Physician assistant school admissions are competitive, and if you don’t get in, you’ll need to prepare for re-interviewing.  Today we consider how to do this. 

We’ve written before about how to succeed at your PA interview, but there are no guarantees.  It pays to be ready to reinterview if things don’t work out the first time around.  If you don’t get in, don’t be too hard on yourself; plenty of current PA students had to apply multiple times before getting where they are now.

I had two emails on this week just this topic.  Here’s Tammy’s:

“I was very fortunate to interview at two programs last year, however, I was not accepted.  I am interviewing again next week and am very eager to demonstrate my grade changes and enhanced work experience.  Can you give any advice to re-applicants who are interviewing?”

Preparing for your Re-Interview

Recall the task of any interview: to get a seat in the class.  To this end, you’ll need to take a brutally honest look at your original application and interview:

  1. What was the weakest aspect of your last application (overall GPA, science GPA, narrative essay, health care experience, or some other factor)?
  2. What have you done since your first application to improve this area, or account for it?   Keep these improvements at the front of your mind; you must find a good time to call attention to them.
  3. Let’s assume that you, like our reader, are set to reinterview next week, and it’s too late to correct your weaknesses.  Your task is to make the rest of your application shine as much as possible (play to your strengths), which may be enough.
  4. Now take an honest look at your first interview.  Where did it go wrong?  If it didn’t really go wrong, then where could you have been “forgettable.” 

Consider:

    • Did you demonstrate a solid understanding of the field and the daily life of a PA?  If not, bone up and be ready to share what you know.
    • Were you positive and enthusiastic?  If you were serious and/or quiet, they might have taken this as a lack of enthusiasm.
    • Did you leave them with the impression that you’d rather be a doctor, or that you plan to pursue some other field after your get your PA?  If so, you need to communicate that what you want, more than anything, is to be a PA.
    • Did you have a thoughtful answer to the common question, “Why do you want to become a PA?”  If not, get clear on that, and rehearse it until you can do it in your sleep.
    • Are you familiar with specifics of the program for which you are interviewing?  If not, read up on them before your interview.  You not only want to convince the committee that you want to become a PA, but you want to do it at their school.  Not knowing much about them makes it hard to do this.
    • Did you effectively communicate what you want to do and where you want to go with your PA certificate?  This is important; if you were totally passionate about becoming a PA, wouldn’t you have at least a tentative plan for your future as one?  Of course you would, so be ready to share yours.  Some examples:

Interviewer: “What do you see yourself doing as a PA?”

You (vague, lackluster response): “Helping people.  I really like medicine, and I think as a PA I can really make a difference.”

You (specific, strong response): “I would love to work in a pediatric Intensive Care Unit – I like to be in the middle of the action, and it would be a natural extension of the work that I’ve already done as a volunteer at my pediatric clinic, which was what made me so fired up about becoming a PA in the first place.”

Notice that the strong answer is pretty specific.  The details make it clear that you’ve given this some thought.

Think of it this way…

You are a solid candidate who still needs to convince the committee that you will be a worthy addition to their program.  Rather than telling them this, hold your head high and be ready to show them.  Stay proud of who you are and what you have accomplished, and be ready to share specific examples with them that make that case.

Our emailer has the right attitude about it: “I’m very eager to demonstrate my grade changes and enhanced work experience.”  No whining, bitterness, or cries of “I was robbed!”   Instead, she has only a strong desire to make her case.

Good luck, Tammy.  Let us know how it goes.