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What are some ways I can become more competitive before the upcoming cycle begins?


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Hi guys,

I'm a current junior majoring in biology, and wanted to know how to improve for the upcoming cycle

Current Application Information:

cGPA: 3.48

sGPA: 3.58

All prerequisites have at least a 3.0

GRE: Will be taken next month

PCE: 150 hrs as CNA in a long term care nursing home, 700 hrs as CNA in a subacute unit and 2500 hrs and counting as a CNA at a dementia unit

HCE: 120 hrs as a volunteer at a cancer clinic

Non-HCE Hours: 120 hrs as a student ambassador/tour guide for my school

Planned LOR: 1 from my Ethics teacher (I took this semester), 1 from my RN supervisor, 1 from a PA I will shadow (I have NOT shadowed her yet, but will do hopefully 50 hours with)

My pending prerequisites (classes I'm taking next year): A&P I and II (12/13 Schools) and Organic Chemistry (1/13 schools). 

 

What can I realistically do between now and May (when I plan to apply) to improve my competitiveness? 

 

Thanks!

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I've got one Pre-PA EMT who works for my fire department who was a reality TV contestant (think American Ninja Warrior rather than Survivor) who doesn't believe me that she should use that experience in her personal statement to make her stand out from a sea of bio majors with 3.40-3.8 GPAs and 1-2k PCE hours.

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@ParanoidCreep I wrote mainly about my experiences in music as a multi-instrumentalist when I applied this current cycle. Didn’t go into much detail about cliche healthcare stores that a lot of people use. Got 9 interviews so far if that helps.

edit: I think you should do keep focusing on healthcare opportunities (you need real experience) but feel free to be creative on the personal statement to make yourself stand out. 

Edited by scankidofhell
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2 hours ago, ParanoidCreep said:

Yeah, but all the schools I plan on applying to allow for 2 prerequisites to be pending, which will have to be A&P unfortunately

Even if they allow two prerequisites in progress, I still think that this could be an issue.

These are major, foundational courses to have in progress. I would try and take at least A&P I in the spring before submitting. 

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8 minutes ago, hmtpnw said:

Even if they allow two prerequisites in progress, I still think that this could be an issue.

These are major, foundational courses to have in progress. I would try and take at least A&P I in the spring before submitting. 

I can't take it because my school only offers A&P II in spring. I would have taken them sooner, but it just didn't work out. I don't think A&P is ideal to have last, but I will have a couple of recommended upper level biology classes done by the time I apply, along with the other prerequisites so all I can do with regards now with my prerequisites is get em done and hope for the best. 

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51 minutes ago, scankidofhell said:

@ParanoidCreep I wrote mainly about my experiences in music as a multi-instrumentalist when I applied this current cycle. Didn’t go into much detail about cliche healthcare stores that a lot of people use. Got 9 interviews so far if that helps.

edit: I think you should do keep focusing on healthcare opportunities (you need real experience) but feel free to be creative on the personal statement to make yourself stand out. 

Do you think my current experience is enough or should I add more to my resumé? I should have at least 3500 hrs total, although I do recognize it is considered low tier experience by most schools. I am kinda worried that since my GPA is on the mediocre side, my low tier experience might not be good enough, despite the quantity.

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4 hours ago, ParanoidCreep said:

Yeah, but all the schools I plan on applying to allow for 2 prerequisites to be pending, which will have to be A&P unfortunately

If you are firmly set on applying next cycle, if possible, find a local community college and take those two prereqs before you apply (most CCs teach A&P year-round). Try looking specifically for a CC that teaches anatomy and physiology as separate courses (e.g. take human anatomy and human physiology instead of A&PI and A&PII). This is so that you can knock them both out at the same time and not have to wait to take A&PII after taking A&PI.  The only schools I applied to but did not get an interview invitation were those that I had pending prerequisites in.

1 hour ago, ParanoidCreep said:

Do you think my current experience is enough or should I add more to my resumé? I should have at least 3500 hrs total, although I do recognize it is considered low tier experience by most schools. I am kinda worried that since my GPA is on the mediocre side, my low tier experience might not be good enough, despite the quantity.

There is never enough experience until you actually get into PA school. You should be constantly trying to improve your resume until you get that acceptance letter (whether that's accruing more hours or switching to a higher quality PCE/HCE). That being said, it seems like you have a lot on your plate if you are trying to take anatomy and physiology before June of next year, you are trying to finish your undergraduate degree, as well as shadow PAs and asking for LORs (you should not bank on a PA that you have not shadowed yet to write you a LOR, I did, and the PA said no so I was ineligible to apply to 5 other schools I wanted to apply to). Not to mention you will have to write a bomb personal statement and fill out the CASPA app, which is immensely time-consuming in itself. Since you are still in college and you already have 3500 hours, just focus on the pre-reqs and get straight A's so you can boost your GPA to above 3.5. 

