What was your GPA?
Jennifer: Both Cumulative and Science 3.4
Shatara: Cumulative – 3.56 and Science – 3.92
Did you get straight A’s?
Jennifer: Not at all! like to think of my transcripts as – Main course of A’s with a healthy side of B’s. A dash of C’s and a D (don’t judge me! It was a rough semester).
Shatara: Brown has an open and flexible curriculum design, so I elected to take 1/3 of coursework pass/fail. For the remaining of my coursework, I had a mixture of As, Bs, and Cs. I earned straight As for my post-baccalaureate coursework (I completed the pre-requisites and some additional upper level work).
Jennifer: I’ve worked in healthcare for the majority of my adult life. In that time I became familiar with the different career paths available as a medical provider. The physician assistant stood out to me the most for various reasons. The most prominent being the patient interaction and ease of transition between specialties.
Shatara: My reasons are many but I’ll give you a few. I love that I don’t have to commit to one specialty for the rest of my life. I did not want to spend my child’s entire childhood pursing my own dreams. And as a military spouse, I need a mobile career. I had many reservations about other paths to medicine but the more I considered this one, I only experienced excitement.
How many times did you apply?
Jennifer: One and done. Submitted my application in August and received an interview letter two weeks later. Interviewed in January and received an acceptance call back the same day.
Shatara: One and done! Submitted my application in November 2016. Submitted my fall grades in December 2016 and received an interview invite 2 days later. I interviewed in January 2017 and received an acceptance that week. I do NOT recommend this timeline for any institution that has a rolling admissions process. I knew I was pushing it, but also knew that I had a strong application and was willing to take the chance.
How long did it take you to complete your CASPA application?
Jennifer: Total of 4 months. I broke it into chunks to ensure accuracy. I started in April with the most tedious portion, filling out the course history. Then I would periodically go back and fill in sections as I completed them. I submitted my application towards the end of August, that’s when my GRE and prerequisite courses were completed.
Shatara: 7 months!! I started in April and finished in November when I submitted. I took many hiatuses from working on the application, hence the lengthy time period for completion. I also underestimated how long it would take me to create a personal statement especially once I started back to school in August.
How did you obtain PCE?
Jennifer: Majority from my time in the military as a Medical Lab Specialist
Shatara: I got into PA school without direct PCE. Shocker! I did have HCE as an emergency room scribe, however, which some institutions count as PCE.
Was it difficult finding a PA to shadow?
Jennifer: Yes! I suggest starting with your PCP. Ask them if they or anyone they know would be willing to let you shadow for a couple hours a week. Most PA’s love to talk about what they do and are more than willing to share resources with you. I received shadowing experience because of my pre-PA club membership and just networking at church and with other moms at my kid’s school, activities/practices.
Shatara: I got into PA school with any “shadowing” experience. I did work alongside both physicians and a PA as a scribe, which allowed me to directly witness a PA’s work.
Did you volunteer or join any clubs?
Jennifer: Yes, I volunteered at a community health clinic for a few months after submitting my CASPA application. I went on a Missions trip with my church to Haiti. For about 2 years I worked as a Student Instructor (SI); I was basically a TA and tutor for my peers. As for club activities, I was a member of the Pre-Physicians Assistant Association at my University.
Shatara: All of my volunteer hours were accumulated during undergrad and the year after graduation when I worked in non-profit. I was worried because at the time of my application I had a lot of hours but my most “recent” experience was 8 years old, but it did not make me any less attractive of an applicant.
How was your interview? How did you prepare? Attire?
Jennifer: To say I was nervous would be an understatement! I thought I completely bombed it, but apparently not because I got in! I spent weeks preparing with mock interviews and practicing in the mirror. I suggest you wear a business suit.
Shatara: I was very nervous but I had prepared. I do NOT interview well and knew I could not afford to blow my one shot, so I read a few books and spent about a week working on my responses to anticipated questions. I also practiced with a friend. On interview day, I took out all my “nontraditional” piercings, pulled my hair back (I have Sisterlocks), and wore business separates (I did not wear black because I was not going to be comfortable or feel my best in it). I had responses to most questions but definitely got tripped up a few times, so I used my thank you emails to quickly address the questions to the interviewer that asked them. The interview definitely felt like a conversation, which I enjoyed.