The Mock PA School Interview That Got This Pre-Physician Assistant Into 5 PA Schools
Have you been asking yourself the same question a Tolu?
How do you prepare answers for your PA school interview without sounding rehearsed?
How do you effectively talk about your weaknesses, or discuss your strengths without sounding like a braggart? Just what does a successful PA school interview look like? Today's blog post will answer these questions.
The following time-stamped video snippets (along with the full video above) are from a mock PA school interview with pre-physician assistant Tolu Fasoranti. If you are looking for an example of a stellar mock interview, this is it! We have included the list of questions asked in this interview along with the written transcript of her responses and our detailed analysis.
We have extracted each video response on a per-question basis so that you can go back and review her answers. You will find her answers to be authentic, enthusiastic, and concise. She is calm and measured, and she doesn't seem nervous at all, despite feeling quite the opposite.
If you are looking for even more practice interview questions, here is a list of my top 46 PA school interview questions along with 300 more questions that are a bit more "unconventional." They are all questions from actual PA school interviews.
Questions asked in this interview:
- Tell me a little about yourself and why you'd like to be a PA
- Why you'll be an ideal candidate for PA school?
- What is your biggest weakness
- What is your biggest strength
- What you think is the most important quality a PA should possess?
- What steps you'll take as a PA student to promote unity within your cohort?
- Tell me one thing about you I won't find anywhere in your application?
- So you are PA, and your patient has been diagnosed with HIV, they don't want to tell their partner, what would you do in that situation?
- Tell me if you would about one of your regrets?
- Tell me if you would about a time where your work was criticized? And tell me about your immediate reaction and then sort of how you overcame?
- You're a PA working in a cardiology practice, and you typically see most of the patients. You're supervising MD signs the chart and assigns the billing codes. You notice that he's billing Medicare and Medicaid at higher levels and tells you when you ask that it's because you don't get reimbursed enough. You're concerned that you might have some liability if the physician is caught committing fraud, what would you do in that situation?
- Why is our school right for you, and why are you a good fit for our program?
- Tell me if you're not accepted into the program, why you think that might be?
- What are you famous for in your social circle?
Question by Interviewer:
1. Tell me a little about yourself and why you'd like to be a PA
[00:00:07.59] Response by Interviewee: Okay, well, I'm Tolu, you already know that. I'm a paramedic. I went to the University of Pittsburgh up in Pennsylvania and graduated with a degree in emergency medicine. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and I am a passionate Texan. Even though I went away for school, I came back as soon as I could, and I love growing up here. I'm a child of two Nigerian immigrants who made it to Texas as fast as they could.
I love working in health care, and I think it's one of the best ways we can serve our community, which is something I'm passionate about. In undergrad I was part of an organization that focused on service in the community, and did work with the Boys and Girls Club, and a bunch of different organizations that's really focused on meeting the people within our community, meeting their needs the best we could but not in a way that we were superior, but just meeting them where they were at.
And so you'll see, if you've seen my resume you'll see that GSS was a huge part of my undergraduate career, and I continue to do that in my community of faith, and that was a big part of it which is where my internship came into play when I was an intern in the family ministry, but we'll get on that later.
I would say that one of the attributes I think best define myself is that I'm very calm during a crisis. I think most paramedics should be that it would probably be problematic if they wouldn't be. But I really learned it when I was in my clinical education that I could be calm during crisis because my preceptor pointed it out that when we had somebody (coding?) in front of us, instead of getting frenzied or frantic I would just call myself down and see what we could do to do some work. And that training has served me very well in a lot of scenarios, in the ER, in the ambulance, in real life. Yeah, what else is there to say?
I really enjoy crafting and working with my hands for fun. I have a lot of clients. I love the fact that they depend on me. And that I have to be disciplined in taking care of my plans or disciplined in taking up a new craft and learning how to master it without giving up.
