After months of waiting anxiously to hear back on your PA school application, the good news finally comes — you've scored a PA school interview. But, what if that interview is just around the corner? Will you be ready in time?
Some applicants aren't given much advanced notice for PA school interviews.
Maybe you're invited to an interview that's only a week away because you're local-ish to the program, and they reviewed your application just in time. Or perhaps a program had an interview spot open up unexpectedly, and you were next on the list.
Assuming the date offered doesn't interfere with other PA school interviews, doing what you can to make it work can pay off.
First, many programs have rolling admissions, and having an earlier interview may increase your odds of acceptance.
Secondly, even if the request feels a little abrupt, going through with the interview as offered would allow you to remain flexible for other opportunities that may come later in the cycle.
Now that you're (hopefully) convinced that accepting an interview on the earliest date offered is a good idea, the next mental hurdle becomes, "How do I actually pull this off?"
Preparing for any PA school interview can be stressful, but doing it under a time crunch piles on the pressure.
Feeling underprepared for an interview will affect your confidence, and, in turn, your performance. But, just because you don't have a lot of time to practice doesn't mean you're destined to feel unready or doubt yourself.
If your interview prep is well structured and focused on the areas likely to have the biggest impact, you can go in feeling fully ready.
So, if you only have a few days for your PA school interview prep, here's exactly how to spend your time and where to focus your attention to most efficiently enhance your interview skills.
The 3-Day Design
The key to quality interview prep, whether you have weeks or days, is to approach it with intentionality.
Falling down internet rabbit holes of searching for potential interview questions or becoming overwhelmed by what could be asked is a waste of your time. And, perhaps worse, it will chip away at your confidence.
When your interview is just days away, you cannot afford to lose any ground in either of these areas.
To keep moving forward, your plan must be built around what information you want to share. And to stay on track, you also have to create barriers to avoid the typical, unhelpful interview-prep detours that stress often provokes.
For short-notice interview invites, I recommend structuring your prep around a 3-day plan to start, dedicating two hours each day to dense prep.
What do I mean by "dense prep"? Remove distractions from your environment, turn off your phone, and remind yourself that you can get much further in a limited amount of time with dedicated effort.
To start, block out a full two hours on three separate days and commit to sticking with it.
Each day, 30 minutes of the two-hour block will be designated for a tech-related activity. But note, this will be by design and with purpose, not a black-hole internet search of PA school interview topics.
Two hours of intense, purposeful practice will do more to boost your interview performance than spending an entire day on online "research."
You'll need to use some online tools for help, and you'll get the space to do that in each of your 2-hour blocks. But set a timer (yes, time yourself, with an alarm if needed) so that you can be sure to stick with the task at hand.
On the first day, the focus will be on "The Big 3":
Why do you want to be a PA?
Why this program?
Can you tell me about yourself?
No matter the format of your interview — one-on-one, group, MMI, panel, or otherwise, these questions usually come up in some way or another.
You might encounter one unexpectedly after finishing an MMI scenario when there are a few minutes to spare. Or, maybe a big 3 question isn't asked in a regular session, but you receive one as a writing prompt in an interview-day essay.
Nearly universally, PA programs are interested in your responses to these questions. Even if they're not asking one of these interview questions directly, they'll look for other ways to glean this information.
So, preparing responses to these particular questions will help you to build a foundation for your interview. Even if they aren't asked, the content you plan for your responses to The Big 3 will help you to answer loads of other potential questions.
To create your day-one plan, start with your 30 minutes of tech time. Remember to set your timer.
30-Minute Tech Time
Look through the program's website and take note of the features that stand out to you. You likely already have a few in mind, but get into the specifics here because what you find will help you to create a strong response to "Why this program?".
With your remaining time, check out a few sample responses to these common questions. Look through: The Big Three: PA School Interview Questions. But don't stray too far; time is limited.
90-Minute Focused Prep
After your tech time is complete, spend the next 90 minutes dedicated to building out your responses to The Big 3. Use 3-4 bullet points to structure your answers — it will help you to avoid sounding rehearsed while still staying on track.
Once you have the structures built, record yourself on video giving your verbal responses to these interview questions.
Your delivery doesn't have to be perfect or polished on day 1.
However, practicing your verbal responses now will help you to begin to build the rhythm of your answers. You'll improve upon this later, but, for now, you've just got to get cracking.
