The Secret to Building a Strong Foundation for PA School


If you are like most pre-PA students, you slowly learned most of what you know about preparing for PA school on your own. You started from scratch, learning the short hand of the pre-PA world — LOR, PCE, HCE, sGPA, ISP, PS, CNA - bit by bit.


In the process, you went down some pretty deep rabbit holes, finding out so much information that you now have trouble sorting out where you should focus your time and effort. And, you wonder if you really have time to do it all before applying to PA school.


It is easy to get caught up in the details of PA school prep. There is no shortage of information available, but knowing the best elements to incorporate into your journey can be confusing.


A common cycle that pre-PA students find themselves in goes something like this: feeling like you don’t know enough about a particular PA school prep topic, seeking out more information on the topic, learning more and gaining a bit of confidence in the knowledge, finding other pre-PA students who seem to know more, do more, or are further ahead than you in said topic, getting overwhelmed and circling back to feeling like you don’t know enough.


This cycle will eat at your confidence whether you are just starting out or are a few years into your path to be a PA. However, this cycle can be broken by using what I refer to as the far-sighted foundation.



A far-sighted foundation is built by focusing your pre-PA prep on experience that will ready you for PA school and prepare you to be a great PA.


A far-sighted foundation does not involve considering what experience might “look good” to a PA program or make you competitive with other applicants. Instead, this foundation is focused on fundamentals that are essential to success in both PA school and PA practice: academics, maturity, and emotional intelligence.


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This means when you are considering a patient care position, you should not be concerned about gaining technical skills that might be looked upon favorably by a PA program. You should focus on what position provides you with the greatest opportunity for interaction with patients and a collaborative care team as these aspects are most closely aligned with your future role as a PA.


This means if you already have an adequate GPA, good study habits, and feel confident in your academic ability, obtaining a post-bacc Master’s degree will not add anything to your far-sighted foundation. If you know you have the academic ability and have demonstrated it in your undergrad work, another degree does nothing to make you a better PA student or PA.


But what if this shift in focus makes you less competitive? The good news is that it won’t. Coincidentally, building a foundation that best serves your future self is also what PA programs look for in an applicant.


“Is this person ready to be a PA?” is the fundamental question PA schools are answering when evaluating applicants. It is truly that simple.


They are not poring over applications to see if your senior year nutrition class was upper level or not, and they are not impressed that you might know more about medications than you potential classmates because you worked for 6 months as a pharmacy tech.


All of the information and technical skills that you need to be a PA will be taught in the program. What schools need to know is if you have the academic ability, maturity, and emotional intelligence to handle it.  


If you want to “look good” to PA programs, ask the same question that they do. “Does this help prepare me to be a PA?” The answer to this basic question will differ depending on the topic, your background, and where you are in your PA school prep.


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While taking on a certain PCE position may allow one student to gain patient contact experience and grow their emotional intelligence, the same experience might not do much for another student with a different background. The important part is that you consider if it would benefit you.


Ask “does this prepare me to be a PA?” with every decision you make in your pre-PA prep. It will give you clarity about what steps will move your towards your ultimate goal.


When you choose steps that you know will help you to succeed as a PA student and PA, your confidence will grow. The confidence you gain from building a far-sighted foundation will result in better personal essays and PA school interviews.


Everyone starts somewhere, even those that might seem leaps and bounds ahead of you. No one is born with innate knowledge of the PA profession. Anyone who is a PA has at some point been at the stage of PA school prep that you are in right now.


What's important is that you start from where you are now to build the fundamentals that will continue to serve you throughout a career as a PA.

Ready to build your far-sighted foundation? Download your FREE blueprint to help determine your next steps to building your strong PA school foundation.