7 Tips to Create a Competitive Transcript for PA School

PA school has evolved from the first class at Duke University 50 years ago. PAs today can now hold a masters degree in the profession and students as young as high school graduates begin their journey toward earning the most expensive “C” of their life. A lot has changed and will continue to. Prior to applying to programs, I did alot of research, like many people do. The initial part of my research focused on my transcript. I knew I wanted to be a PA from high school, so I tailored my classes toward meeting my prerequisites as well as taking classes that I had interest in, although not neccessary for PA school (i.e African American Lit, Drama & Women Fiction). As of 2016 when I sent in my applications, schools began to increase necessary classes to have, such as requiring and not recommending biochemistry on your transcript. This pattern of requiring more from applicants would only increase as schools tries to create a more competitive pool of applicants.

So how can you create a competitive transcript?
  1. Start early and be patient. Check out requirements for multiple PA schools. If you’re just starting college, that’s great. You have a blank canvas, so create and plan accordingly. Anatomy, Physiology, General and Organic Chemistry, Psychology, Statistics and/or Calculus, English Composition and Microbiology are the most common basic requirements for the program. Work with an advisor to anticipate when you will take these classes if you’re still an undergrad. If you’re a post grad student, check your transcripts and make sure you have the most basic requirements the school ask for. If you don’t, enroll and give yourself enough time to get those classes before applying. Most schools accept one or two prerequisite to be in process if you’re applying for the current cycle. If you’re going to be a PA, don’t put a time stamp on when you must achieve it.
  2. Advance science courses such as Biochemistry, Histology, Molecular Biology, General Physiology, Genetics, Embryology, Analytical Chemistry should be considered. Schools look for students who have more than the minimum requirements. Some of these classes are going to be part of your curriculum if you’re a Biology or Chemistry major anyways.
  3. Take classes outside of your major that can help to reflect a well rounded student. Take an additional psychology class that you find interesting, or an advance writing class. It helps to add character to your transcript.
  4. Check if your prospective PA schools have an advisement committee for incoming students or open houses. Some schools hold advisement during open houses for students to see if they do have the correct requirements and allow their staffs to give advice. Some schools will look through your transcript, so inquire if you need to.
  5. Seek help with your classes. If you’re struggling with a class, ask for the help of tutors. Putting in your best effort in each class will yield great results at the end of the semester. Most undergraduate school have learning centers and since you’re already paying tuition, might as well make use of your money.
  6. If you’re a post graduate student and you need to re-take a class because of a low grade, do so. Retaking the class & working hard to earn a better grade is important. It shows that you’re determined and learn from your mistakes. I don’t recommend withdrawing from a class if you’re in progress, but if you need to, do it. Life happens and you must always make a decision that will benefit you. Better to retake the class and give it your all, than to finish half baked.
  7. Look up your professors prior to taking their class. I used ratemyprofessor site while in undergrad and it saved me from alot of heartache. Ask your seniors about the professors, tips to help with the class. Remember a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

Bonus : Make sure your classes are still within the time frame for your perspective program. Some schools have limited course life, some up to 5, 7, 10 years since you took the class. Check with the schools you’ll like to attend to make sure your courses are still in good standing. Applications are expensive and you don’t want waste your time and money.

PA school applications are much more than your transcript and grades. They’re looking at the overall student, but making sure you are solid on areas that may easily be fixed prior to applying is crucial. Double, triple check your transcript and plan ahead. If you’re not prepared for the long journey of PA school, you’ll be frustrated and discouraged very easily.

If there are other tips or ideas to help someone with creating a competitive transcript, share!!!

And don’t forget to share and comment if this post was helpful.

Why Diversity Matters

With every opportunity, I recommend my school to anyone who will listen long enough for me to boast. There are positive qualities and areas where the program can improve upon, but one factor that makes them different from most Physician Assistant (PA) program is how diverse each cohort is. Each class is an example of what the world looks like, with students from various ethnicities, beliefs and practices. Unfortunately when I talk or see students from other programs, there is a lack of diversity among the cohort.

It is important to have diversity. Numerous research has conclude that quality of care for racial/ethnic minority patients improve tremendously when they share a ethnic, language or even religious similarity with their provider. Also, it is known that health care experience and outcome for minorities are much more different than the results of their counterparts in both medical and surgical specialties.

