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How to Become the Best Applicant

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First, I would like to start off by introducing myself. 

My name is Rylie Yager and I am a junior in my undergrad at Grand Valley State University. I am majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience, minoring in Psychology and Biology with a pre - PA emphasis. 

Due to the competitiveness when it comes to admissions in to PA programs, I have been attempting to prepare to become the best possible applicant for when I apply to PA programs next summer (2022). It is stressful and beyond overwhelming - especially being that I am the first member of my family to be attending college, let alone grad school. I've had to figure out everything related to college on my own; from scheduling courses to managing everything that comes along with being a college student whom has to finically support themselves simultaneously. Thus far, I feel like I have been keeping up with the punches that this new journey has thrown my way. Now, I am on a new journey to become a PA - which is terrifying but also exciting. Being that I have been working along my education journey on my own, all I know is from research that I have done myself and contacting facility at my university. But I would like to receive more input and advise that could help me - and I am sure many others - on this journey of becoming a PA. Being how competitive it is to be admitted into a PA program, I am doing all that I can think of to become a worthy applicant - and would love advise from others who are on this journey and those who have surpassed it and are willing to give advise on how to get there. 

I have listed some of the things that I have done/currently doing to help prepare me for my future in a PA program, and as a PA:

Work Experience:

Server in a nursing home

Receptionist in a nursing home

Medical technician in a nursing home

Behavioral neuro technician in an inpatient facility

Mental health technician in a psychiatrics hospital (current)



Overall GPA: 3.678


Fall 2021

BIO 328 SWS Biomedical Ethics

BIO 376 Genetics Laboratory

CHM 232 Biological Chemistry

CHM 232 Biological Chemistry Discussion

CHM 232 Biological Chemistry Lab

PSY 300S WS Research Methods in Psych

367 Health Psychology

Winter 2022

AHS 100 Medical Terminology

BMS 212 Introductory Microbiology (RETAKE)

213 Laboratory in Microbiology (RETAKE)

PHY 200 Physics for the Life Sciences

PSY 400 Advanced Research in Psychology



BIO 121 General Biology II with lab

BIO 355 Human Genetics

CHM 231 Introductory Organic Chemistry with lab

PSY 303 Psychopathology 

PSY 311 SWS Controversial Issues Psych

PSY 330 Foundations of Behav Neuroscience

BMS 212 Introductory Microbiology

BMS 213 Laboratory in Microbiology

BMS 251 Anatomy and Physiology II with lab

PSY 324Developmental Psychopathology

WRT 219 Creative Writing Workshop 

CHM 230 Intro to Organic and Biochem with lab

FIT 125 Performance Weight Training

HST 102 European Civilizations

PSY 364 Life Span Developmental Psych

WRT 150Strategies in Writing

BMS 250Anatomy and Physiology I with lab

CHM 109 Introductory Chemistry with lab

PHI 202 Ethics of Health

SOC 105 Social Problems

PSY 101 Introduction to Psychology

BIO 121 General Biology II


Academic achievements: 

Deans list

Writing portfolio utilized by writing department for grading scale



Crisis Hotline

Community Food Bank Grand Rapids 


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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd say you're doing just about everything right! 

Some things to consider if you're looking for ways to deepen your application:

1. Are there any certifications you have or can get? Something like BLS, CNA, MA, EMT, etc. Definitely not required but if you've been working for a while there are some organization that allow you to sit for a certifying exam with work hours substituting for class room time. Plus you'll learn new things getting them and can possibly earn more in your current or future roles with a certification.
2. Is there a local PA association you can join as a prePA? You'll be able to attend meetings, network, etc. Most, if not all, states have one. 
3. What are the depths of your current experiences? Is there any place/organization that you've been with for more than a few months? More than a year? Variety is good but there's a lot to be said for longevity (this harder to do in college but is worth thinking about). Weigh the value of sticking with your current experiences over racking up a bunch of new ones.
4. Have you shadowed any PAs? Or any other providers (MDs, RNs, NPs, DOs, PTs, OTs, RDs, etc). This shows schools that you're familiar with the role of PAs and how they relate to others on the care team. Shadowing PAs is definitely highly advisable but don't discount other people too.
5. Are you still volunteering? Are there other (non-healthcare) causes you care about? Get involved if that calls to you! You are more than medicine and it's 100% ok to have non-healthcare experiences on your application.
6. Are there ways to take on new responsibilities in your current roles?

I'd also HIGHLY recommend making a CASPA account now. Start filling in your experiences and transcripts. When the cycle closes you can roll over the info you've entered to the next cycle (it's all free, you only pay when you apply. You will have to "select" a school but again, it only counts if you pay and click apply). Filling out CASPA is a beast and you will be SO GLAD to have done the tedious work beforehand. The descriptions for each experience are kind of like mini essays and getting a draft down now is super helpful.

Also start jotting down ideas for your personal statement in a Google Doc (the PS does not roll over from one year to the next). I wrote the intro story for mine a year before I applied because it was a moment that really stuck with me.

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Keep working on getting great grades. Try to get more hands on work experience where you are providing the patient care. Job shadow a PA - some schools will require this (at least they did pre-Covid and they may have a minimum hours for this). Write an awesome personal statement for CASPA. Interview well when you get them. Ask people who know you well to write you letters of recommendation-look to see if the programs you plan on applying to have specific people they want letters from so you can ask profs, if that is a  required by your programs you plan on applying to.

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