another year or so because I'm very interested. I did have an upward trend in my gpa actually! I started off very rough due to being away from home and working through some childhood issues. I'd love to hear your opinion on whether MS or post-bacc would be better in this instance. Thanks for your encouragement and advice! I appreciate it so much!

 

 

It's worth to mention that most times, EMS stations won't post "openings" for paid EMT-B spots, you most of the time have to contact them directly and ask. I know that my station doesn't post job ads, and unless an outsider is recruited from a current member, the paid spot usually is filled by a current member (kind of a weird fraternity thing that stations tend to do). That also being said, this comes back to me saying "CNA jobs are easier to get" because this is true- it will probably be significantly harder to convince an EMS station to hire you as a brand new EMT straight out of school with no prior EMS experience (but it can still be done).

As far as pursuing post-bacc courses vs MS it really depends on how much time and money you are willing to spend. Obviously MS without any other further consideration is the better option by far - 1) you are then able to apply to PA schools with a Master's, and 2) you get to "restart" your GPA for graduate terms and inherently will probably keep it above a 3.8 which is way easier than trying to drag your 2.97 up with post-bacc classes. Post-bacc classes also are not a horrible option, but at your current GPA just based on how hard it is to bring GPAs up, it would be more of a bandaid to your grade problem then a permanent solution. Either or, neither are bad options and both would help immensely to their own degree.

