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Caspa pa essay help

May 26, 2018

Tips/Tricks from a Pre-PA Student

Tips/Tricks from a Pre-PA Student

By: Michelle Caunitz – Starting in the PA program and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, May 2013

PA School Application and Interview Tips

I applied to eight Physician Assistant programs during the 2012-2013 CASPA application cycle.  After attending four interviews, I received several acceptances. I feel that I learned a lot through this long process, and I want future applicants to avoid some of the obstacles that I faced.  Below I listed some tips for navigating the application process, and then some for preparing for your interviews.  These strategies worked for me, and I think they will help you put yourself in the best possible position as an applicant!

**These tips are from my own experience–make sure you read all instructions on CASPA carefully!**

Application Tips

-Before CASPA even opens, set a personal deadline to submit your application.  It’s easy to put CASPA on the back burner since most schools deadlines aren’t until August, or even later.  However, one of the biggest advantages you can give yourself is applying in the early summer!  Since most schools have a rolling admissions process, they will offer interviews as they receive applications. The earlier you apply, the earlier you can be considered, and the less competition you will have (since more people will submit applications in August or September). Set a deadline and stick to it!  My goal was to have my CASPA application submitted by June 15th, and it was such a relief when I met my goal.

I heard a lot of people say that they waited until the end of the summer to submit their CASPA application because they wanted to have more work or volunteer hours/summer grades included on it.  It’s fine to wait, but just know that it may give you a bit of a disadvantage.  Instead, consider mentioning the anticipated additional experience in your personal statement.  For example, “I will continue to work as an ER Tech until I start PA school.”  Or, you could call the schools you are applying to and ask if they would allow you to “update” your application in August by sending them a summary of any additional experience you gained after submitting your application.

-Prepare as much of your application as you can before CASPA opens. For example, make an Excel sheet of all of your experience, divided up by volunteer, patient contact, and shadowing hours.  You can also completely write your personal statement before CASPA is open—I highly recommend this!  Also, be sure to order extra official copies of your transcript.  These will help you input your grades on CASPA.

-Sign up for your CASPA account as soon as it opens! Even if you don’t have all your materials ready, getting access to the portal as soon as you can gives you more time to get used to navigating around the site and allows you to check for specific formatting requirements and sections on the application.

-Once you have a good draft of your personal statement ready, e-mail it to your family and several close friends to review.  Choose people who you know will give you good, honest feedback.  I did this, and it drastically improved the quality of my essay.  Sometimes an extra set of eyes will help you catch grammatical errors or highlight where you could explain something more clearly.

-Overall, with CASPA you are in complete control of when you submit your application with the exception of two components: transcripts and recommendation letters.

-Transcripts: unless you are waiting on grades from the current spring semester, request your transcripts as soon as you get your CASPA account set up. Some schools will take several weeks to send transcripts, and this is not a delay that you want to hold up the processing of your application.  Be sure to read CASPA’s instructions carefully, as there are some specifications for sending your transcripts and an enclosure that they prefer schools to include with the transcript.

–Recommendation Letters: Choose your three letter writers and let them know as early as possible that you would like them to write you a letter of recommendation for PA school.  You could ask them a month before CASPA even opens and they could work on drafting your letter in MS Word.  Also, don’t feel weird about giving your letter writers a deadline—I told mine I would like the letter submitted a few days before my “goal” date of June 15th—and since I asked them at the beginning of April, this still gave them over two months to write my letter.

-Finally, keep a communication log for your own records for each school you are applying to.  This is especially important if you are applying to more than 2 or 3 schools.  I made each school its own sheet of paper and any time I called to ask questions or received any sort of e-mail or call from them, I wrote it down.  I found this very helpful because I applied to 8 programs, and sometimes it was hard to keep track of communications I received from each school.

-Next, focus on the supplemental applications, if any of your schools require them. I found that with these, it was also helpful to set an early deadline for myself.  If you have to write more essays, make sure you ask friends and family to review those as well.  They are just as important as your personal statement!

Interview Tips

-Make sure you know where you’re going! If staying in the area the night before your interview, consider driving from your hotel to the school that night.  Then, you’ll have an idea of how long it could take you to get there and you are much less likely to get lost the next morning!

-In the weeks leading up to the interview, contact any current students in the PA program that you already know.  If you’re comfortable, you could ask them for any general advice for the interview and suggestions for other things to check out while you are in the area.

-Most interviewers will close the interview by asking if you have any questions about the program.  “No, none at all” is not a good response here.  Even asking “what do you like about working here?” is better than asking nothing at all.  Have a few thoughtful questions in mind to ask when this comes up.

