Welcome to the second video in our Mock PA School Interview Series: Ten blog posts featuring ten amazing Pre-PAs who have graciously shared their recorded mock PA school interviews with one singular intention: To help you achieve success on your path to PA school and be more confident on the day of your PA school interview.
Today's interview is with Lily Boyle, a PRE-PA and second time PA school applicant who is a high school chemistry and physics teacher in Chicago's West Side. She has spent four years working as part of Teach For America and has an MD father who feels PA school is a much better path for Lily than medical school.
Lilly is a passionate, kind, remarkably down-to-earth, and hard-working Pre-PA whose journey to PA school has been nothing short of inspiring.
Above is the entire 45-minute video interview with Lily and below is the transcript of our interview including our per-question commentary.
Questions asked in this mock interview:
- Tell me a little bit more about yourself and why you want to be a PA? Follow-up: Why did you go into education first?
- What are your weaknesses or one of your weaknesses?
- Tell me what your least favorite class in college was?
- There is a push right now to change the title of the profession from physician assistant to physician associate. What are your thoughts on that?
- What would you do if a patient refuses to be seen by you because you are a PA and not a physician?
- What patient population you least like working with while you are accruing your patient care hours?
- Can you tell me a little bit about a time when you had to work with a supervisor that you disagreed with?
- Can you tell me what you think your biggest challenge of PA school will be?
- For the next question if you want to answer it with the program that you're interviewing with in mind, tell me why you feel that program is the right fit for you and you are the right fit for the program?
- If they ask if you were not accepted into our program, what do you think the reason would be?
- If you would tell me about a time that you surprised yourself?
I hope you enjoy this mock interview with Lily as much as we loved recording it.
Interested in having your own recorded mock PA school interview? Click here
Question by Interviewer:
Response by Interviewee:
Okay, well, right now I'm a teacher on the west side of Chicago. I teach high school chemistry and physics, and I really love what I do and I love the kids that I work with but I've always known that I want to go into medicine. I thought for a long time I was going to be in the capacity of like being a PT or working in sports medicine, but after working with some colleagues in college that sort of steered me the other way, I realized that being a PA was actually one of the best fits for me in terms of how much time I want to go back to school for, how soon I could actually start helping people, the type of collaborative work that I'm used to doing and think I'm actually really successful at, and also just the amount of time that I get to spend with people.
Because building relationships have been one of the most important parts of the job that I do right now, even though it's an education as opposed to medicine, I really think that you become more effective as a person whether you're a teacher or PA the more you have a relationship with other people. And I just know that being an MD or working in another capacity you don't have a luxury of spending all that time with a patient, and sometimes you don't get to form the relationship that I think is really important to me to do as a provider. So for reasons like that I am excited to make a transition out of education and into medicine and to fill a role as a PA.
2. What are your weaknesses or one of your weaknesses?
Response by Interviewee: Just one. No. I thought a lot about this because I think in my work a lot of the work we do in the around reflection and around thinking back even on a day to day basis, like what went well, what could have gotten better. I think at a certain point you have to look at that in a larger scale about like what about me, what do I do well, what do I not do so well. And I think in terms of like working with other people I love being in a position of leadership, I love delegating and sort of helping to form a plan and execute it, and being responsible for a lot of things at once.
And I think I noticed it more because I work in the Midwest, but like I'm very much like, "Okay, let's do this, and let's do this, and let's do this, and let's do it this way. And what's the most effective thing to do?" In the Midwest they're just like not in the same rush as I'm in for one thing, but I just think it's a different style of leadership for different people and one thing you learn about just working with all sorts of people is you just don't always mesh in the way that you would do things, and I think that's just part of learning how to be a better leader. So for me that's really something that I want to work on.
Question by Interviewer:
3. Tell me what your least favorite class in college was?
Response by Interviewee: Calculus. Definitely calculus, that was just ... I talk about it a little bit on my application too. I think there's kind of like ... it's almost like a stigma where people assume like if you have a science brain you also have a math brain, like they're just one and the same. And I've just never really fed to that category, even in high school like Algebra 2 was my nemesis, I remember that clearly. And then in college, I knew I had to take calculus 1 and 2, even though I was a biology major and I put it off for a long time. I eventually took it, and I really was not successful at it at first. It's my only D on my college transcript, and it embarrasses me in a lot of ways.
