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.

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.

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.

My First Rotation : General Surgery

When I found out I had Surgery as my first rotation, I was nervous. I heard horror stories about surgery, how tough and terrible some of the team members were. But, I was also excited because I have an interest in it. In my mind, it was either going to solidify if I can be a surgical PA or scrap that idea entirely.

Thankfully, I loved my time in General Surgery. I loved the types of surgeries we did, the patient care and how the team worked together. I got to work autonomously for majority of the time by taking H&P, writing my notes, presenting to the Residents or the Attending. I also was 2nd assist in all the surgeries I scrubbed in on ( the lovely job of retracting, suctioning, guiding the scope at times, and closing) because the Interns were the 1st.

I got feedback from various people such as how well I did with my h&p, patient/provider interaction, overall professionalism as well as things to work on (i.e- how to work on my notes, suturing, knot tying, and other placed I can improve upon).

Take away points :

  1. If you dont know it, dont say that you do. If you’re not sure of a lab value, vitals, status or information, don’t make it up to look good for that moment. Just say, “idk, but I’ll check & get back to you”. It shows that you’re taking responsibility and not placing a patient’s health in jeopardy.
  2. Read about the usual Gen Surgeries.ย I only got pimped ( when MDs ask you questions about medication, anatomy, physiology, etc on the SPOT, mostly likely in the OR while retracting lol) a handful of times and only once was it embarrassing. I advise reading your basic blood vessels of the GI tract, anatomy of the GI, and any interesting case coming, read about it!
  3. Be attuned to your surroundings. Pay attention to the discussions happening around you because it looks bad if someone ask you for an update on a patient on your team and you don’t know what is going on. The team is constantly busy, moving at a fast speed that it can be overwhelming the first few days, but if you just ask what can be done to ease their workload, it will help you find your footing much better and faster.
  4. Follow up on your patients. You’re usually assigned one or two patients to follow. Round on them before your AM round, complete pertinent physical exam, ask the patient of they understand the plans and monitor them throughout the day. As students, we get more face time with the patients than the team does.
  5. Work with everyone on the floor. Get the nurses to teach you how to draw blood if you dont know how or not comfortable. Help out the nurses whenever you can. Anyone need a specimens sent to the lab? Volunteer. They’re are doing wound care rounds? Go ahead and offer to assist. You’ll learn from not only the immediate providers but from the axillary team as well.
  6. Feedbacks are important. To have someone who tells you how you’re doing & where you can improve will help you as you round out your time with the team. So, ask the Residents or anyone you’re working closely with about how you’re doing if no one has by your 4th week.
  7. Study while on rotation.ย You’ll have some down time where you can whip out your tablet, notes, or phone and get some questions or videos in before your next case. You can also work on your writeups so it doesn’t pile up for later. Use your time efficiently.
  8. Perfect your craft. Practice how to tie your knots and sutures. Perfect your history taking and your physicals. Volunteer a lot. You learn by doing.
  9. Take care of yourself. You’re going to be up before dawn (I was usually up by 4:30am because my site was very close. Imagine if it was further??). Sleep early, keep snacks on you for busy days. Plan accordingly. Set aside time to study, even if it’s just an hour a day and time to have fun.ย Go out with friends and decompress with loved ones, because it can get overwhelming very fast!

How did I PASS my EOR??

  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 Pearl’s according to the topics needed. PPP went everywhere with me, literally.
  4. OnlineMedEd videos for an “in lecture” recap & took notes.
  5. Rosh Review and Smarty Pance for questions.

I can honestly say I had a great time in Surgery, which was not what I expected. I complained about my early mornings, but I learned alot in such a short time, often looked forward to the procedures. I am looking forward to the remaining 9 rotations, so wish me luck and watch this space!!

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