How Do PA Schools Judge Applicants?

Do you know what PA programs look for when judging their potential students? Knowing what each program looks for and how they’ll be assessing both your interview performance and application materials are crucial in determining your success.  Think of it this way: its much easier to get a high score on a test if you know how you’re being scored.  The same concept rings true for your acceptance into a PA program.

There are three main scoring criteria all programs use when judging their candidates; cognitive and verbal abilities, motivations, and interpersonal skills.  By keeping these three main scoring criteria in mind, you’ll have a much easier time writing your personal narratives and conducting yourself during your interviews.

Cognitive and Verbal Abilities
It shouldn’t surprise you that PAs are expected to have relatively high cognitive and verbal abilities.  You’re pursuing a demanding field that requires a unique blend of intelligence, empathy, problem solving, and communication, so this component can be make or break.  Examples of cognitive and verbal abilities include but are not limited to your thought processes, your organizational skills, your articulation and communication skills, and time management.  Don’t rely on your GPA to cover your cognitive abilities.  A stellar GPA is great but you’ll need to show that you can think critically and objectively during your interview.

No matter how qualified you appear on paper, the wrong motivations can stop you from pursuing a career as a PA.  As one of the top growing careers in the US, programs will do their best to pinpoint your motives for becoming a PA.  Doing this effectively weeds out the applicants that are only in it to make a comfortable living or to gain notoriety.  If you have little to no medical experience or knowledge of the profession, chances are a program will question your motivations for applying.  Even if your motivations are clear in your written personal statement, you’ll likely be asked why you’d like to become a PA during your interview, so make sure you can clearly explain your motivations and career goals before you step foot into the interview room.

Interpersonal Skills
PAs need to have great interpersonal skills to truly be effective at their job.  You have to be a “people person” as well as a cooperative and receptive team player.  On top of that, you need to be able to demonstrate empathy and compassion for your patients.  If you lack the ability to handle stressful situations, have no sense of humor, or have a hard time thinking on your feet, your overall score may suffer.  Interpersonal skills can make or break even the most qualified candidates, so make sure you appear relaxed and warm during all interviews and interactions with program faculty and staff.  The more open and natural you appear, the better you’ll be received.

Keep in mind that your interview statements and claims must be consistent with the experiences you’ve included in your narrative and resume. Make sure that you’re portraying an honest picture of yourself across all application materials. If you don’t, this may come out during your interview, regardless of how hard you may try to cover up your undesirable qualities.