-Research the school/program that you are interviewing at thoroughly.  You should know the basics about the program, and this should help you come up with a few questions.  It will also help you to genuinely explain why you want to attend their program.  Also, do not use your questions at the end of the interview to ask things that are explicitly answered on their website—this is a sure sign to your interviewer that you did not prepare for your interview.

-Practice an interview with a close friend before the big day! Choose someone who is familiar with the PA application process and who you know will be honest with you.  Ask them to come up with the questions to replicate the unpredictability of a real interview.

-Remember that you are being evaluated every moment you are on campus—not just when you are in the interview.  Be polite to all employees and students that you come across, and maintain a professional demeanor at all times.

-Talk to the other applicants during down time—don’t be the one person who isn’t interacting.  A big part of being a PA is being able to communicate with a wide variety of people, so be kind and friendly.  Stick to neutral topics—this is probably not a good time to discuss other interviews or acceptances.

-Most importantly: Don’t get intimidated by the other applicants at the interview. I remember at my first interview other applicants were talking about their personal experience and background, and I began to lose confidence in my own credentials.  I quickly realized that it did me no good to be intimidated by those around me! All you can control in the interview is your performance—you have no control over who else is there or their background.  You are all at the same interview, so be confident in your credentials and focus on putting your best foot forward!

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Posted By: Paul   |   PA School Essays   |   5 Comments

Physician Assistant medicine is a fast growing career track, and it’s not hard to see why.  PAs are in great demand due to a national shortage of primary care physicians.  They make a good living, are usually able to balance work and family commitments, and do meaningful work.  If you’ve decided that becoming a PA is for you, writing an impressive CASPA application essay or personal statement is crucial. The following guidelines will increase your chances of acceptance.

  1. Learn about the program. Each school has its own priorities, likes, and dislikes, so get familiar with them.  Go to the program’s website and read their mission carefully.  Do they accept applicants from your state?  Do they emphasize primary care or a particular specialty?  Your essay should demonstrate that you are familiar with their program, and that you are a match for it.  Here’s a trick that will help you bone up on the school and the profession in no time at all.
  2. Separate yourself from the pack.  PA school applications are on the rise, so your essay should set you apart from the crowd.  Develop a memorable opening to draw in readers and interest them.  Relevant quotes, revealing bits of dialog, or brief anecdotes from your experiences can often serve this purpose.  Avoid boring and straightforward responses, such as, “The reason I want to become a Physician Assistant is because I have always…”
  3. Tell a (true) story. Answering with a laundry list of reasons you want to be a PA, no matter how heartfelt, won’t keep the reader interested.  Instead, craft a true story about who you are and why you are the perfect candidate.  Describe how your work and educational experiences have prepared you for work as a Physician Assistant, highlighting the positives.  No matter what your background, you have skills that — properly worded — could be assets to a career as a PA.
  4. Frame problems as obstacles you have overcome. In recovery?  Single parent?  Chained to a family business?  Don’t apologize.  Instead, use these situations as examples of challenges you have faced.  If you got a low grade in a class, briefly explain whatever pressures you have overcome that may have contributed, and then move on.  Admissions committees love to feel that they are admitting someone who has withstood great trials.
  5. Don’t say you want to go to PA school so you can one day become a physician, or because it pays well. Even if this is true, saying so is a mistake.  Physician Assistants don’t see themselves as wannabe-doctors, they don’t take pride in their work because of what it buys them, and they don’t view their field as a stepping stone to something else.  Most of them would rather be a PA than a physician (just ask a few).  Convince your reader that, more than anything, you want to be a PA.
  6. Share your skills as a team player.  After all, if you become a PA, you will be supervised by a physician, and you will draw on these skills daily.  There isn’t much room in this field for vanity or the “lone wolf.”
  7. Proofread, edit, proofread, edit. Put in the time to write a great essay.  Read it aloud (many times, if necessary) to evaluate how it sounds.  How do you come across to the reader?  Do your words have impact?  Fix confusing and awkward sentences, and remove unnecessary ones.  Have a friend (or several) read your work and give you constructive feedback.  Then take it back to the drawing board and make it even better.
  8. Finally, stay positive and don’t apologize for who you are. Your essay should be upbeat, or at least not a downer.  Few people who get in were “perfect” candidates, but all who get in put their best foot forward.  It bears repeating: keep things positive.

Work hard on your essay, and only send it out when it reads well and makes you proud of who you are, no matter what your background.

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