5 Reasons You Were Rejected from Your PA Program (and How to Fix Them)

It’s worse than getting picked last in gym class. It hurts more than getting the cold shoulder from your crush. It’s getting that skinny envelope in the mail- the one containing a rejection letter from your physician assistant program of interest. If you’ve been rejected from a physician assistant program this year, there are a few things you can do to beef up your application for round two. The first step to take? Figure out where your initial application fell short.

Admissions faculty recognize a few common trends among physician assistant program applications that result in rejection. So, if you’re lacking in any of these areas, make a plan for improvement before you reapply. You certainly don’t want to submit a similar app this spring and once again have the doors to your PA program of interest slammed in your face. Here are a few common reasons aspiring physician assistants receive letters of rejection.

1. You don’t have hands-on patient care experience

Physician assistant programs are notoriously competitive. And, most require that applicants have a background featuring a minimum number of hours of patient care experience. Even if you’ve met the minimum requirement, chances are your application is being measured against others with a greater number of hours. Or, perhaps your type of experience doesn’t qualify for the requirement the school has in mind.

Healthcare volunteer opportunities, while they look good on a resume, don’t typically count towards this hands-on patient care requirement. Admissions staff are thinking more along the lines of work as an EMT or medical tech in the emergency department. If you don’t have many hours of patient care under your belt, working another year or so can help your application status. Ask admissions staff which types of opportunities will make your app shine and seek these out before you resubmit. If getting more experience isn’t an option, or you are simply impatient (we don’t blame you!), seek out a PA program where experience is not heavily weighted.

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2. Your essays totally suck

Writing personal statements and application essays is totally awkward. It seems unnatural to brag about your accomplishments or draw out a lesson learned from a situation that didn’t really resonate with you at the time. Not to mention, it may have been years since you drafted an essay at all. But, your application essays are of utmost importance. They are an opportunity to work little tidbits about your character, experience, and accomplishments into your app.

Application essays also demo your writing skills cluing admission staff into your probability of success in a physician assistant program. Grad schools want to know you can write. Writing is at the core of higher education, even if your program is ultimately based in medicine and science. Read and reread the essays you submitted your first time around. Have friends and family give you honest feedback as to where your PA program application essays could use improvement.

3. Transcripts don’t lie

Transcripts and test scores are the most objective part of your physician assistant program application. It’s too late in the game to change your transcript entirely, but there are some steps you can take to help overcome a poor GPA.

If your GPA could use a boost, enroll in a graduate level course in pathophysiology, pharmacology, or something similar. Ace the course. This shows admissions staff that although you may have lacked focus as an undergrad, you have what it takes to succeed at the next level.

If your GPA is solid, but your transcript features courses that are considered fluff, this can also affect your application status. Enrolling in some hardcore science classes before you reapply will help show that not only can you get an A in ‘Rocks for Jocks’, you can also perform when challenged.

4. You totally bombed your interview

Interviews are your chance to make an impression on your PA program of interest. So, you can’t mess them up. The first step toward acing your admissions interview the second time around is to dress for success. Use the S.T.A.R. method to prep for any and every potential interview question you might be asked. Jot down a few questions you have for PA program faculty as well. Finally, practice, practice, practice. Sit in front of the mirror and recite your interview responses out loud. This way you will be prepared for the real thing.

5. You don’t actually know what a physician assistant does

One key thing admissions faculty are looking to see reflected in your admissions essays, personal statement, and overall PA program application is that you understand the role of a physician assistant. Think about what a physician assistant does day to day and tie this into your application responses. Job shadow a PA or two so you can draw on these experiences in your essays and interview. Displaying a well founded knowledge of the role of a physician assistant and how PAs fit into the greater picture of healthcare will put your app ahead of the pack.

Where was your PA program application the weakest? In what areas could it use the most improvement? Review your application package critically identifying the areas that could stand some touching up. Consider meeting with admissions staff to get their feedback as well. Put some effort into improving the lacking aspects of your app and you will be a much stronger candidate the second time around.


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1 thought on “5 Reasons You Were Rejected from Your PA Program (and How to Fix Them)”

  1. Most importantly, use the correct name for this health profession right. It’s “Physician Assistant,” no apostrophe “S.” PAs – and PA programs – hate that. Using the apostrophe “S” is a sure fire way for your app to end up in the delete folder.

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