2. Tell me why you'll be an ideal candidate for PA school?
[00:07:23.40] Response by Interviewee: Well, I think I have a few attributes that would make me a great candidate for your program. One of them is the experience I have from my undergraduate education. The major I was in is very unique, and I was so excited to be a part of it. It's a combined didactic and clinical education program where we were learning clinical medicine like physical assessment, cardiology, and respiratory. Also while applying those principles and skills in the field in a bunch of different medical scenarios, and a lot of people don't have the opportunity to even encounter clinical medicine in a school setting during their undergraduate. And I feel like it's prepared me to continue on to take courses such as internal medicine, behavioral medicine, classes that your program offers that I've had experience with not only in the classroom but in the field.
I also think that my paramedic experience, in addition to my education, is going to be a huge point of value for both myself and for your program and my fellow classmates. There's a certain thing that it takes to encounter a patient, interact with them respectfully, and have them leave with a respect for you and the medical field. And also feeling that they trust you and have hope in their diagnosis.
And I've learned how to talk to a patient like a human being, take a medical history, do the physical assessment, and also do my own job by forming a treatment plan all while interacting with them one on one and not just ... I'd say develop the bedside manner that leaves a lot of patients feeling like they're known and valued. And I think that's not something you can teach in a classroom, but you do learn how to do it in the field, and I'd love to encourage my classmates and better develop myself in that.
And also I think one of my best attributes is that I am an eternal optimist, it's not something that you see a lot of in EMS which I thought was interesting when I joined the field. I had a lot of preceptors say I was annoyingly (chipper?). And while that might be discouraging to some I just have a very deep-seated hope that things are going to be okay, you find the best in everybody in everything, especially in that field where you're seeing a lot of not so great things.
So it's circling well, my patients feel that when I walked into their rooms. And I think it encourages my co-workers when we're having a really rough shift if I just remind them of the goal that we're having or the privilege we have to serve our community in this capacity, it tends to make the shift go by a little bit faster. And yeah, I think that would serve as well, because PA school is a marathon, even though it's 2 to 3 years, it is going to be very difficult, and I've encountered rigorous coursework and you know the toll that can take on someone, so I think that encouraging myself, my classmates to push forward towards the goal will be a huge benefit, and it makes me a great candidate for your program.
3. Tell me about your biggest weakness
[00:13:38.06] Response by Interviewee: Okay, my biggest weakness. I want to honestly say that I think my biggest weakness is that I tend to be a bit naive. I don't think the naiveté that I experience or exhibit is foolishness. A lot of people have told me that I'm wise for my age, but I do tend to see the best in everyone, and while that can serve good purposes it can also lead to situations that may not be the best.
I've had patients that are what we would call professional patients, who can take advantage of people like myself that are younger. I wouldn't say inexperienced, but maybe a little more naive and trusting. And it's not building up that judgment when maybe a patient is trying to manipulate you. However, I do think this is something that I can rectify by just getting more experience. The more patients I encounter, I mean, even comparing myself from when I was an EMT Basic two now I've learned to better understand when a patient is telling me the truth and maybe when they're trying to play on my sympathies to get maybe what they want.
Response by Interviewer: All right, I'm going to give you a chance to brag on yourself a little bit since I asked you for the weakness.
4. Tell me about your biggest strength
[00:16:59.39] Response by Interviewee: My biggest strength? I would say that one of my biggest strengths is one of the best compliments I've received from co-workers and employers that I'm a peacemaker. I think it has a lot to do with my personality that I'm not conflict avoidant, but I also seek moments for mediation whenever there is disagreement. It goes back to that optimism thing.
If you see a connection with other people and you see what you have in common, you can often just get along. You don't have to be best friends with everyone, but I often seek moments for conflict resolution versus sitting in the negative. It's come in very handy with my co-workers when I am partnered with somebody for a 24-hour shift that doesn't necessarily like me. I try to figure out, okay, how do I best interact with this person? They don't have to be my best friend, but we do have to work together, and we have to work together well for the sake of our patients.
