When it comes to preparing for a PA school interview, the focus is usually on how to answer questions asked of you. However, you'd be missing a huge opportunity if you didn't also consider what questions you should ask during an interview.
A PA school interview should go both ways. While a program is asking questions to determine if you are the right fit for them, you should also be feeling out the program to see if it's the right fit for you.
Now, I understand going into an interview can be stressful. You may think, "heck, I don't need to know anything more from a PA program other than if they'll have me." But, even in desperation, that feeling is likely not genuine.
First, asking questions at the end of an interview gives you an additional opportunity to demonstrate that you prepared for the interview and are interested in that particular program.
Secondly, while you may feel a little vulnerable at interview time, it's probably not accurate to say that you'd accept any offer. If you heard that former graduates of a program felt unprepared to practice or, as a group, performed exceptionally poorly on the national boards, you'd most definitely think twice about attending that PA program.
So, let's start with the understanding that you do, indeed, have standards. And you should. While it's true PA school is a means to an end, it also is where you will be developing the groundwork for the rest of your career. You will spend 2+ intense years in your program, interacting extensively with faculty and working endless hours with your classmates.
You want to be in a place that allows you to thrive and supports you when you struggle. One of the best ways to learn if a program is that place for you is to ask questions during your interview.
There are many different kinds of questions you can ask in your PA school interview, which you might choose based on the person you are interacting with and whether it is a group or one-on-one setting.
A good general rule is to avoid yes/no questions. Asking more open-ended questions will help you to learn more about the program and better engage your interviewer. You should also avoid overly broad issues and, rather, ask targeted questions that an interviewer can easily answer.
While you may have a lot of questions, try to hone down to your most pressing 2-3. You may have more than one opportunity to ask questions if you have several interviews throughout the day.
You can ask the same question to several interviewers if it seems appropriate. However, if you have received a clear cut answer to a question, do not pose it to another interviewer unless it is related to their personal view on a topic.
Not sure what interview questions to ask? Here are some examples of what and why to ask.
1. What do you think sets this program apart from others?
The answer to this may give insight into the strengths of the program that you might have not previously considered. It also allows you to see if what you think is a program's most important attribute is also valued by the faculty.
2. What do you believe PA students like most about this program?
This question is similar to the first, but it also explores if faculty members are in touch with the struggles, attitudes, and feelings of the students in their program. If you become their student, you'll want them to understand you. What better way to see if they'll be interested in your journey than to you than gauge whether they know the students they have right now?
3. What do you like most about teaching at this program? What do you like most about working with PA students?
Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Your interviewer just heard all about you; this question shows you are interested in them as well. Also, it can give you clues about the engagement and enthusiasm levels of the instructors.
4. Do you find that classmates tend to be competitive or collaborative?
First, asking this questions implies that you are cooperative, even though you are not directly saying it. Secondly, this helps give you more information about the culture and whether it is nurturing or not.
5. What's the process for remediation if a student is struggling?
Is the program cutthroat or will they work with you if you are struggling? You are doing a ton of work to get into PA school. It's helpful to know they will support you once you are there if you run into an unexpected problem.
6. What do you think are the qualities that make a student successful in your program?
This question can help you to learn what makes an applicant competitive. It also allows you to understand what will be expected of you as a PA student and if you might be a good match for the program.
7. Do you find your graduates are more likely to work in a particular field?
There is usually a wide variety of specialties among graduates. However, if you are looking to work in a certain area, like an underserved region, and are targeting schools that incorporate this into their mission and clinical rotations, you may see higher levels of graduates going into that field.
8. What is the curriculum during the clinical year? What happens at the end of a clinical rotation (exam, return to campus, lectures)?
Most programs will provide details of the first academic year curriculum, but there is usually a little less detail on the clinical year. The conversation that follows this question can give you more information on whether away-rotations are expected or required and what to expect from the second half of PA school. It also shows you are weighing the specifics about programs you are considering, rather than just hoping to get in.
9. I am really drawn to this program because of the problem-based learning/student-supported clinic/multidisciplinary study with other health students.
Do you think that [above choice] gives students an advantage in learning how to research topics/being more comfortable with patient care/working as a team?
There are hundreds of PA programs out there. There should be a reason (beyond the minimum program requirements) that you decided to apply to this one. In your pre-interview research, find something unique or interesting about the program. Asking about a particular aspect of the program demonstrates that you prepared for the interview. It also shows that you applied to the program for a reason, and not just because it was easy to click another school on your CASPA application.
Can you get into PA school without asking questions in an interview? Sure. But, it takes such a small amount of effort to improve your interview performance and gives you a break from answering questions. Why not do it?
Asking questions at the end of your PA school interview is an incredibly easy way to gain additional information and demonstrate your specific interest in a program.
Be sure to prepare for each program interview individually. Ask questions that are relevant to your interviewer and appropriate to the program. Choosing insightful questions to ask at a PA school interview can turn a good candidate into an excellent candidate. Take advantage of the opportunity to elevate yourself by just asking a few questions.