We have covered a lot of ground on the blog this year. Let's take a look at some of the highlights from 2016. I'd love to hear what you would like to see on the blog in 2017 - please submit your answers below.
Takeaway #1: Shadow a PA
There is no better way to learn about the role of a PA than seeing one in action. This is not always required by PA programs, but you should consider it a requirement if you want to truly understand what a day in the life of a PA is like. Doing all of the work to go to PA school and skipping this essential step is a mistake. In addition to giving you insight into the profession, shadowing provides you with the opportunity to connect with a PA who could provide you a letter of recommendation at application time.
Takeaway #2: You do not have to go deeply into debt to be a PA
Massive student loan debt is not a requirement to graduate from PA school, but it has become a normal part of the PA student experience. Avoiding this pitfall will take careful planning, extra time, and patience. This may mean sacrificing for an extra couple of years before going to PA school. If you are someone who looks at the big picture and your 5- and 10-year goals rather than the short term, responsibly managing your finances should be part of your overall PA school plan.
Takeaway #3: PA school faculty are wise to your tricks
In discussing the NHSC program with Wilton Kennedy, he enlightened us to the fact that faculty are fully aware of prospective PA students discussing serving "underserved" communities and other hot button terms that they think faculty will view as favorable, while withholding their true desires for PA practice during PA school interviews. Do you see yourself working in surgery because that was your shadowing or prior work experience and you loved it? Be honest in your interview and discuss goals that are backed up by your actual experiences rather than what you think will gain you interview points.
Takeaway #4: Avoid being hasty in your PA program choices
There are many factors to consider when choosing PA programs to target, but it is possible to rule out schools too early in the search process. Rather than trying to funnel down your choices, evaluate what is truly important to you and find schools that are a good match to those criteria. Accreditation is often one of these factors that pre-PA students use to rule out schools before they start a more specific search, but consider your reasons for doing this. Rather than ruling out schools based on an accreditation status category, you might use the status to gain a competitive advantage in the application process.
Takeaway #5: Take your time with the PA school essay
It takes time to create an effective PA school essay. Build this into the timeline of your application process so you are not panicked and rushed whenever it comes time to write. Spend more time planning your content and considering your delivery than you do actually writing your essay. You can start this process long before you ever start writing your essay, and doing so will help you to cover the 5 keys to an effective essay: telling a story, making it personal, being realistic, being specific, and making the connection.