Q:hi, how did you get experience? I am thinking of becoming a PA but I have no idea how to get into PA school since I have no idea how to get experience.
So my path to becoming a PA was a bit of a meandering one. During my undergrad years, I volunteered at the hospital delivering flowers and patients’ labs. And I applied those volunteer hours to my PA school application, which really didn’t help me much during that first application cycle.
After I got my first Bachelor’s degree, I went and got a degree is Respiratory Therapy and then worked for a year as a Respiratory Therapist. So then I applied that year and those 1000+ hours of patient care experience to my second round of PA school applications.
The point in all this is that there’s no real clear cut way to “get experience”. If you’re thinking about becoming a PA, start researching. The American Academy of Physician Assistants website is a great place to start. Not only do they have information about the profession they also have links to state PA organizations if you’re interested in finding a PA to shadow. If you’re currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree, talk to the school’s Health Professions course counselors. Many of the pre-requisite courses required for PA school are the same as the pre-requisites required for medical school. If there’s a pre-PA student organization at your campus, go to a meeting and find out more about the profession in person. Send out emails or ask your family doctor if you could shadow them for a few hours a week or if they know anyone willing to allow students to shadow. Be assertive and be interested. Some healthcare professionals out there LOVE to teach and to mentor but aren’t interested in wasting their time with those with only passing interest.
I apologize for the delay in replying, Anon, but I hope that I was able to answer your question. Current PA students or pre-PA students and even pre-med students, what did you all do to get experience?
Q:When did you start applying to PA schools?
PA programs have varying deadlines for their applications to be submitted. A handful of schools I applied to had a secondary application specific to their school that I was sent once the primary CASPA application was submitted.
The first time I applied to PA school was the fall semester of my 4th year in undergrad. BIG mistake, I should have started the application process back in April during the end of my 3rd year when CASPA opened for the following year’s application cycle. I was stressed out, struggling with submitting transcripts and letters of recommendations. Then once CASPA was submitted, I needed to complete secondary applications which all had their own deadlines. Needless to say, I didn’t get a single offer to interview at ANY of the schools I applied to. The second time I applied, I was familiar with the process and the stress levels were near zero because I was prepared for the undertaking.
So my takeaway message from my experience is this:
- Apply early. In this scenario, it really pays off to be the early bird. When your CASPA application is completed and submitted in late spring/early summer, it’s processed faster than if you were to submit in the fall when EVERYONE is submitting theirs.
- Research. Make a list of the schools that you’re interested in applying to. I joined a Pre-PA student organization in undergrad where every 2 weeks, an admissions rep from a PA school in the state would come to talk about their specific program. I went to the annual Health Career fair on campus and I surfed program websites.
- Plan plan plan. Participating in a Pre-PA student organization and going to the health career fairs gave me the heads up on deadline dates for the following year’s application cycle. Once I made my list of schools and their respective deadline dates, I picked the earliest deadline date and made my own deadline to have the CASPA application submitted about a month prior to that earliest deadline date. One school’s deadline was September, so I made sure to have my CASPA applications submitted in August. And I completed the secondary applications as they rolled in.
I apologize for the long-winded response to your question, Anon. If I had to pick a static time period to start applying, I would say whenever CASPA opens their site for the upcoming application cycle.
Before you start applying, to get a better understanding of CASPA and what it entails, here’s a really good overview that they’ve published.