Author Archives: admin

Receiving and Growing From Constructive Criticism

Whether it’s been at work, school, or in a personal setting, all of us have received constructive criticism at some point.  Constructive criticism is a type of evaluation that involves both positive and negative feedback.  While this type of feedback is typically used to help improve the recipient and to encourage personal or professional growth, it has the potential to cause a negative reaction. Read more »

How to Spot Inappropriate Interview Questions

When you’re in the interview room, the last thing you want to do is lose your focus. It’s easy to lose your focus if you’re unprepared, but you can be thrown off if you’re asked a question that’s out of bounds or inappropriate, even if you’ve spent the past year preparing for your interviews.

Questions should be about your qualifications to become a physician assistant, not about your personal information. If you find yourself facing an uncomfortable or seemingly inappropriate line of questioning, know your rights as an applicant. You do not have to answer out-of-place, unrelated, or illegal questions directly and can choose to either defer your answer or address the questions as inappropriate.

The following are examples of questions that should not be posed during your interview.  Read more »

Do you know what the top PA programs are looking for?

You’ve completed your personal narrative, submitted your application, and may have even completed your interview. You know that, based on your experiences, grades, and demeanor that you’d be a great pick for any PA program. You may think you’ve got this in the bag – but do you really know what PA programs look for when judging their potential students?  Read more »

Physician Assistants: Then and Now

When you’re preparing for your physician assistant school application and interview, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the history of the PA profession.  Going into your interview without a firm understanding of the history of the PA profession will make you seem unprepared and generally uninterested in the PA career path.  Take a moment to familiarize yourself with our brief overview of the PA profession.

Physician Assistants Then…

The first PA program was founded at Duke University in the 1960’s by Dr. Eugene A. Stead.  The inaugural class included US Navy corpsmen and US Army Combat Medics, and based the curriculum off of his knowledge of the training doctors received during World War II.  The inaugural class graduated on October 6, 1967.  Now, October 6-11 is recognized as National Physician Assistant Week in their honor (this is an easy way to remember the beginnings of the profession!)

Dr. Eugene A. Stead is known as the father of the PA Profession.  Stead is well known for wanting all PAs to have relationships with physicians to increase their body of medical knowledge.  He also found the concept of distance education to be very efficient, believing that it was more valuable to know how to quickly look up information as it was needed that to try to remember everything.

…And Now

As of now, there are around 92,000 PAs eligible to practice.  By 2020, the demand is expected to grow to 150,000, making it the 3rdfastest growing profession in the country.  In fact, the PA profession has been rated as one of the top 30 careers for job satisfaction, prestige, job market outlook, and salary, and has been included in the top 10 best jobs in America on Glassdoor and Forbes for the past few years.

Still, there is a notoriously low acceptance rate for PA programs due to the small amount of available spots and large amount of applicants.  The best way to ensure your acceptance is to apply to multiple programs, have a stellar personal narrative and application, and perform well at your interview.

If you ever need a quick refresher, check out this video from the AAPA and the Physician Assistant History Society that traces the origins of PAs.

Become a part of history – start taking your steps towards becoming a successful Physician Assistant today!

Click here to request your application to our Pre-PA program


How to Deal With Perfectionism

When faced with the question “what is your greatest weakness”, many people defer to describing themselves as perfectionists, thinking it will give them an easy pass on the question.  They admit their need to always do exceedingly well and their refusal to accept any standard short of perfection as a weakness, but then always subsequently try to spin it as strength.  Truthfully, the perfectionist response is fairly stale and doesn’t actually say anything about you besides “I picked a boiler-plate response to this question.” Read more »

The Easiest Way to Gain 200 Hours of Patient Contact Experience

If you’re racking your brain to come up with direct patient contact experience, stop for a second and consider all of the direct experience you get just through the Excell Pre PA Assistant Clerkship program!

Not only do you get over 200 hours of real-life patient experience over the course of your clerkship, you’ll come out the other side being able to speak directly to your role as a patient advocate and liaison.  By the time you’re done, you’ll have developed skills in bedside manner, gotten direct patient interaction, detected and resolved patient quality of life issues, worked as a liaison between patients and staff, experienced being part of a healthcare team, and more! Read more »

What to do before, during, and after applying to PA schools

Before you begin the physician assistant program application process, you’ll want to create a basic timeline that you can refer to. This timeline will help you figure out which tasks need to be done by when, but it will also help you organize your application materials. Think of your timeline as a master schedule- it’ll help keep you on top of the application process and plan for the unexpected.

Applications are usually submitted a year prior to attending, but you’d be surprised how quickly a year can fly by! Applying early helps you avoid those unexpected delays, allows for processing time, and may even improve your chance of admission to programs that utilize rolling admissions.

Below is a basic breakdown for the PA program application process. Keep in mind that we’ve broken up our timeline into two major chunks: before and during the application process. You may want to create a more detailed monthly schedule or a Google calendar to better keep track of your application progress.

What to do Before Applying to Physician Assistant School:

Open a CASPA account
This will help you read about the application process directly from the source, even if you’re not applying until a later application cycle.  It also allows you to be updated with any changes to CASPA or current events related to the PA profession.

Research PA programs
The PAEA Program Directory is a great place to start, but there are plenty of other ways to search for your ideal program.

Schedule a time to meet with your advisors
If you’re still in school, find a time to talk about your plans to apply to PA programs.  You’re already paying for access to advising personnel, so take advantage of this resource while you have it!

