Occasionally, I hear about a myth surrounding PA school so often that I begin to wonder if I'm the one who isn't privy to the truth.
These myths become so pervasive that most people who mention them aren't asking whether the legend is true, they're predicating their question around the "fact" they believe to be accurate.
So, this comes across something like, "Since I can't ride a bike without a driver's license, should I start studying now for my driver's license?"
The question is nonsense because it is based on a flawed "truth." But it would seem valid if you thought you needed a license to ride a bike.
I'm not sure where the tales begin, but I assume they evolve from something like the telephone game. What starts as something reasonable and accurate morphs into an unrecognizable, warped version of the original.
So, before this one goes any further, let's bust this PA school application BS.
This statement is an amalgam of many comments and questions I've fielded from prospective PA students, nearly always as part of a bigger issue.
I'm not sure where this idea started.
First of all, no one has tracked the success rate of first time versus repeat applicants. I checked.
PAEA conducts the most extensive surveys of PA students, PA programs, and collects data from CASPA, and they don't currently have information on overall reapplicant success rates.
Some data is available within an individual program, but programs only know if someone is a repeat applicant to their program.
You could apply to PA school many times, but if you didn't apply to the same program more than once, no one would know that you were a reapplicant.
Since we don't have objective information to back up the claim that not getting into PA school in the first round dampens your overall chances, let's look at the subjective.
There are loads of practicing PAs who didn't get into PA school on their first try. You'll find them if you ask around.
I've practiced alongside some. These are very smart, accomplished PAs who weren't well prepared for or made some mistakes with their first application cycle.
I've coached many more eventual PA students who weren't successful in getting into PA school at first but, with continued work and a solid plan, earned offers from PA programs they loved.
So while we can't look at rates or percentages, we can find many individuals who disprove the idea that getting into PA school is more onerous for repeat applicants.
Lastly, let's use a little common sense to think this through.
Every PA school accepts repeat applicants; no program bars candidates from reapplying. Some have supplemental essay questions asking repeat applicants to describe what they've done to improve since their prior application.
If some of the strongest candidates happen to be reapplicants, does it make sense for a PA program to demote their applications because those candidates applied previously? Would a school purposely choose less qualified applicants merely because it was their first try?
The answer is no.
PA schools are in the business of selecting the people who they think will make the best PAs. It would be ludicrous for a program to overlook a qualified applicant because they dared to remain interested in training with that particular PA program.
All of that being said, there is one situation in which this BS may not be BS. It is when someone applies to PA school, doesn't get in, and does absolutely nothing different before applying in the next cycle.
But, that would be stupid. Using a strategy that didn't work the first time and expecting it to achieve success when deployed a second time around is foolish. Nearly no one does that. Anyone who is serious about getting into PA school definitely doesn't.
But, perhaps, that's where the myth started. And if that's so, the original idea was correct: You won't get into PA school if you aren't working to improve your application weak spots or building on your strengths between application cycles.
Most PAs and PA students who applied in more than one application cycle can point to the efforts that led to their ultimate success. The difference between an unsuccessful bid for PA school and a triumphant one is typically gaining additional experience and having a better game plan for the second time around.
Because some PA school candidates don't recognize the potential deficits in their application, they may spend a good portion of their first application cycle not doing much to improve for a possible second cycle.
If you haven't worked to improve your competitiveness in the meantime and you'd essentially be applying with the same application as before, it might make sense to delay your second attempt.
That doesn't mean that everyone considering PA school should delay applying until they max out on experience. You should apply to PA school when you feel that you are a good candidate.
But remember, nothing is stopping you from continuing to improve your application's attractiveness for as long as it takes.
You can apply to PA school as many times as you like. However, if you're continually working on becoming a better prospect and you lay out a clear plan to prepare for PA school, it shouldn't take more than a few tries.
So, are we agreed? No more believing that applying to PA school somehow decreases your chances of getting into PA school in the future, right?
If you've believed this for awhile, it may take a little time to unlearn the lie. But like so many other false ideas, using logic can help you to see the flaws in its foundation.
And if you want to determine how to most effectively spend your time as you wait to hear back from PA programs on an application you've submitted, check out my 3-part mini-course, Application Reboot. In it, you'll use a weighted assessment tool to rank the most important the elements of your application approach and help you plan your strategy for future success.