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      Take a breath, but don't stop being great! The most labor intensive part of applying is done. Now it is just the waiting game which is killer. Use this time to keep bettering your application. Put in OT at work, Volunteer regularly, Re-take classes, etc.  Most programs predict your future hour calculations based on the numbers you provide in your applications. You can go back in and add new experiences to your CASPA applications which some programs care about, others don't. When you do major things, shoot the point of contact for the program an e-mail or call the program to update them. Each program gets several thousands of applicants each cycle and although they wish they had a warehouse of people working around the clock to filter through applications and answer questions, most of the time it is just a few people doing everything. DON'T BUG THEM. Imagine if you had 3,000 people constantly e-mailing you and calling you at work... you'd never get anything done... don't be "that guy". Only update for the major things, and save the rest for the interview. DON'T BASE YOUR TIMELINE OFF ANYONE ELSE!!!! This forum is great for getting information... and also for causing anxiety attacks. I applied to UF within the first few weeks of the application being open and interviewed in one of the last groups and was almost immediately accepted following the interview. Don't lose hope till you get that e-mail or letter saying "thank you for applying but kick rocks". Time doesn't always equate to standing in their system. Make sure your contact information on CASPA is correct ***AND PROFESSIONAL****. Should go without saying but having inappropriate e-mails or voicemails may be funny in high school, the person trying to contact you for an interview may not find them as funny.   
      You Get Called for an Interview!! 
      Congrats!! It seems like a dream at first and that euphoric feeling proves all your hard work to that point is worth it. Do your happy dance then get back to business, this is where the intensive work begins. RESEARCH THE SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't put enough emphasis on this. Research the school so well that you and the Dean over the medical programs are practically on a first name basis. Every program has a website where they usually list their achievements, their scores, their faculty / staff, etc. Commit it all to memory. Make a Microsoft Word document dedicated to facts about the school and save it in the folder I mentioned earlier. Include pictures of the faculty and a short bio or things to take notice of. It is okay to creep a little bit (not like looking in their windows, etc)-- but like google their names, get on their Linked-In accounts. Get on the program's Social Media account and creep on that. Look for pictures and clues about the program, its goals and culture, and also about the students and what they are into. What is the mission statement? Does the program do medical missions? To where? Is the program big in the community? Do the students seem like a close knit bunch having a blast or are they indifferent to being there? How involved outside of the classroom are the professors? etc... You can gain a TON of insight by doing a google search of the program and by looking on the program's social media. Use this site and others to figure out what style of interview you are walking into. MMI / Panel / 1 on 1 / Group are all vastly interview styles and require a different preparation. Most of them have a group interview where you are tasked with solving a problem or working as a team on an exercise. Do yourself a favor and stand in the middle of the extremes on this one. This is an exercise to see if you can work and blend in a group setting... Be too aggressive (not knowing when to shut up / interrupting people) and you will be rated as bad as the person who doesn't really contribute anything to the group.   Research Yourself!! Intimately know what is on your application and what is on your resume. You are going to get questions drawn directly from your application and resume... be able to recite the major numbers and have the important details readily available. One of the things I goofed pretty bad on in one of my interviews was not reviewing the independent research I had done Freshman and Sophomore year of undergrad... so like 5 years prior to the interview. It was on my application so it was fair game, and when asked about the more intricacies of the study, I blanked... not a good thing to do when sitting in front of the medical director for the program.  Re-read your essay and supplemental apps. You may think you know your application pretty well but if you are not fresh on how you phrase things, etc, you may contradict yourself to the person with your essay literally in front of them. Make Smart Travel Plans Murphy's Law is a real thing and is no fun to try to come back from. I suggest always travelling a day in advanced to avoid any last-minute headaches. I was scheduled for an afternoon group on one of my interviews so I figured I would just fly in on the morning of and have like 6 hours to kill before my interview. Save money and time, right?... nope. My 6am flight was delayed due to mechanical failure until 1pm, putting me in the city at 3:30, 30 minutes after my interview was supposed to be. #Stress. It ended up working out okay, the program was understanding and that was one of the programs I ended up getting into... but if you can avoid that situation, save yourself the grey hairs. Go to bed early the night before and try to get good rest. Eat a balanced meal for dinner -- nothing too heavy or greasy.  
      Day of the interview:
      The Motto of the Day is Calm / Cool / Collected If you let your anxiety get the better of you, you are 100% guaranteed to fail. Breathe... your preparation has done you well.  The Morning of the Interview Wake up EARLY... like whatever time you need to get ready and get to the interview site on time (15 - 30 minutes early), wake up an hour before that. Remove any possibility of having to be rushed and your day will start off on the right foot. Eat a [LIGHT] breakfast. This is the food which will be keeping you awake and happy when meeting people, but should not have you in the bathroom every 20 minutes. My usual breakfast was a small amount of scrambled eggs, a small piece of protein (bacon or sausage), toast, and fruit, with water or juice to drink. Avoid dairy or anything too acidic (coffee or orange juice) if you think that will mess up your already anxious stomach.  Leave Your Phone in the Car!!! Even checking your phone during the day can indicate boredom or that you are uninterested... appearances are EVERYTHING. If you rest your head, close your eyes, or even glance at your phone you can rest assured that you are on someone's radar for the wrong reasons.  When You Get to Campus Everything, I mean EVERYTHING is scrutinized from the moment you get on campus. Your driving through campus to your destination should be impeccable and the second you're out of your vehicle pretend you're on youtube to be watched by the faculty later. Smile and and be literally as friendly as possible without appearing fake. Every interaction is fair game for scrutiny-  from the "Good Morning" to the janitor to the conversations with "random" students on campus or your peers... it is all being watched. I know some programs plant people (like cleaning staff, and "random" students) in your path to see how you react around them. I know of other schools who have hidden cameras set up to watch applicants when they are mingling on campus. From the moment you get on campus till the moment you are at home, assume you are being watched and judged.  Any "down time" should be spent talking and networking. Get to know your competition, they may soon be your classmates; plus it shows that you are comfortable within a group setting. Also usually helps ease your nerves to be social within a group experiencing the same anxiety you are. During the Interview Have fun with it. You have worked hard to get where you are and this is your chance to shine! Any interview blog you read (and I'm sure you have read most of them to this point) will tell you that body language is BIG... If you are having fun and are relaxed, your body language will show it.  Confident but Humble is the name of the game. Own your past mistakes with dignity and be ready to give reasons why they should look past them and see you in a better light Enter the room and greet everyone individually. Firm handshake, eye contact, and a smile. If you know everyone's name that is a big win and can work in your advantage... but if you don't know EVERYONE by name or think you may call someone the wrong name, don't attempt.  Make sure to have a couple copies of your resume readily available with you. Most schools wont need or even request it, but it shows you are prepared if you can offer it or produce it on demand. DON'T GET FLUSTERED!!! Some interviewers will ask you questions to try to get under your skin or try to throw you off your game to see how you will react. It is okay to take a moment and think and breathe... they are looking to see you under pressure. Focus on what they are asking and move forward.  I once had an interviewer straight up say " I don't think you belong in this program, nothing about you impresses me" as the first thing when I got in the room... She was looking to see how I responded. Don't let anyone get under your skin and maintain your composure... you can breakdown and analyze once the interview is over and you're at home. When You Leave the Interview Make a mental note about your overall impression of the program, staff, and school... if you didn't get a positive vibe, that will come in to play if you get in to multiple programs. You need to go where feels like "home" because for the next 2- 2.5 years, it will be. Realistically speaking, most people don't get into the first school they interview at because they are walking into it not knowing what to expect and are visibly anxious. Prepare for that ahead of time by doing practice interviews and by getting comfortable talking to strangers and you will be ahead of the curve.  Everyone says to send "thank you" e-mails... I disagree with their logic... If there are 200 people who interview at a program, every faculty member who interviews will have 200+ emails all saying the same thing "Thank you for taking the time ...............". I personally would get tired of even opening all those emails, so I didn't send them for the most part. The few that I did send I never got a response back from, which just reaffirmed my theory. Better practice would be (if you have time) to stop by their office at some point either later that day or in the following couple days and thank them in person. That opens the door for a more casual conversation and is more genuine, plus in my experience it went over better in general. Last Words of Advice:
      If you get in to a school early but it isn't your #1... please dear god put the seat deposit down anyway. That means you can breathe a little easier and are for sure going SOMEWHERE for the following year. Don't hold out for your #1 because you are optimistic and not wanting to possibly eat the money. Again... investment in your future.  If you are rejected from a program before the interview, it is okay to ask why and try to get them to reconsider their reason if it is bogus. That shows balls, and also commitment to their program. One of the schools I was accepted to initially rejected me saying they wanted all of the anatomy classes from the same university ( I had 1 formal course from Nova along with a ton of other anatomy-based courses, plus 1 formal course from medic school, and another formal course from a community college from the year after I moved). I popped an e-mail back explaining my situation, the program director sided with me and I was immediately granted an interview.  If you get rejected after the interview, some schools will offer advice (if asked) on how to improve for the following year... take them up on that offer!!!  Programs LOVE repeat applicants, ESPECIALLY if they see significant improvement from the previous application. Lastly, if you get totally rejected and have to reapply, welcome to the club. The majority of successful applicants have that sobering experience and are accepted the next time around. Don't get discouraged, become inspired.  
      Hopefully at least some of you found this list helpful, I know I could've used some of that when I was applying and stressing out. Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions! Good Luck and Go Gators!! :)
       
      Logan
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