5. Tell me what you think is the most important quality a PA should possess?
[00:19:46.43] Response by Interviewee: There are a lot of qualities I think that are important for anybody in the health care field and specifically for PAs. The one that comes to mind that I've seen most often in mission statements and in talking to people who are PAs and people who are treated by PAs is compassion or being a good listener. I don't know if they're the exact same thing, but being able to see your patient as a human being, first and foremost, not as another patient on your list but as somebody who may be struggling with a new diagnosis or a chronic illness that they feel like they just cannot manage themselves. Seeing them as a person and seeking to meet them where they're at is so important.
I cannot count the number of patients I've encountered that have been scorned by the medical field because they felt like they were just treated like a number or another page, just something to get through. But the people that have told me, "Oh, my provider saw me and talked to me like I was a person and helped me where I was," it's awesome, it makes a huge difference for them, and I think every PA should have that quality.
6. What steps will you take as a PA student to promote unity within your cohort?
[00:22:51.00] Response by Interviewee: Oh, man. I think something that I enjoy doing with my EM class, my paramedic class when I was in school, was getting together in smaller groups. We had a class of about 48, but we would have like dinner parties sort of where we'd all go to dinner, or I'd invite some people over. So I'd love to do that with my PA classmates when we do have that spare moment to relax.
Within the classroom, I think something that I can do to promote unity within a class is not fostering an environment of competitiveness. I think that that's something that happens a lot within pre-health students no matter the field really, pre-professional students tend to be competitive with each other. So instead of talking about, "Oh, what did I get on this test? Or look at all the things that I'm doing," and kind of humble bragging. I think encouraging each other to be the best I think can be individually and focusing on how they can improve themselves would do wonders for unity within the class.
If we feel like we're going to be co-workers and not competitors, that would probably be the best thing I could do to encourage that attitude.
7. Tell me one thing about yourself I won't find anywhere in your application?
[00:25:11.02] Response by Interviewee: Oh, boy. I think something that you won't find in my application is that I am a huge reader. I read. I didn't read as much in undergrad because I was very busy reading the assigned textbooks, but this past year of postgraduate that I've had I've focused on finding the hobbies that I enjoyed before I went to college and hunkering down and getting into them. And I've been doing this reading challenge for the past year, just because I love learning about different subjects whether it's space or house plans or traveling Europe in the 1900s or something.
I think it's so neat to learn from shared experiences and people who've experienced particular lifestyles, so that's something I don't think you'll find in my application. I've read about 43 books this year, and hope to get to 82 by the end of the year, so that's my goal.
8. You are a PA, and your patient has been diagnosed with HIV, they don't want to tell their partner, what would you do in this situation?
[00:28:19.00] Response by Interviewee: That is a dicey situation just because you want to honor your patient's rights for confidentiality, but you're also thinking of the general welfare of their partner, the public, and everyone that they'll encounter, every provider they'll encounter in the future, that if they don't disclose they're not only putting themselves in danger they're putting a lot of other people in danger.
Legally, some states have policies where you must report it to at least the CDC or the partner. If there were a law, if I were practicing in a state where that was part of the legislature, I would absolutely follow the law and inform the patient that as much as I want to respect their confidentiality, I do have to report it to the CDC or whatever or whoever.
If it wasn't part of the legislature and I needed to uphold the patient's confidentiality, I would try my best to stress how important it is that they disclose to their partner and future health care providers, because it's dangerous. But ultimately if I am not legally allowed to do so, and it's not in the best interest of my patient, I wouldn't disclose it to the partner. So if they said that they were fearful that their partner would abuse them or injure them or there would be some violence if they found out, that would be a scenario in which I wouldn't feel comfortable disclosing to the partner.
Ultimately it boils down to what am I allowed to do within the limits of the law because, in my opinion, the right thing to do would be to disclose to the partner so that they can go on and practice safe sexual encounters, and that the partner would not become another patient. But if I'm not allowed to, then I have to do my best to educate the patient on the importance of disclosing and the steps they can take to protect themselves and their partners.