In 2017, less than 20% of PAs were minorities and less than 4% were Black. Attending my school, I often forget that students from other programs do not look like my classmates. There is usually just one or two Black students among the cohort. There are many reasons why minorities make up such a small amount of the percentage and it is up to us -the current students and clinicians- to change those numbers.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
Diversity Matter T-shirt fromย The PAC

How do we start?


ADVOCATE. We must encourage others and create a future where we matter. We must also take up positions as administrators when opportunity presents. Use social media as a tool. Social media is much more than a pretty collection of our best looks, it is a place that can inspire the next generation to believe in themselves. It is important to note that you don’t have to be Black or a minority to advocate for diversity. We all share responsibility in creating what we hope to achieve.

So each day going forward, do your part to diversify the field of medicine.

B.

It Only Takes One ‘YES’

Exactly 2 years ago, I was graduating from undergrad and worrying about PA school. When I woke up that morning, I felt like sh!t because the last school who had me on a waiting list was hosting the incoming class orientation the same day I was getting my B.A. On my way to the ceremony, I got a call from the Administrator asking if I still wanted to be on the wait list. I was shocked cause I thought the class was completed. Ofcourse I accepted and she promised to get back to me later that day. I checked and rechecked my phone all day. This was worse than waiting for a reply after sending a guy a lengthy or risky message. By the end of the day no phone call came. That night, after beating myself up mentally, I opened up CASPA and started entering my data for another application cycle.

2 days later – spongebob voice

On June 1, I got another phone call. The person asked if I still wanted to join the class. I thought someone was playing a cruel joke on me. I was a few seconds from cussing someone out! After he explained that he was part of admissions committee, he asked the question again. My initial thought was to say “No”. I had chucked up the cycle as a lesson and that I’ll do better the next time around. I asked my cousin who was laying next to me, what she thought and she looked at me as if I was crazy!!

Maybe I was…

I mean who turns down what they had been praying for?? I almost did because I was scared. I was scared that just maybe, I wasn’t ready, or that if they took that long to get to me, it wasn’t meant for me yet. I know you’re probably like “girl are you mad?”. Obviously you know I ended up accepting because I’ve shared the journey over the last two years with everyone who will listen but I wanted to share that the road to your dream may not happen as you imagined it. I surely never imagined that I’d be starting PA school 2 days after the whole class started but it happened. Your journey will be different from mine, at your own allotted time stamp according to God. And when that time comes, don’t let fear or doubt win.

Dear NICU….

A change. I may or may not have prepared for it, but it wasn’t waiting for me to get it together. My body has become the vessel for a new being and I was elated, scared, anxious and whatever other feelings I could feel. I imagined who you’re going to be, how the delivery would go and what type of mother I’d be. The whole months that passed by, I heard congratulations, advice, appointments and the whole village was awaiting your presence.

But oh no…….

A declaration was made. My deceleration were wild, my membrane ruptured too early, the amniotic fluid was very little, the cord was wrapped around you, who knows what, it all sounded like jargon and they must bring you out immediately. Wait, I didn’t finish your crib, I wanted a home birth, I don’t want a csection, the baby shower is still weeks away, I didnt even get to push!

But you’re here now……

Way earlier than we planned and whisked from my stretched & tattered flesh into the arms of strangers. I didn’t hear your cries, someone said you’re all blue, no movement as I lay not feeling my lower body. Everyone in the room springs into action. I wasn’t your first hug or your first touch. You’re suctioned, probed, masked, pricked, infused with various drugs/fluids and placed in an incubator, secluded from my warmth, my touch, my heart beat.

Away from me….

Seeing the world but without my touch or my voice along side you. The team is now with you all day. Some stranger who earned a MD NP, PA, RN, RT behind their name spend more time with you than I can. The updates are sporadic, late phone calls to bring breastmilk, to keep pumping, lines all hooked up to you, the stares, audience when I’m forced to bond with you in front of people who doesn’t know me. Some will see me, smile, try to accommodate while hoping I don’t ask too much questions. They’re waiting for me to abide by their requests and not flinch when asked for permissions to continue probing you. The slightest frown or repeated question got a raised brow from them. All just wondering why I just don’t get it and be okay with everything.