Pinpoint Missing Credits/Classes
If your undergraduate major was in a non-related field, take any prerequisite courses you may be missing. 

Get involved in extracurricular activities
Doing this will boost your resume and help outline your key qualities.  Things like joining an active student organization, doing volunteer work, or participating in research opportunities are all great ways to show that you’re a motivated leader capable of teamwork.

Prepare for and take standardized tests
If your ideal program requires the GRE/MCAT/TOEFL or any other standardized test, give yourself adequate time to prepare and take the tests.  You may find that you need to take the test multiple times to get the scores needed for admission, so don’t let this delay your application process.

Do your healthcare experience hours (HCE)
If you feel that you’re lacking in this area, consider taking additional vocational coursework to earn a certificate so you can work as a paramedic, community health worker, or medical assistant in a healthcare setting. Basically, you want to take advantage of any opportunity possible where you can accumulate direct patient contact hours

Stay organized from day one
Start a file or folder for each program you’re applying to. You’ll want to make a note of the following for each program:

  • Requirements (prerequisite courses, tests, etc.)
  • CASPA participating program?
  • Deadline
  • Supplemental deadline date (if applicable)
  • Interview date
  • Make sure to include a section for notes such as tuition, program class size, area of focus, etc.

Order all transcripts
You’ll need to order transcripts using CASPA’s transcript request form at least one month prior to the earliest program deadline. You should also consider getting an additional copy to keep for your records.

Choose Your References
It’s never too early to start thinking about your letters of recommendation.  Ideally, at least 2 of your recommenders should be supervisors from your time spent accumulating healthcare experience hours. It’s also a good idea to have a backup recommender (remember- expect the unexpected!) Also, be sure to secure their commitment to writing you recommendations before moving forward.

What to do During the PA School Application Cycle 

You can never have enough healthcare contact experience, so racking up more over the course of the application process will do nothing but benefit you.

Prepare for your interviews.
The more time you spend practicing and internalizing your answers, experiences, and anecdotes, the easier life will be on interview day.  Run over the questions alone, gather anecdotes and experiences that relate to the PA profession, and have mock interviews with friends and family. If public speaking makes you nervous, start working through this anxiety and find ways to cope.

Submit your CASPA application.
This can take up to one month to be verified, so you’ll want to do this as early as possible.

Triple Check Your Dates
You’ll want to make absolutely sure you know all of the deadlines for the programs you’ll be applying to. Some programs may end up extending their deadlines depending on the amount of applications they receive, so check monthly for updates.

Confirm that your letters of reference have been received.
Once this has been confirmed, print a copy of all application materials for your records.

Apply for scholarships and grants.
Some have early deadlines and are not tied to a specific program, so do your research early on to avoid missing deadlines.

Accept or decline interviews
You’ll want to make a decision on whether or not you’ll attend an interview immediately after you are asked. When in doubt, always accept – it’s better to keep your options open until you can make a more informed decision.

And, of course, write and submit your PA School Narrative and any supplemental applications!

What to do After the PA School Application Cycle

Once your interviews have ended, send a thank you note to each school. If there were 3 or fewer people on your interview committee, write one for each individual member. If your committee was larger, you can write a single thank you note addressed to the entire committee.

Once you’ve accepted a seat in your desired program, do a victory dance… and then make sure you contact the school’s Financial Aid office to start your financial aid process!

Additional PA School Resources

  • The Complete Guide to Getting Accepted to PA School
    Everything you could possibly need to know about the PA school application process
  • Personal Narrative Review
    If you want a second set of eyes, you may as well ask a Physician Assistant who has already gone through the process – and who has also been on the admissions board for the Rutgers PA Program!
  • Mock Interviews
    If your interview skills need polishing, we can help – remember, the best way to avoid jitters is to be confident through preparation!
  • PA Shadowing & Mentorship
    Our program works – 100% of our program graduates have gotten into PA school, and we can help you too!
  • Apply to the EXCELL Pre-PA program
    If you’re ready to jump right in, apply today – admissions are on a rolling basis, so early applicants are more likely you are to secure one of our competitive spots!


Top Physician Assistant Leadership Traits

Many PAs will find themselves in a situation where they need to act both as a leader and a team player. Being able to step up in the moment and lead a team without a second thought while still maintaining a “group effort” mentality is important and necessary if you want to be a successful PA.  If you don’t have the ability to work well in both roles, you may find yourself unable to keep up with the professional demands of the job.

How can you prepare to fill the role of both the leader and team player? Besides focusing on your communication and planning skills, there are specific traits you can work on to help feel more comfortable jumping between leadership and collaboration mode. Read more »

How Important is PA Program Length?

It seems like many PA programs are increasing the amount of months it takes to complete their curriculum. The average PA program length has increased to around 26 months, with some spanning 36 months or more.  While some may argue that the quality and depth of PA training will increase with more program time, this approach isn’t necessarily true.

Longer program lengths do allow for additional training and projects, but they also come with some negative consequences. Read more »

The Best Questions to Ask During Your PA School Interview

More often than not, your interview panel will ask if you have any questions for them at the end of your interview. Out of all the questions asked during your interview, the last thing you want is to be caught off guard by the very last question!

PA interviews are designed so the program can gauge whether or not you’re a viable and valuable candidate for their program, but they’re also set up so YOU can get a good sense of a program and whether it’s a good fit for you and your goals. By asking some of the following questions as a follow-up, you’ll show that you’re genuinely interested in learning more about that specific program while showing that you’re a competent and observant individual. Here are the top questions you should be asking: Read more »

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