9. Tell me if you would about one of your regrets?
[00:32:55.17] Response by Interviewee: One of my regrets. That's a good question. I think one of my bigger regrets more recently was during my sophomore year of college. I took a hefty course load of sciences that I knew were difficult, but for the sake of time, I thought I could crush this, instead of taking the advice of people who had gone before me and had encountered those classes. So I decided to take organic chemistry, physics, and statistics alongside some other already difficult courses. Just maybe assuming too much into my academic strength, but thinking, "Oh, I'll just take care of it, it'll be fine."
And when I was not doing well, not only was I not doing well just because of the courses were hard, and I wasn't using all the resources I had available, I also had a family crisis happen that took away a lot of my attention. So I was already behind the ball and then fell even further behind the ball. And instead of reaching out for help when I was in the I would say the danger zone of my grades not being what I expected them to be, I just kind of hunkered down and tried to rely on my strength.
I wish if I could go back there and tell sophomore year Tolu, I wish that she had sought tutoring and thought maybe counseling if I was having some emotional crisis or things that were going on personally to try to work through those, instead of hunkering down in isolation because I don't think a lot of good things come out of isolation.
So in the future, after that event and realizing how much I messed myself up by trying to rely on my own strength, being able to do everything by myself, I've really seen the value of tutoring and seeking help and even putting your pride aside to seek help and just asking people to speak into the situation you're in.
10. Tell me about a time where your work was criticized? And tell me about your immediate reaction and then how you overcame it?
[00:36:07.30] Response by Interviewee: Okay. I can think of several moments when my work was criticized. The first thing that comes to mind was when I was working with a partner who was my preceptor at the time. I was still a paramedic student, and this partner already did not like me very much, and in this situation, he was the person precepting me, so I made the treatment plan as a student paramedic, I would say, "Okay, this is what I think we should do for the patient." And I usually air on the side of most cautious, using the most resources I have available, and sometimes using more things in a seasoned paramedical would because I don't have that innate judgment when I'm a student. I don't just know, "Oh, okay, looking at these symptoms, I know what's going to happen."
So I suggested we involve the Medical Command, which is a resource EMS has to call a physician to say, "Hey, this is my treatment plan, what do you think?" Especially if you think that it varies from your protocols because we practice under the licensure of a doctor who has protocol set out. So anytime I encounter a patient that I think might be a little more dangerous for me to handle on my own, I like to seek Medical Command.
And he laid into me afterward for seeking Medical Command saying, "You should have just done it yourself, you would have been fine." And I will be honest; I was disheartened at first because I didn't see anything wrong in what I did. But later I just asked him, "Okay, in the future if I'm confused on a patient, what would be the best way to remedy it if you don't think I should have called Medical Command?" Then he did lay out some guidelines and some pretty constructive things, even though at first I thought it came out of just a dislike for me, I saw that there was an education component to it.
And some of the advice he gave I still use to this day when it comes to encountering patients that I don't immediately know what to do with. And yeah, so even though I was disappointed and a little disheartening and taken aback, I may or may not have cried, I was able to have a conversation with him a couple hours after the situation just to calm me down and try and seek something good out of an encounter that normally would have just put a bad taste in my mouth.
11. You're a PA working in a cardiology practice, and you typically see most of the patients, and you're supervising MD signs the chart and assigns the billing codes. You notice that he's billing Medicare and Medicaid at higher levels and tells you when you ask that it's because you don't get reimbursed enough. You're concerned that you might have some liability if the physician is caught committing fraud, what would you do in that situation?
[00:39:57.21] Response by Interviewee: Well, that's definitely another tricky situation, because my first reaction is I want to respect my attending physician, and while there is something that seems a little off I may wish just to acquiesce and say, "Okay, if you say so." But there is a huge component that I worked hard for my PA licensure or my PA certification, and I do not want to lose my certification or be liable or standby and be complicit in the fraud, especially when it comes to billing Medicare or Medicaid for how we're treating our patients. I'd want it to be sincere, so I'd go and have a conversation with the physician who's already told me that we don't get billed enough and ask him, "How we can rectify the situation of, okay, if we're not getting billed enough, what can we do to maybe increase with profits if that's a problem, how can we seek to make maybe more money for their practice if that's the problem without committing fraud?"