You can always wait another year before applying so that your application is much stronger, especially if you cannot find a community college to take anatomy/physiology next semester. No harm in that. You may be wasting your money applying if you don't even meet the prereqs for the majority of your schools.

Edited by scankidofhell
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Thank you everyone for your advice!

@scankidofhell I look into taking A&P somewhere next semester, Idk if I can do it, but I'll give it try. I didn't realize how much of a detriment having pending class might be. I'm also not too concern about her willingness to write a LOR for me. She stated upfront that she will be willing to write a letter for me if I shadow for at least 16 hrs, I mean she could end up saying no anyway, but she mentioned the LOR first. 

All that said, do you really think me applying next cycle would be a long shot for acceptance? I know that I would be far more competitive if I took a year off because I would have a lot of hours and completed prerequisites, but I wanted to try this cycle anyway...But not really if it would be a huge waste of money lol. 

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6 minutes ago, ParanoidCreep said:

Thank you everyone for your advice!

@scankidofhell I look into taking A&P somewhere next semester, Idk if I can do it, but I'll give it try. I didn't realize how much of a detriment having pending class might be. I'm also not too concern about her willingness to write a LOR for me. She stated upfront that she will be willing to write a letter for me if I shadow for at least 16 hrs, I mean she could end up saying no anyway, but she mentioned the LOR first. 

All that said, do you really think me applying next cycle would be a long shot for acceptance? I know that I would be far more competitive if I took a year off because I would have a lot of hours and completed prerequisites, but I wanted to try this cycle anyway...But not really if it would be a huge waste of money lol. 

I think if you can knock out A&P before submitting you certainly have a solid shot!

I think if you’re missing both A&P I and II then you will be less likely to receive interviews. 

Side note: I also think you should try to get a LOR from a science professor if possible.

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2 hours ago, ParanoidCreep said:

Thank you everyone for your advice!

@scankidofhell I look into taking A&P somewhere next semester, Idk if I can do it, but I'll give it try. I didn't realize how much of a detriment having pending class might be. 

Check out all of the community colleges near your area. They are cheap and affordable. What you can also do is take one class in Spring semester and then the 2nd class in Summer semester, however, you basically would not be able to submit until after summer.  Best to try to knock both out before you apply in the summer. 

Having a pending class is a huge detriment even if schools don't outwardly say so. You can technically be screened out by not having A&P done, even if you are an otherwise stellar candidate (aka your app won't be even read because schools have so many applicants that have all of the prereqs done by application submission). Without having the prereqs completed, you aren't a qualified candidate (no exceptions).

2 hours ago, ParanoidCreep said:

All that said, do you really think me applying next cycle would be a long shot for acceptance? I know that I would be far more competitive if I took a year off because I would have a lot of hours and completed prerequisites, but I wanted to try this cycle anyway...But not really if it would be a huge waste of money lol. 

Like the previous person said, If you get A&P done before summer next year, you will have a decent shot (assuming you have stellar LORs, personal statement, etc.). If you don't, I would say wait until next cycle. Potentially if you applied early you may have a shot at interviews, but since the majority of your schools require A&P, it is best to apply when you have the most qualified/complete application. 

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On 12/15/2018 at 12:16 AM, ParanoidCreep said:

Thank you everyone for your advice!

@scankidofhell I look into taking A&P somewhere next semester, Idk if I can do it, but I'll give it try. I didn't realize how much of a detriment having pending class might be. I'm also not too concern about her willingness to write a LOR for me. She stated upfront that she will be willing to write a letter for me if I shadow for at least 16 hrs, I mean she could end up saying no anyway, but she mentioned the LOR first. 

All that said, do you really think me applying next cycle would be a long shot for acceptance? I know that I would be far more competitive if I took a year off because I would have a lot of hours and completed prerequisites, but I wanted to try this cycle anyway...But not really if it would be a huge waste of money lol. 

It's been said already, but as someone with experience with this, take anatomy and physiology before you apply. The first year I applied, I had both of these pending as well and, like you, thought it wouldn't matter too much since the schools I was looking at said I could have pending courses. I applied to 10 schools, got an interview only at one, and didn't get accepted. This year, I had both of these classes knocked out before applying and I applied to five schools, received interviews at four (declined one), with two acceptances and waiting to hear back on the other. It would tremendously help your application if you could get these classes complete prior to applying the next cycle. Even though the schools say you can have pending classwork, so many of the other applicants already have this coursework complete so it's a much safer bet for the school to go with a candidate that has already met their prerequisites than to go with a candidate who still has two core requirements left that could significantly impact sGPA and GPA. 

Also, in regards to the LOR from the PA you're shadowing, I'd double check the letter requirements for the schools you're applying to. Most will take a letter from a PA you shadowed but there were some schools I saw that explicitly stated you cannot have a LOR from such a person. Rather, they wanted letters from people who directly supervised your work in healthcare since that spoke more to your capability as a healthcare provider. 

Edited by Victory1322
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