Congratulations on submitting your CASPA! Now it’s time to prepare for your PA school interview. Always keep in mind that this is your career. Over the next two years of your life, you are entrusting your medical education and training to a program of your choosing. You should make sure that they are equipped with the resources and expertise to help make you become a great provider. With the same tenacity used to research a preschool/daycare or college for your children, take the time to thoroughly research your selection of PA programs. Start off with their website. There, you will find a great deal of background information on each school. If possible, speak with alumni, the PA admissions counselor and current students to gain more prospective. Once you have completed the bulk of your research, make a list of questions that you may still have and ask them at the end of your interview. Here are a few questions to consider adding to your list.
What modalities are used for student lectures?
Expect most of your classes to be the traditional PowerPoint lecture. But if you know there’s a specific learning style which greatly impacts your performance as a student – You should inquire as to the ratio of visual vs auditory vs tactile or kinesthetic teaching methods. Some programs teach on a case study basis, while others are introducing an online PA program. Find out now, so you can select a program that is best suited for you.
Additional Opportunities Available?
Are there research, dual degree or international opportunities available? If so, what are the requirements and how would you sign up? Inquire more about the processes and the necessary qualifications.
Have any clinical departments ever been on probation or had their accreditation revoked?
This raises a red flag. Ask what happened and the remedy to the situation. Remember this is your future at stake, as well as your time and money being spent. You want the best education so that you can (1) gain employment and (2) provide the best care possible to future patients.
Does the school assist students who do not pass the PANCE?
Most schools have the PANCE pass rate available on their website. Ask what assistance, if any, is provided for those who do not pass the PANCE.
Are there any formal mechanisms in place for students to evaluate their professors and attending physicians?
Ask if there are course evaluations available and how students are to address any discrepancies that arise with faculty/preceptors or their teaching methods. Is their a protocol to report it while remaining anonymous? You want a program that will address these issues and make the appropriate changes.
Is there a mentor/advisor system available?
If yes, who are they: faculty, students, professors, both? If not, is there an open door policy? Is it possible to speak with students in the class above you? Mentorship and guidance goes a long way once enrolled.
Services/Organizations or SGA?
Ask about community involvement, student government, or any leadership opportunities – especially if you don’t have much work experience. Find out about clubs that connect parents or meet-up groups of people with similar interests.
How are the clinical rotation sites selected?
What is the distance you are expected to travel? Are students required to find their own preceptors or does the school have their own affiliations? Does the program focus on a particular specialty or is it more of a broad, well-rounded approach? What’s the average length of each rotation? Rotation sites take time and negotiations. Often times, multiple medical programs are competing for the same locations. The sites can be scarce and the commute up to 100mi each way (Or so I’ve heard about a few programs)
Any assistance available if any academic need arises?
No one expects to fail, however, if a student does not perform as well as expected, what assistance is available to help them? If it were easy, everyone would do it. Most students, faculty and alumni will tell you that at some point they failed an exam. Life happens, so you need to know if there is any assistance or tutoring available to help you through it.
Job placement assistance for graduating students?
How many students leave the program with job offers? Are there any services to help groom you for interviews, resume, etc.? Graduation, board certification and licensure is just half of the battle. Finding employment as an inexperienced PA is the next hurdle to overcome. Find out if there’s a little boost available to help you prepare for the job search.
Overall, this is your time, money and future career so be sure that you know what you are getting yourself into. The answers to these questions will help you narrow down which schools you accept offers from. Are they equipped to provide you with the training and education you are expecting? Don’t be afraid to ask questions!