If he were to give me pushback on that or say, "You just don't understand," I'd have to seek out somebody who was in a higher position. I believe that there's always someone, we always have a supervisor, you always answer to someone. So after trying to rectify the situation with the physician I'd probably seek out a supervisor and ask them for their input, maybe ask a colleague for their input on the situation without trying to spread it around too much to avoid it becoming gossipy. But yeah, ultimately my goal would be to end the behavior that could get both of us in trouble, and that might include letting the physician know, "Okay, I see your point, but what you're doing is illegal and can get us both in a lot of trouble."
12. Why is our school right for you, and why are you a good fit for our program?
[00:43:57.12] Response by Interviewee: Okay, well, I'm so excited to have been given the opportunity to interview at my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. I had such a great experience learning how to be a health care provider in the school of health, and we have sciences. So knowing that the physician assistant program is also in the same school, at the same University I had, I know that they have a very high emphasis on patient-centered care, that's how I was taught to be a paramedic, and I have no doubt that that's how I'll be taught to be physician-assisted.
I love Pittsburgh, it's a very cool city, and I have a great community here and a great support system. Even though my family is in Houston, the friends and community I've built here while I was an undergrad have been so solid that I've considered coming back to Pittsburgh even though I'm a die-hard Texan.
I love the UPMC system, I learned a lot about patient care, critical, acute patient care, and also day-to-day chronic illness management in the different rotations I did through the UPMC system, so the opportunity to do my clinicals through that hospital system and also through rural areas in surrounding Pennsylvania I think will give me a really good foundation on patient care. And I think clinical education is one of the most important things I'm looking for in a physician assistant school.
That's how I learned how to be a paramedic, didactic was very informative, and I learned a lot about medicine and pharmacology and stuff, but learning how to actually take care of patients and interact with them was completely through my clinical education. And the Pitts PA program has an excellent reputation for good clinical experience.
I've had a couple of friends and mentors who have gone through this program and are now wonderful practicing PAs, and I would jump at the opportunity to go through the same program. I also really like the fact that it's a 24-month program. I am eager to be a part of the field and know that I can keep up with fast-paced programs, the paramedic program I was in was eight months rather than two years like the traditional program would be. And I did well in it, and I think I can do well in an accelerated or a little bit of a faster-paced PA program. So yeah, I would love to be a part of this program, and I hope that you would seriously consider me.
13. If you're not accepted into our PA program, why do you think that might be?
[00:47:11.52] Response by Interviewee: Well, if I wasn't accepted in the program, I think the main thing would probably be my GPA. That's probably what I think is the weakest point of my application. I don't think I have a terrible GPA, but I do know that there are some classes like organic chemistry and physics that I didn't perform well in, and while I didn't perform well in them I don't think it's indicative of how I perform in the classes that I'd encounter in PA school.
I think my academic performance and classes that are more clinically related, like cardiology would be a better reflection of how I do in the program. But if there was anything that would be a point of concern I would think that it's my GPA, because I know that PA programs put a lot of emphasis on academic background and performance.
14. What are you famous for in your social circle?
[00:49:09.49] Response by Interviewee: What I'm famous for, okay, I think what I'm famous for in my social circle is the ability to reference different funny YouTube videos or TV shows that we like in every scenario. I love the TV show The Office and can be found quoting different lines from one of the main characters, Michael Scott, constantly, which is great when I'm around people who know the show, awkward when I'm around people who have never seen it.
View all posts in this series
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- The Top 46 Physician Assistant Applicant Interview Questions
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- The Physician Assistant Interview: Thank You and Follow-up (With Sample)
- A Look Inside Two PA School Interviews
- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
- 300 PA School Interview Questions You Should Be Ready to Answer
- PA School Mock Interviews: Prepare with a Live, Recorded Video Interview
- Mock Physician Assistant School Interview With Taylor Hill Pre-PA
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- The Interview That Got This Pre-PA Into 5 PA Schools
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- Mind Mapping: A Tool for Personal Statements, Supplemental Essays, and Interviews
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