Physician assistant programs like applicants who think big.  Most applicants think small, and in so doing, hurl themselves into the pits of mediocrity, dooming their application to the “Maybe Next Year” pile.

Thinking Small

Thinking small is having a “thin description” or dream about your future – one that doesn’t have much detail.  For many, thinking small means that they want to become a PA, but everything after that is pretty fuzzy.  I just want to get in so I can become a PA, they tell themselvesBut what then?  This kind of small thinking won’t impress anyone on an admissions committee.  Thinking small is like aiming for a single in a baseball game: it definitely won’t get you a home run, and it could keep you from getting on base at all.

Thinking Big

Successful ball players swing for the fences.  In fact, the best players dream of, plan on, and train to hit not one, but multiple homers in a game. To impress admissions committees and truly earn yourself a seat in the class, you have to swing for the fences too.

What would your PA school application look like if you were thinking big?  Here are some examples of thinking big on a PA school application.

Maybe you:

  • Want to start and own your own clinic in an under-served community
  • Plan to travel to Sweden to bring back ideas about how to more effectively treat homeless patients
  • Plan to work in rural medicine in the far reaches of Alaska, where you will be the only clinician for hundreds of miles.
  • Are committed to increasing awareness of the PA profession by becoming an AAPA board member

See how big these ideas are?  They inspire, challenge, and push the limits. They definitely don’t settle for “just getting in.”  They aim for the fences.

“But I’m Not Even a PA Student Yet!”

That’s okay.  Dream anyway.  You don’t need to know if you’ll reach your goal for sure or not.  In fact, maybe you’ll change your mind before you even graduate from PA school.  But thinking this way challenges you to aim higher, it shines in interviews, and it gets interviewers talking about you:

“He really knows what he wants!”

“She obviously has leadership skills.”

“He’s obviously given this a lot of thought.”

Big thinkers get noticed, and they get in.

How to Think Big

For some of us, thinking big feels pretty unnatural.  To get started at it, get a pen and paper and write down your answers to the following:

  1. Who are you are most passionate about working with?  Examples: kids, seniors, people with disabilities, athletes, the homeless, parents, men, women, burn victims, etc.
  2. How will your work as a PA make a difference to them and you?  Be specific.
  3. Where do you see yourself working?  In a clinic?  A neonatal intensive care unit?  A one-room clinic in Africa?  Backstage at a rock concert?  Again, be specific.
  4. Dream, mull, consider, plan.  Read about thinking big.
  5. Write down one or two of your favorite plans, and google them to learn more.  You might research which organizations accept PAs to work in Africa.  Are there medical personnel on off-shore oil drilling platforms?  What kinds of medical needs to burn victims have?)
  6. Once you have a few ideas and put them to paper, talk about your plans with others.  This gets you used to sharing them, and helps you develop and refine them.  Include these plans in your PA school essay.  Be ready to explain them to PA school admissions committees.  Practice exactly how you will share your “big thoughts.”

Do you have a “Big Thought” about your path as a PA?  Share it with us in a comment so we can all benefit from it.