On your second day, begin with the "content creation" portion of your prep first, and save the tech time for the end of your 2-hour block.
You're already on a roll from the previous day, so creating your responses for this next set of common interview questions should be more comfortable than day 1.
90-Minute Focused Prep
For day 2, we'll focus on the three common interview questions that tap into your personality traits and personal experiences.
Prepping for these specific questions will allow you to prioritize what else, beyond what's contained in your big 3 answers, you hope to share with an interview committee.
Think through your responses to these three questions:
What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
What's your single greatest weakness?
What are your goals as a PA?
Think about what you want to share in your response, not just what might "sound good" to an interview committee. Your answer will sound and feel more authentic if you focus on your unique personality and experiences rather than trying to fit yourself into some pre-PA mold.
For the first 90 minutes of your day-two prep block, decide how you want to respond to each of these questions and arrange your written responses into short bullet points.
Take time to mull over each question and decide the characteristics and aspirations that will help to (accurately) portray who you are to an admissions committee.
Like your responses to The Big 3, the information contained in these answers may be useful for other kinds of questions that might be asked in an interview.
So, while the questions are common enough to warrant preparation, the answers you create for them will also help you to build a stronger interview foundation. And, the benefits of establishing this foundation will extend well beyond having responses ready for any specific question.
30-Minute Tech Time
For the final 30 minutes of day 2, focus your tech time on researching the interview style of your prospective program. Use the program materials that were provided to you or search through online forums to learn more about the program's interview format.
After gathering this information, do some digging on what to expect from a one-on-one, group, MMI, or open application format, depending on what your program uses.
It's vital not to get sidetracked by interesting yet irrelevant information — your interview day is too close to go a-wandering.
Once you have a grasp of what to expect from an interview style, consider what kind of questions you might encounter with that format.
If it's a one-on-one interview, what questions would you expect to be asked? If you'll be in a group, what questions seem more likely compared to what you might be asked in a solo session? What activities or scenarios might you encounter in an MMI?
Here's the really important part — write down three questions that wouldn't come as a surprise given the interview format.
Not what could be asked, but what's likely to be asked. Or, in the case of an MMI, what are good examples of what you might encounter?
Rather than worrying over what might be asked, focus on a few questions that would be expected, and write them down. Even if you're a complete newb to PA school interviewing, taking this action can help an interview format to feel familiar, which will grow your confidence.
Don't skip this part; it's a major key in accelerating and elevating your efforts.
Your third and final day involves story development and reinforcing and polishing the work you've done so far.
90-Minute Focused Prep
The responses you developed to the common questions on days 1-2 were crafted around what you want to share with your interviewers.
And, when you're asked a "Can you tell me about a time when..." question, you want to be similarly prepared. Even if you have plenty of experience to draw from, decide on three stories that, if given the opportunity, you'd be glad to showcase.
You may not use them, or you might only use a snippet, but having them in mind will help you to direct your interviewer's attention to where you want it to go. And, having a few stories ready to tell will help you to feel more prepared.
Once you have your three stories in mind, move on to practicing the other responses you've prepared. Run through your big 3, strengths/weaknesses/goals, and tell your stories while recording your responses on video.
By stretching out your practice of these common questions over a few sessions, you'll be giving your mind space to retain more of what you want to say.
Even in just a couple of days, you should begin to notice a difference in how it feels to present your responses. Additionally, you're likely to see an improvement in how you sound and look delivering your big 3 from day 1 to day 3.
So, don't be shy about recording yourself. You don't have to show anyone, and you can erase it when the interview season is over. But having documented evidence will help you to know if you're saying what you intend to.
You'll begin to both see and feel a rhythm to your responses, and watching this development play out on video will help to expedite your results.
30-Minute Tech Time
For your 30 minutes of tech time on day 3, review any materials your prospective program has sent you. There are sometimes some gems in there that you might not have noticed in your initial excitement.
If they give you the names of any faculty member interviewing you, do some recon and find out a bit about their background.
Occasionally, schools will highlight important aspects of the program curriculum or training facilities that might come up during your interview or that you could reference in your "Why this program?" response.
Pay special attention to any date, time, or location details that you'll need for the big day.
You got this! It doesn't matter that you didn't have as much time as you'd have liked to prepare, you're fully ready.
Focus on what you want them to know and find the opportunities to let them get to know you.