But I learned from that, and I had to take calc 2. I got a tutor before the class even started. I worked with him daily, and in the end, I got a C which is like really not that impressive at all, but for me, math was like a constant area of anxiety. It was something that like I just wasn't used to struggling at something that was supposed to be so similar to the thing that I'm good at. So that was my least favorite class, but I like to think that I got through it.
Question by Interviewer:
4. There is a push right now to change the title of the profession from physician assistant to physician associate. What are your thoughts on that?
Response by Interviewee: Yeah, I think that's really interesting. I've been doing some research just on the history of PAs in general, and at first I was startled that like there's been like all these little changes, like it was physician's assistant. And I can see why that connotation got changed pretty quickly, that seems like almost ... not derogatory, but like a different kind of relationship that I really envisioned having with the physician that I work with, but I do ... I've gotten feedback from people like when I was first talking about becoming a PA, people saying like the word assistant being in the name like is somehow indicative of like a plateau for me in terms of professional ladder climbing or something.
And I think at first maybe I thought that too, and since I've sort of learned about the way that that dynamic works, it doesn't bother me at all. But I think because there is so much that PA does with respect to what a doctor does, I mean, they can do like 85% of the things that an MD can do in terms of things in the exam room, ordering scripts or labs or what have you, it does make sense to sort of have the name reflect even leadership between the two positions. I think even though I understand the term assistant to not mean a negative thing, from outsiders looking in I think it just presents a little bit more of a united front to have that language in there.
Question by Interviewer:
5. What would you do if a patient refuses to be seen by you because you are a PA and not a physician?
Response by Interviewee: Well, I think if there's an opportunity to speak with the patient then that's always positive for me. I think not on a confrontational way at all, but for me going forward it's just I think that any feedback is good feedback. It's nice to know whether or not I'm going to change the patient's mind, it's just nice to know like where they're coming from in that sense. Is it something like as simple as the word assistant being in my title that makes them feel not comfortable being treated by me, or have they had a negative experience with a PA before or do they really just love this doctor? It's just if there's the opportunity for growth in any way then I think I like to take advantage of that opportunity.
But again, a lot of people if they're in a situation where they don't want to see you in a clinical setting they might not want to have the conversation with you anyways. And at a certain point you just have to accept that, and maybe try to reflect on your own. But again, if you can have the conversation I'd always rather do that than not.
Question by Interviewer:
6. What patient population did you least like working with while you were accruing your patient care hours?
Response by Interviewee: I think that because I have such an appreciation or have always sort of had an appreciation for serving people who need it more, it's honestly harder for me or not as exciting for me to treat people that I think will be successful or be okay no matter what. It's the same way with teaching, like I think about if I went and I taught at a school that had kids that looked like me with backgrounds like me, like I find that it was as rewarding and I don't think I would, they would be successful no matter what and they don't need me to be there to do that.
It's the same thing with patients, like not everyone has the compassion and the patience and just the mindset to help people who are traditionally underserved. So for me sort of the flip-flop, I find it less gratifying to work with people who have a certain amount of privilege, especially when they're not aware of it. And maybe that's ironic because for a long time I was like that, I have a certain amount of privilege just because I'm white or what-have-you. But now that I'm so aware of it it's like I can't ignore the fact that like there are certain values to me that make a big difference in terms of population that I serve.
Question by Interviewer:
7. Can you tell me a little bit about a time when you had to work with a supervisor that you disagreed with?
Response by Interviewee: That's a hard one. Well, actually, no, it's not. Because my first year of teaching when I started at the school that I'm still at I had a principal who like on paper I can see why they hired her, she's so fantastic, she had all this experience and spoke with confidences, and she was really a woman that I thought I would emulate at first. But sort of as we all got to work with her it became clear that she sort of led through fear in a lot of ways and really intimidated people that work beneath her, and also students too.