How can I be okay….

Do they not know that I can see them? Hear their whispers about me and my baby? Can’t they see how I feel? The anxiety, the shame, the energy it takes to walk out and not leave with you in my arms? Have they placed their feet in my shoes? Didn’t they dream of the perfect baby like I did? Don’t they hurt when days turn to weeks then into months in the hospital and only allowed to visit my own child during visiting hours?

They must know….

They consoled when there was no progress, when you lost weight and nothing could stop the cries, my defeated walk out of the door, my frustration trying to get you latched onto my breast… or at least some of them knew. They smiled and laughed during discharged . They joked about my lack of sleep from here on out, couldn’t wait til I visit & show them how beautiful he/she would look. Or atleast that’s what we was all hoping for. Some didn’t get the luxury of going home with the baby. Prayer was a constant factor with hope that we got to take you home to help you grow some more into a beautiful member of the society.

And you do grow...

You grew before my eyes because of their help. I praised the strangers who became family during the stay. They brought you to a state a I couldn’t. I smiled, thanked them for their efforts and appreciated each one because I knew with certainty I was walking out with you in my arms. I accepted that I may have overreacted when they called one or few times, I took out my frustration on them when I shouldn’t and we both weren’t perfect. They were doing their job. One they must love and care. So I apologized to the team about their difficult jobs but to understand where I was coming from.

This experience was new, unlike what I planned for and each day was not guaranteed. I was only human. With that, I smiled then waved goodbye knowing that the true journey has just begun.

—————————————————————–

p.s: I am not a mother, I’m simply an observer. This piece is not to insult families who have had to go through NICU, not to disrespect the staff that works tirelessly to help or to ridicule the fragile state everyone is in during their stay. I just wanted to write again, to dig into the other part of myself I often neglect. And I appreciate you for reading this far.

B.

Get Comfortable being Uncomfortable as a Pre-Pa

In everything that you do, be it as a student, volunteer or liscensed professional, do it with grace. I have had the opportunity to be each one in my short life and while each role has different responsibilities, I always try to give do my best. While you’re applying to schools, you’ll have to be a volunteer shadowing a PA/MD. Your responsibilities are very limited and the day may seem to drag. It can be tempting to not pay attention to what is going on because your job may seem meniscal to that of the preceptor but it isnt.

Use the time in the clinic/hospital start learning your History & Physical skills. Get comfortable with asking questions, performing physicals and learning how to evaluate the lab results. Some people are not as social as others and struggle with this. It takes a few tries to really know how to direct a question and get the information you need from your patients. I’m still learning how to take a great history and I’ve been doing this for a while. You’ll still go over these skills in school but knowing how to interact with your patient is a skill that takes time. Starting early only gives you a great advantage and gets you out of that awkward few encounters

3 TIPS YOU’LL NEED FOR CASPA 2019

By now as a Pre-PA, you’ve researched all sort of questions and tips to help with the application process of getting into Physician Assistant school. While I hope every advice you’ve come along helps to make your journey a little easier, my most important advice is to trust yourself & your instinct. I read through a lot of posts myself when I was applying and 3 things I gathered, which helped to go the extra mile were my : recommendation letter, personal statement and the selection of school I applied to.

Recommendation letter:
While you will need an average of three letters, & atleast one of them from your supervising PA or MD, make sure they put great effort into writing a letter that reflects you. You do not want a generic letter where they just spout basic adjectives. Tell them to include why they think you’ll make a great PA, why you are ready to begin the journey, what strengths & weaknesses, as well as the capacity have they seen you work in. If you have an opportunity to give them a sample recommendation letter that reflects who you are, do not hesitate to take the chance.

Personal Essay:
This is one place you get to shine aside from your grades. You should write about something that reflects you and not what you think the reader may like/want. Ask other PAs, PA-C or admission faculties at your school to review your work. Write multiple drafts & continue to stay true to your story. Once your gpa gets you through the initial screening process, personal statements can make or break you.

