Life is full of obstacles. They can be as simple as getting out of the bed in the morning, or as arduous as writing the perfect physician assistant application essay.
Most of the time the biggest obstacle is ourselves. The excuses that we create to avoid doing the things that matter most. This is true in life, and often is a roadblock on our journey to PA school.
Please write down this quote and paste it on your bathroom mirror right now:
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do."
1. Getting Started by Setting Goals
Grab a piece of paper and write down your goal. In this case:
Goal = I want to be a physician assistant… and here’s why I want to be a physician assistant.
2. Define Your Path to Reaching Your Goal
Let's start with the application requirements for applying to PA school.
The application requirements vary from school to school, but I have put together a quick getting started guide.
I am a big fan of what I like to call the MED. This is the "Minimum Effective Dose." We use it a lot in medicine, and I think it works well here. What it the MED for a good PA school applicant?
You must perform a detailed reconnaissance of the top 3-5 PA schools you wish to apply to. You can rank them based on their list of exact requirements. Create a list of requirements and then cross compare.
The school with the least overall requirements will be your MED.
You can apply when you reach this MED, but I would highly encourage you to go beyond the MED. Remember you are competing against many other very qualified applicants. A substantial list of qualifications that extends well beyond what the program is asking for combined with passion, drive, and integrity is a formula for success.
Below your goal create a list of things you need to do to apply for PA school. It will usually look like this:
- Clinical Experience
- Often two years (2,000 hours) of direct patient care experience.
- Academic prerequisites
- Research your school(s) of choice and make a checklist of what you have and what you need.
- Knowledge of the PA profession
- Your understanding of the PA role can be demonstrated through your work, volunteer and shadowing experiences, your personal statement and your letters of reference.
- This is not always a requirement, but it often is, so I would recommend taking it and getting it over with!
Here is a simple five-step process:
3. Create a Reasonable Timeline for Reaching Your Goals. Organize your finances.
Now that you know what to do start today. It is this simple!
- Create a reasonable PA school application timeline that allows you to obtain the necessary PA school prerequisites.
- Organize your finances, work requirements, family life to make the timeline achievable.
- Define your goal.
- Clearly, define your path and find the "MED."
- Create a reasonable timeline and organize your finances (look for PA-specific scholarships and loans).
If you are stuck, just ask yourself what are you most afraid of. Then do that!
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Hi, I’m a hopeful PA school applicant, I’m a sophomore in college now. You say that usually 4000 hours of patient contact experience is required, but today PA school is becoming more popular straight out of undergraduate schooling. Do you think PA programs still expect such high hours/experience from undergraduate students? I volunteer at the hospital every week and I hope to do some field research with patients in the next couple of years, but I don’t think I will reach nearly 4000 hours.
I actually don’t think the actual number of hours is very important, so no, 4000 hours is not required. The admissions committee is much more likely to look at the type of experience, they also want to make sure that you were working and or volunteering on a consistent basis (i.e more than 30 minutes a week as a front desk volunteer at the hospital) and that you are dedicated. There is no hard rule here, but the key is just to get started ASAP, try to have at least 2 or preferably 3 different types of activities that show a knowledge of the medical field and a desire to help people. As a sophomore this is the perfect time to get started, if you can use a summer to have a unique experience (such as an overseas volunteer opportunity) I think this would be very good as well. Try to be as hands on as possible and when you apply out of undergrad you can demonstrate how you have been working in the healthcare field for the past 3-4 years and you can start listing your experience. This will really make you stand out.
Brian Wallace says
The hardest step always seems to be the first one
And the second, and third (smile)…