And the thing was like I didn't know any better, like this was my first job out of college and I didn't know that you can work for people or be supervised by people that don't necessarily thrive on you're being afraid of them or you're being too scared to make a mistake. So with that, I mean, I took a lot of her advice and I tried to implement what I could, but I also think I really struggled with how to also sort of walk on eggshells around the person that I really wanted to respect in a lot of ways.
So for me it came down to relying on the people that I worked with, the people that I knew are also struggling on a similar situation. It's funny the way that like a common enemy kind of creates a stronger bond between other people. And I think we all became closer as a staff that year because we struggled with being led by someone who really was not a good leader. And ultimately you sort of felt validated by the end of the year when she was fired in the third quarter, and so I was like, "I'm not crazy. This isn't actually normal."
But in certain situations you do have to just respect the person for the position that they're in and try to assume that they're coming from a place of best intent, assume that they actually do really want you to get better. And if all else fails lean on the people that are beside you that you know you can count on.
Question by Interviewer:
8. Can you tell me what you think your biggest challenge of PA school will be?
Response by Interviewee: I think that my biggest challenge ... I mean, I won't say that like the coursework, and everything doesn't intimidate me, I mean, there's a reason that it's this selective and there's a reason why the first time I went through this process I wasn't successful. I'm competing with people that are truly super intelligent and qualified, and that I would be really proud to work next to. So yeah, it makes me sort of bewildered to think that like here I am now and in two years I'll be able to walk into an exam room, have a patient tell me what's wrong, and then like tell them how to fix it. That's wild to think about for me, because right now like my world is so much different than that.
But I think that with the program and the way it's designed in this like team-led collaborative manner of teaching, which is something that I'm already really comfortable with, that's the way I'm going to get through the struggle of like having to learn a lot of things in a little bit of time and become really good at it.
I think that the impact program that like really is designed around interdisciplinary education, and like learning how to work not only with the other PAs, but also with the nurses and the docs and the MAs and patient, like that can only really strengthen how good you are in the exam room but also the way that you treat things that maybe you didn't understand at first glance. That allows you to be comfortable asking for help, which is what I'm not afraid to do.
Question by Interviewer:
9. Tell me why you feel that this program is the right fit for you and why you are the right fit for this program?
Response by Interviewee: I feel that this program is really made for me and like will allow me to be successful because it has such a focus on team-based learning. It is really designed around discussion and application of knowledge and critical thinking. I mean, these are all things that like I've strived to have in my own classroom for years and I know how difficult it is to accomplish, but I also know how successful that can be for students. I mean, I can say firsthand how like the idea of flipping the classroom and having the students do a lot of the lifting and the learning ahead of time and during class as opposed to like assigning all this homework and things to do when there's no one there to collaborate with. I mean, it makes a big difference in terms of actual comprehension and the longevity of that knowledge. You're not just memorizing it for a test, you actually understand it, can apply it, and see the application of it in real-world situations. So for me that makes the most sense and I really wouldn't want to learn how to do this any other way.
Question by Interviewer:
10. If you were not accepted into our program what do you think the reason would be?
Response by Interviewee: I think it would be because perhaps on paper academically I'm not as competitive as I am with some other applicants that perhaps studied harder or were more passionate in undergrad, and had more direction than I did. I think I'm kind of a late bloomer when it comes to that, but all I've done since I've graduated from college was thought about breaking into medicine, how I'll do it, how I can be a better student. I mean, even though I'm not a student now I'm in the classroom every single day of my life and I teach kids how to study better and I teach kids the emphasis on having goals and on having forethought and chasing after things that maybe they don't think are possible for them.
So on paper academically my past doesn't really speak to the knowledge that I have now and the drive that I think I'm capable of showing. But if I weren't accepted it would probably be for an objective reason like that.
Question by Interviewer:
11. Tell me about a time that you surprised yourself
Response by Interviewee: I think I'm really surprised myself when I was accepted into Teach for America. I kind of entered the process on a whim because I wasn't really ready to make the decision about graduate school, and I didn't know what my next step was going to be after college. And I also didn't realize how passionate I was going to be about serving people who were less privileged and marginalized from the standpoint of being a science teacher. And it was really through the very short application process that I very quickly realized that that's something I'm actually really passionate about.
