By now, you’ve successfully navigated the “best four years of your life” and are now bracing yourself for the uncertainty of what comes next. The only thing you know for sure is that you want to become a PA, which means you must apply to and get accepted into PA school. You’ve done everything right so far: secured an impressive GPA, scored well on the GRE, and prepared a foolproof application. Here comes the moment of truth: your PA school interview. What now? How do you ace your PA school interview?
First of all, you must know this: everything else—from your undergraduate education to your work experience to your GRE score—was a mere rehearsal. This interview is the wedding, and you are the bride, so the stakes have never been higher. That analogy is not to intimidate you but to remind you of how critical performing exceptionally well in this interview is for your future goals. (Besides, weddings really are a big deal!). To succeed on this all-important date with the admissions committee, you will need to prepare yourself properly. Consider the following tips on how to ace your PA school interview:
1. Do Your Research
You should dedicate yourself so fully to your interview prep that by the time you step foot on the campus and into the interview building, you should know enough about the school to conduct a campus tour at orientation. OK, maybe not to that extent, but you should have a solid understanding of the school and their PA program in particular. This in-depth knowledge of the program will show that you are passionate about not only becoming a PA but have deliberately chosen their specific PA program over others in the same way you hope they will choose you over other candidates.
It would serve you well to also learn as much as you can about the PA profession. This knowledge will help you answer questions about why you have chosen to become a PA in the first place. Hint: “It’s a stepping stool to becoming a physician,” or “I’ve been turned down from medical school” is a death sentence (OK, not literally, but you get the point). Avoid answers like those at all costs (think about it, no one wants to feel like an option instead of a priority).
Note that different programs will present you with varying types of interviews. These interviews could range from group to individual to multiple mini interview formats. Some may be “open book” and others may be “closed book,” and some may even feature a test and writing assignment. With so many possibilities, we recommend contacting your program directly ahead of the interview to ask about the format and structure you should expect. Knowing what to expect is half the battle when it comes to acing your PA school interview.
2. Prepare for Frequently Asked Questions
The greatest thing about the Information Age is… well, the abundant availability of information. If it’s been done before, chances are you can find it on the Internet. Countless PA school applicants have been in your shoes, and, thankfully, many of them are all too eager to share their experiences for your benefit. There are numerous online resources to help you discover the most commonly asked questions in PA interviews. Below is a list of 21 questions we think you should always be prepared to answer:
- Tell us about yourself.
- Why do you want to become a PA?
- Do you understand what a PA does?
- What interactions with PAs have you had?
- What is a PA?
- Describe the history of the PA profession.
- What interests you most about our school?
- Have you applied to other programs?
- What have you done, or are you doing to improve your chances of being accepted to the PA program?
- If you are not admitted into PA school this year, what will you do?
- What kind of stress do you see associated with the PA profession, or with our PA program?
- Describe the most stressful professional or academic situation you have been in, and tell us how you dealt with it.
- What are your strengths as an applicant?
- What are your biggest weaknesses as an applicant, and how do you plan to correct them?
- How have you done to prepare yourself for this profession?
- Are you familiar with any national or state level regulations for PAs?
- Your supervising MD tells you to do something that you know is dead wrong; what do you do?
- Describe an interaction you have had with a patient that made an impact on you.
- How will you pay for your education?
- How well do you manage your time?
- Do you have any questions for us?
3. You’re Human, Be Emotional
Whatever you do, don’t cry in your interview. That’s not what we mean by “emotional” here. Instead, keep in mind that, as daunting as the PA school interview is, the people who are asking you all the questions are themselves human (hopefully). Ultimately, they are emotional beings like you who want to see your humanity, especially in a field that requires greater empathy to care for others. Tell your story as authentically as you can; it’s what makes you unique and might resonate with the committee. Answer all questions thrown at you confidently and passionately, while remaining relaxed and personable throughout.
The admissions committee, among other things, wants to see your personality come through; they want to observe if you are likable, compassionate, kind, nurturing, and level-headed, traits your scores and credentials can’t illustrate. Be self-aware; mind your body language as you speak, from your smile to your posture to your tone—all these subtleties matter in showing off your qualities, readiness, and confidence. Practice replying to interview questions aloud (in front of a mirror if you must) to see and evaluate how you appear through another’s eyes.
Finally, in the spirit of the above point, when it’s all said and done, do well to show the committee that you have an attitude of gratitude. You can do this by not just by thanking your interviewers on the way out the door but by remembering their names so you can send them personalized thank-you notes later. If you apply these steps, you should demonstrate to the PA schools you’ve applied to that you are as qualified, impressionable, and remarkable in person as you are on paper. Check out the following link for more helpful interviewing strategies to help you ace your PA school interview, and best of luck to you!
If you’re currently studying for the PANCE, check out our PANCE | PANRE learning platform to prepare fully for the exam.