The Physician Assistant Life

My PA School Rejection Letters – How to Turn Your “Set Back” into a “Set Up”

small__6811140195“If I fail more often than you, I win.” - Seth Godin

I have written before about the importance of becoming an epic failure and how this is a fundamental part of becoming an epic success.

I was cleaning out some of my old file cabinets today and came across my PA school application documents from 2001.

I will be sharing three of them below.

If you are experiencing setbacks on your path to becoming a Physician Assistant I want you to know that this is a normal part of the process.

Do not be discouraged: failure, met with perseverance, is the key to long-term, sustainable success.


My PA School Rejection Letter #1 (Ouch!)


In order to help you reach your goals it is important that you see my failures along with my successes.

Otherwise, you will be fooled into believing that success is a simple, pain-free process, when in reality the path to each of my successes has been lined with the road kill of my many epic failures.

Got a Moment for Some Inspiration?

Weather it is God or otherwise, how we perceive a setback matters!  (Listen 25 minutes)

This week, I won two free tickets as part of my daughters kindergarten raffle to see James Durbin, an American Idol "outcast", play here on our shared home town stage of Santa Cruz, California.

Although I am not that familiar with all of James' music, last night as he stood on stage I realized just how much I respected this 25-year-old rocker.

Knowing all the public criticism he had to endure during his time on the Idol stage, the sting of being "voted off" and rejected by his peers, not to mention the many obstacles he had to overcome in a lifelong battle with Tourette's and Asperger's syndrome.

Last night, he spoke to the sold out crowd (many of whom were young, screaming teenage girls) and divulged his story of how his pediatrician told his parents to keep their expectations low. Just goes to show what you can do with a dream and a whole lot of grit.

Don't even get me started on the Olympics!

It may sound cliché to say that we learn more from our failures than from our successes, but nevertheless this is true.

Because life is a process of trial and error, and error, and even more error until finally you succeed!

The key is to hang in their long enough, don't give up with the struggling masses, there is light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dim and distant it may seem.

PA Rejection Letter #2 (Your Killing me)


So success is simply the end result of a long series of epic failures if you have done things right.

Reading the above rejection letter so many years later I am almost embarrassed to admit that I didn't have a 3.0 GPA, but there is a back-story not written on this rejection letter. This proves the point that an isolated number outside of any context is just a point along a curve that when seen alone is pretty much useless.

Don't become a point on a curve, the trend is what matters! In what direction are you trending?

And just when you thought the pain and suffering couldn't go on...

My Rejection Letter to the National Health Service Corps (The kick in my proverbial balls)


Yes, I was even rejected by the National Health Service Corps the first time I applied. Although not the second...

And yes, I received even another rejection letter from OHSU, but I must have thrown that one into the fire.

My Acceptance Letter to PA School

At first it seemed odd to me that among this stack of failed attempts I could not find my acceptance letter into pa school.

I remember it so well, that simple single sheet of white paper with red and black-ink letterhead, about 4 sentences long sporting an official UMDNJ seal.

I read it in the rain, on a cold Seattle evening by streetlight, heart beating, exhausted after a long day of work. The feeling of nausea rose to my chest as I held the two corners of that letter, and I said a short prayer before I tore it open.

I made a promise to God and myself that if this dream would come true I would use my training always to relieve the suffering of others and to make the world a better place.

Spoiler alert... I was accepted and I am still working hard to keep my promise.

My Message to You

If you have received a rejection letter fear not my fellow epic failures, I too have stood demoralized in your shoes.

But do not let that define you, let it guide you, let it be the road kill that you can look back upon with pride years later when you are writing a blog post hanging out your dirty underwear with pride for all the world to see.

Here are my rejection letters. I am posting them as a reminder of what should make you stronger. I saved them because they gave me motivation, and I hope they can be a part of yours as well.

If you can learn to see adversity as a tool to help you reach your goals you can turn what seemed to be a "set back" into a "set up" for something truly wonderful.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best wherever you may be on your journey to PA-C.

-  Stephen

photo credit: venspired

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