And it even became clear to me as I was in the interview, and I was talking about ... sort of being asked these provocative questions that the answers that I was giving surprised me. I mean, they were completely genuine but I didn't even realize the way I felt about some of these issues until they were presented right in front of me. So I was surprised that I had this sort of fervor towards something that I didn't really think about as much as I do now. And when I got in I was just as surprised that they recognized it in me, and I'm very grateful for it.
So that's all the questions I have. Do you have any questions for me about this process that we just went through, or do you want to run by probably the questions that you might ask in your interview?
Response by Interviewee: Yeah, I was thinking about that. Like, well, I mean, I've really just been Googling stuff because I don't know, like I mean I think of certain things but I don't really want to just ask any old question. I think it should be a little bit thoughtful. So some things that I was looking at were like what ... Well, asking them like what sets your program apart from others. But I think I was thinking that question before I really kind of knew the answer for myself, so I don't know if that's necessary or if they feel like put on the spot by that. I don't know.
Or like do you find that your graduates are more likely to work in a particular field, like just seeing the trajectory that people go on from this program. Or like what relationships do you have with clinical rotation sites?
Response by Interviewer: I like that too. I think if you ask them about working in a particular field, the graduates, be prepared to answer that for yourself in case they follow up with you and want to know. Yeah, and I think your first question it might put them on the spot, it also might be a little ... Well, I mean, you know the program so well that it also might seem like an odd question just because ...
Response by Interviewee: Like you don't know it or something, yeah.
Response by Interviewer: Yeah. I don't think it'll put them on the spot because I'm sure people ask it, but there's probably a better question.
Response by Interviewee: Yeah, I agree. Yeah, those were like my only two that I was like, "Okay, that's real. I actually wondered that."
Response by Interviewer: Yeah, stick with the ones that are real for you because everything else about this interview has definitely been like you being very genuine, so that's the strongest part of your interview. You come across as just like 100% who you are.
Response by Interviewee: Yeah, okay, cool. I feel really good about that. I mean, I'm nervous but I really just want to like get there and do it.
Response by Interviewer: Yeah, you're going to do well, I can tell. One quick thing that I did notice when you were talking a lot of times you aren't looking at the person, it could just be because of the video thing too, like it's hard to make eye contact with a video screen. But I did notice that a lot, so it's totally fine to do that when you're collecting your thoughts, but just like if you catch yourself remember to focus back in.
Response by Intrviewee: Yeah, no, that's like my thinking face. It's like ...
Response by Interviewer: Yeah, that's all right. Yeah, so I think you're in really good shape, and I am really excited. I hope you follow up with me and let me know how it goes, because I'll be very curious.
Response by Interviewee: Awesome. Yeah, I will let you know. This has been really fantastic and worth it for sure. So I'm really glad that I did this. Thanks so much for help, Sarah.
Response by Interviewer: Yeah, definitely. Let me know if you have any other questions in the meantime, or if a question trips you up tomorrow and you want to talk about like how you could answer it better next time or something like that, just let me know, I'm happy to help.
Response by Interviewee: Okay, that's great. All right, thanks so much.
Response by Interviewer: Thanks, bye.
Response by Interviewee: Bye.
Thank you, Lily!
I hope this interview with Lily Boyle will help you as you prepare for your very own PA school interview. Thank you, Lily, for sharing your interview with all of us here at The PA Life community!
If you are interested in your very own mock PA school interview we are here to help. We offer 60 minute recorded live interviews, just like this one. Complete with feedback and suggestions for improvement, unlimited discounted follow-up interviews, and a privately recorded video of your interview that you can use to fine-tune your responses.
Don't wait until interview day to face those tough and difficult to answer questions. We'll help guide you every step of the way so that come interview day, you know you are 100% prepared for whatever the admissions committee throws at you!
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- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
- 300 PA School Interview Questions You Should Be Ready to Answer
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- Mock Physician Assistant School Interview With Taylor Hill Pre-PA
- Mock PA School Interview With Pre-PA Lily Boyle
- The Interview That Got This Pre-PA Into 5 PA Schools
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