That title sucked you in, and now you’re thinking that you got suckered.  Guess again.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t plan for very long before I applied to PA school.   But by the time I interviewed, I had become something of a prodigy on the field.  Not medically, of course, but on the PA profession as a whole.   I’ve written articles on the application process, interviews, and the other aspects of getting in to PA school, and I’ve made much out of the need to show up prepared.  But how?

When you apply for any job or training program, you are up against a large field of applicants.  Your job is to be better informed about what you’re getting into than the rest of the field.  Admissions panels interview in order to weed out those who know little about the field, the job, or the school for which they are applying.  This is particularly true of PA training programs because they have so many applicants*. So to get noticed (or at least not weeded out) you need to know a lot, and demonstrate it in your interview.   But how do you fool them into thinking you know a lot about this thing you aren’t even doing yet?  You don’t.  (I know — I promised you a secret.  Keep reading).

Time is short, and you need a crash course in ___________ , and you need the information to come to you.

The secret:

  1. Open a news aggregator account.  I prefer google reader , but many others are available.  If you’ve never used a news aggregator (also called an RSS feed reader), you’re in for a treat.  It’s an application on the web that collects headlines of syndicated content in one place for easy viewing.  In your crash course, Reader is your errand boy.  “Fetch me another gin and tonic, would you, Jeeves…”
  2. 

  3. In reader’s search field, type in the thing you need to know a lot about, fast , in quotes (the quotes are important).  The first thing I entered was “physician assistant,” but you could just as easily enter, “McGill University,” “McDonald’s Corporation,” or “PA training programs,” depending on what you need information on.  Reader will look for every news article featuring that key phrase, and add it to a queue for you.  You can store as many different searches as you wish.
  4. Once a week or so, skim the headlines of the articles in the queue. Read articles that seem relevant, or star them to read later.  In my search, I turned up many articles on job openings for PAs, which taught me about the types of jobs that are in demand, articles on well-known PAs in the news, articles on the debate about changing the Physician Assistant title to Physician Associate, articles on the history of the profession, and tons of other useful material.
  5. Pay particular attention to large trends. In my search, I learned that PA training programs are moving from certificates to master’s degrees, an observation that came up during my interview.
  6. Don’t read everything!  Skim! Breadth of knowledge is more important than depth when you’re interviewing in a new field.
  7. Replicate the steps above for blog-reading services, such as Google Blog Search. This will give you information by those in the field, and provide a different perspective.
  8. Finally, when you interview, look for opportunities to share a tidbit of what you have learned. A common interview question is “What are some of the trends that you see in this field?”  Here’s your chance; don’t drop names or overdo it, but go ahead and let them know that you know about the profession, their school, and the job market.  You’ll look informed, because you’ll be informed.

If you have suggestions to improve this secret, or expand it, please post a comment – we’d love to hear from you.

*The year I applied to UC Davis School of Medicine, they had 1200 applicants and selected only 57.
I understand that the newest class had a similar number of applicants for only 25 spots!