Second time applicants, this one’s for you!

I get a TON of e-mails contacting me about what to do differently as a second time PA school applicant.

My not so great answer is: It depends on where you were and what you showed the admissions committee last year. 

But, for those of you looking for some more specifics (probably everyone) I’ll do my best here. 

Also first, let me ease some anxiety.  I can tell you that I was fortunate enough to be accepted on my first try (looking back I’m not sure how!) But I would say approximately 1/2 of my class were second time applicants and two people in particular who I thought were two of the smartest (and still do) in my class were both second time applicants. 

DO NOT allow a detour to inhibit you from finding a path ❤

OK.  Now down to the good stuff! 

The Quick and Dirty Version….

  1. Increase shadowing hours
  2. Shadow in new specialties
  3. Re-take courses
  4. Re-take the GRE (this is low on my priority list)
  5. Get a new certification 
  6. Volunteer
  7. Some people pursue additional Master’s degrees (THIS IS EXPENSIVE).  But a lot of people are doing it to set them apart
  8. Medical mission trip
  9. Demonstrate continuity by keeping your present job(s)/shadowing experiences/PCE/HCE
  10. Do something that makes you a stand out!  I had a lot of fitness certifications on my application.  PA schools aren’t looking for the same cookie cutter anything.  I’m partially convinced that my number of different experiences made me “different” and was a big contributor to me getting an interview. Dare to be YOU and different! 🙂

A Little More Detail + Questions to Ask Yourself

How did you improve? 

So, a year has passed. What changed?  How have you improved your application?  Did you re-take course work, get more exposure to the PA profession by additional shadowing, get any certificates (CNA, plebotomy, etc).  If you did–highlight that in your application and personal statement and/or interview!

“Nothing changes if you don’t change anything”

If you haven’t actively taken steps to demonstrate your continued dedication to the PA profession and strengthening yourself as an applicant– GO NOW and do it! 🙂

Who wrote your letters of recommendation (LOR)?

If you were lucky enough to read your LOR and weren’t blown away by them– ditch them.  Ask someone else.  This is another frequent question I get.  WHO SHOULD WRITE MY LOR?  This is based on what programs you are applying to and what they are requesting.  Make that a priority.  A good rule of thumb is as follows:

Professor: To attest to your past academic success and likely success in a arduous graduate studies program

Supervisor: Attesting to you being a quality employee, work ethic, team work– you know all that good stuff!

PA: Where this may seem obvious I did NOT even think of it!  But, a lot of schools want to see that you formed a good relationship with a PA who will attest to them wanting you to join the profession.

If you cannot get one of the above other great sources are RN, NP, MD/DO who can attest to your ability to work within the healthcare system as a team member and who will thrive specifically as a PA based on their observation of you and knowledge of a PA’s role and responsibilities

What did you learn from your unsuccessful CASPA cycle?

There is some new and emerging documentation stating that competitive graduate programs are actually seeking out applicants who have either experienced hardship or “failure” (I don’t actually believe in real failure– we either win or we learn) to see how they have responded to circumstances.  Show them you knew that not being accepted was not a final destination– but a detour and a learning experience. 

Either in your statement or interview talk about how you grew from the experience. 

How strong is your personal statement?

I get this question A LOT “should I re-write my personal statement?”

While there is no hard and fast yes or no to this my GUT responds to people with “Are you the same person you were a year ago?  Hopefully the answer is “no”.  Hopefully you’ve added to your application and grown as a person and professional in ways that will contribute to your experience as a PA-S, your classmates development as well as when you become a practicing professional. 

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