I love Olympic figure skating.
It is the ultimate test of human grit. Here are people who have spent four years and countless hours practicing for what comes down to a life changing 2-minute event.
This is a lesson on life, it is a lot like preparing for your PA school interview, finally pressing submit and sending off your CASPA application, committing to a two-year plan to complete your PA school prerequisites, and it is a lot like preparing for your PANCE or PANRE Board exams.
Lots of preparation time for what is often a huge, life changing, over-in-a-second event.
Falling Flat on Your Face
What I love most about Olympic ice skating is also what is the most painful to watch: Setting up for the triple lutz and falling flat on your face.
The best part of the Olympics is watching experts do this, which makes me feel better about myself. I often think to myself "Hey if they fall and they have professional coaches then I am not so bad."
The actual winners pick themselves up from the ice, finish their skate, thank the crowd, and then come back and kick ass in the long program.
In my last post, I wrote about some of my failed application attempts to PA school.
I received quite a bit of feedback from this post. One of my favorites was a comment on Facebook from a very well-intentioned pre-physician assistant who said, "It's helpful to hear success stories from people who are not the "ideal" applicants."
Which begs the question:
Who is the "ideal" PA School candidate?
This year's Olympic ice skating was not without big surprises and lots of controversies. The Russian skater who was not even invited to compete in the team skating event ended up winning Gold.
We see this type of result beyond the sport of skating.
In the Olympic half-pipe, instead of flying tomatoes, we got rotten tomatoes and a gold medal winning iPod!
This proves the point that the ideal candidate may not always be the one who looks the best on paper. It could be, but often it goes back to a theme you see me write a lot about on this blog:
- It is about falling and getting back up.
- It is about skating a gold medal winning performance when you made it on the team as an alternate.
- It is about preparing like a champion because you know you are a champion.
Therefore, the gold medal winner is you if you are up for the challenge.
We are looking for empathic and caring students with a strong desire to care for others. We value service to others and a desire to treat the underserved and underrepresented communities. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and we value diversity so students can help each other. - Case Western Reserve University PA Program
Nobody is going to hand you your gold medal, just like nobody is going to hand you a valuable spot in their PA school.
It may be true that if you are an exceptionally brilliant valedictorian with stellar scores and an abundance of honors and awards under your belt, or if you are a snowboarder with lots of media attention you may have an easier path. But, as we saw in the Olympics, even the most celebrated athletes can fall on the half-pipe.
So, you must prepare and expect to win the gold.
When I was in college, I took the premedical track at the University of Washington, which just happens to have one of the best medical programs in the country.
I was surrounded by Sean Whites and Bode Millers, and I felt a lot like a big loser.
The premedical track is one of the biggest weed-out programs in the world. Designed with the sole intention of making you quit.
The curves are demoralizing, people fail all around you, the first year alone is like opening the ships in Normandy on D-day. You are met with a constant barrage of gunfire, and it is painful to watch your colleagues shot down. These are people you know and love laying there, bleeding in the trenches, people who you often considered to be much better warriors than yourself.
But I chose to do the premedical track because I knew it was the biggest mountain, I could climb on the way to PA school.
Yes, as you can see from my rejection letters, I graduated with a 2.76 math/science GPA. What you didn't see is that I did this while taking the hardest science and math classes our university had to offer, working at the University Hospital, and volunteering for various organizations. I even made it on the Dean's List.
Yes, it was more than a bit painful along the way, it even came with its obvious setbacks. But it was training for a spot on the podium, nothing less.
Going for gold
I guess you can decide what you want for your life. You can add jumps into your short program while in bonus to earn extra points or you can play it safe.
You can challenge yourself, or you can take it easy and just try to get the best grades possible with the least possible effort.
But to win at the Olympics, you need more.
The Sean Whites and the Gracie Golds of this world know this. While they failed to medal this year, they are competing in Sochi, while the rest of us are at home watching it on TV.
The point is: there is no "ideal" candidate.
The only ideal candidate I can think of is the one that shows up every day, who has a burning desire and a passion for making a difference. The one who challenges themselves despite the potential for failure, who believes in themselves because they believe in others, who is never afraid to do what is right because it is what is right, regardless of the potential consequences.
If you are planning your career path to PA school, don't forget this. Don't opt for the easy path because you think it is going to make you look good.
Challenge yourself, because when you do make it into PA school, all those challenges will be the tool belt you need to be wearing when you are later making life and death decisions.
The easy road is a fool's game. It is a "fool's gold" it may look good, and attainable but, like most things in life, the harder the climb, the stronger you will be when you reach the top of the mountain.
Just ask Adelina Sotnikova.
- Stephen Pasquini PA-C
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Kristen James says
I absolutely love this blog! Gives me so much hope! I have always felt that my GPA was too low to get in! This blog helps me understand that my past is my past! Thanks so much!
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
I love the saying – If you want the things that others don’t have you have to be willing to do the things others don’t do. This means that if you have a GPA on the lower side, there are still about a million things you can do that other haven’t (or are too afraid to do) that can make you stand out as an applicant. Seek these things out… it is the path to success.
I love reading your blog postings! They are always so inspiring
Thank you Carmen, that means the world to me!
Stephen, this is an excellent article and demonstrates everything we talk about when we provide help and guidance to those who choose to have us help them write their essays.
I find out more about you every day and marvel at your ability and what you bring to the written page and into your life. You are right about taking the hard path. Our muscles can only become stronger if we workout. Our minds only become strong if we work them out. We learn more about ourselves and how to be successful from losing, not from winning. Because if winning taught us so much, then the winners would always win. And as we found out in this years Olympics, this is not true.
You did a great job of creating good images by comparing getting into PA school with the Olympics. I’m very proud of you.