Physician assistant admissions committees can be tough to please.  A reader emailed us this week with a question about it:

Hey, guys.  After exploring your site, I’m convinced that PA is a better fit for me than MD.  My question is: how does one convince a physician assistant admissions committee?  Any help in the matter will be much appreciated !  

It’s a huge question–one we could write a whole blog on (wait – we did!).  So we tried to focus on the big picture here.  What do physician assistant admissions committees see that sets an applicant apart from the crowd?  Here are a couple tidbits that seem relevant to us:

  • Most PA schools only accept applications through the CASPA, the Physician Assistant Education Association’s application wing.  CASPA is basically a middleman for your application. They collect your web-entered application data, letters of reference, confirm your GPA and a few other small items, and then digitally transmit the whole shebang to the physician assistant admissions committees of your choosing.
  • All CASPA applications are formatted identically.
  • Physician assistant admissions committees are staffed by real people get bored just as easily as anyone else.  It’s only natural; committee members read hundreds of applications, and after a while, they all start to look very similar.  Even the best candidates can blend together in their minds.
  • To get an interview, your application must stand out enough for them to want a close look at you.
  • There are good and bad ways to stand out.  The good ways will get you an interview, the bad ways will move your application to the “circular file” (trash).

So here’s the email we wrote back to Mike, our curious reader:

Dear Mike,

For starters, be honest!  The truth is convincing.  Stay POSITIVE.  If there’s something that doesn’t appeal to you about becoming a physician, that’s fine.  But instead of focusing on what you don’t like about becoming a physician, focus on the positive aspects of becoming a PA.  Third, what excites you about being a PA?  PAs are proud of who they are and what they do, and the vast majority would rather stay PAs than become MDs.

Finally, letting your personality show to physician assistant admissions committees can only help.  You don’t need to be an attention-seeker – just be real.  PAs, though professional, are not a serious and stodgy bunch.  Working as part of a physician-PA team makes you a little more down to earth, by necessity!  So take advantage of this, and by letting your colors show.  PAs have full lives and appreciate others who have them too.  Share your odd hobbies, your opinions, and even your flaws (in a positive and/or humorous light).  If you do these things, you will succeed, be it in a CASPA essay or PA program interview. 

Obviously, grades, health care experience, and other factors are a big part of your application too.  But none of that matters if a physician assistant admissions committee glosses over them because your application looks pretty much like everybody else’s.

For more on this topic, we refer you to a similar article we did a while back:  Getting Your Physician Assistant School Essay Noticed.