School of choice:
Pick schools that support your best interests. Do you have safe & reach schools within your list? Will you actually want to attend the school? What does their support system in the school look like? What is their passing rate? Research schools close to you and those very far. Do not be afraid to look into schools across the country and if they fit you, apply. Some people only apply to one school while others apply to 20 schools, but I always advice a wide range within your budget ofcourse. Don’t apply to schools that you won’t meet their minimum requirements by the time you submit your application or finish your degree. No one has got money to waste.

If you notice a theme in these tips, it was on purpose. Your application should be a true REFLECTION of who YOU are. Not of an idea of what you think the admins are looking for. They go through thousands of apps yearly and can smell B.S a mile away. You got thisโšกโšก

Good luck with your application and may the odds ever be in your favor.

OB-GYN, Ophthalmology & Internal Medicine

Since my General Surgery rotation, I have completed OB-GYN, Ophthalmology and Internal Medicine as well. Each one was unique in its own right.

OBGYN : I enjoyed this rotation much more than I originally thought I would. It allowed me to get ALOT of hands on experience. I completed history and physical, breast exam, vaginal exam, pap smears, ultrasound, D&C, assisted during labor, on hysterectomies and much more. Although it was beautiful to assist on births, I realized that I loved the GYN aspect than the obstetrics. I can see myself as a GYN PA which is something I never thought I’d say.

Ophthalmology: This was an elective that I chose after I couldn’t get my first few choices and it rocked! I didn’t realize the amount of people who came into the clinic for acute and chronic eye problems. I got to work with some of the best residents and attending’s who taught my classmate and I the ropes. I worked on minor procedures such as removing a pterygium, cyst, complete full work on patients, learn to use the tonometry and much more. Ophthalmology was different from other specialty because you’re not doing a physical on the whole body, so I had to learn the anatomy of the eyes all over again, which parts to focus on depending on the complain of the patient and what sort of treatment to prescribe. It was a great experience that I will always carry with me.

Internal Medicine: My first rotation of the year and I’m glad it is over. I honestly felt like this rotation went on forever because it wasn’t my favorite one. I had a great team but IM was too slow for me. There wasn’t any “hands on” work which made it hard for me to like it. I enjoy doing something with my hands, which is why I like surgery. There are only so much venipuncture you can do until you’re over it. I did learned that you must advocate effectively for your patient while on this rotation. I had to speak up regarding the treatment plans for some of my patients and I had an attending who listened to us. Always keep your patient needs a top priority.

Take away points :

  1. Ask questions. If youโ€™re not sure of a lab value, vitals, status or information, donโ€™t make it up to look good for that moment. Just say, โ€œIdk, but Iโ€™ll check & get back to youโ€. It shows that youโ€™re taking responsibility and not placing a patientโ€™s health in jeopardy.
  2. Introduce yourself. Never walk into the delivery room without prior introduction of yourself. I have seen some students walk into the room and proceed to assist with deliveries without any introduction. It is simply rude and unprofessional.
  3. It is more than okay to quote Uptodate. Everyone uses Uptodate because that is one of the fastest and easiest ways to cross reference your treatment plan. Don’t be embarrassed.
  4. Use your down time wisely. IM had a lot of downtime and I used those moments to study. I brought my PPP and laptop to clinical so I never have an excuse for not working. I would ask the team if they needed help and when they don’t, I’ll study
  5. Be open. I didn’t think I’d enjoy my elective but I did. Just remember that each experience has some value and it is teaching you to know what type of PA you’d like to be.
  6. Plan ahead. Look up the direction to your rotation site and plan for any mishap. Pack your lunch ahead, have a snack in you pocket, dress warm for the winter hours because you don’t want to be tardy or get sick

How did I PASS my EORs??

  1. I prayed ALOT to God.
  2. I printed out the topic list from PAEA (our school uses their EOR exams).
  3. Read Pance Prep Pearlโ€™s according to the topics needed. PPP went everywhere with me, literally.
  4. Blueprint OBGYN and First Aid OBGYN textbooks
  5. StepUp to Medicine for IM
  6. OnlineMedEd videos for an โ€œin lectureโ€ recap & took notes.
  7. Rosh Review and Smarty Pance for questions. I also used Rosh boost EOR exam for OBGYN & IM.

Any questions, comment, e-mail and check out my Instagram for frequent updates.