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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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