#42 What Makes a Great PA Applicant? (SPECIAL GUEST)

My Biology Experience is pleased to have this blog sponsored by the Pre-PA clinic. The Pre-PA clinic is run by Beth and Katie, Physician Assistants and Doctors of Medical Science with over a decade of cumulative experience teaching at physician assistant programs. Their mission is to provide pre-PA students with all the tools they need to be competitive candidates. Things such as outstanding personal statements and incredible interview skills will help you get accepted to PA school!

Katie and Beth

My Biology Experience has been lucky enough to have them write this week’s blog on what they think makes a great applicant! You can check out more of Beth and Katie using the links provided at the end of this blog post!


People ask us all the time, what makes a good physician assistant?

It’s a natural question, since that’s what we do. We help pre-PA students become PA students by giving advice, reviewing PA school (CASPA) applications, helping them prepare for interviews, and editing their essays and CVs.

Since being the number one job in America, ranked by US World & News Report, more students than ever want to go to PA school…but there’s a catch of course. There always is. The competition is fierce!

PA schools require a bachelor’s degree, complete with prerequisite rigorous science courses, medical skills and experience, personal essays, shadowing hours, volunteer experience, and more.

And the requirements only get longer every year. Many schools get thousands of applications for only a few seats and hopeful PA students far outnumber the available seats in these programs.

Hence the question we hear all the time- what makes a good physician assistant?

Students want to know what PA schools are looking for, and rightly so. It’s an exhausting, stressful, and expensive application process. They want to know what characteristics and stats would give them an advantage over the other tens of thousands of candidates.

close up photo of a stethoscope
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some students think it’s grades. They believe they need a certain GPA “number” to get accepted. Others focus on hours of medical experience or GRE test scores.

Still, others go off on medical missions in other countries, thinking this is what schools want to see, or join every single organization in undergrad to gain leadership and volunteer hours.

The truth is…these are all great things. Schools want to see your academic potential, your shadowing experience, your volunteer spirit, and your medical acumen. They are all important to the application process and your success as a pre-PA student depends on a strong application and interview.

But they aren’t the most important thing. Students rack their brains trying to think of exactly what programs want…they visit forums, talk to other pre-PA students, ask their advisors, and read copious books on professionalism.

But the truth is so much easier than that.

The truth is so obvious that people don’t even notice it. It’s the ever-present song playing in the back of your head but you never actually hear. It’s the easy answer on the test that you’re sure is a trick question so you get it wrong. The truth is simple.

It’s not something you study for…or take a class in…or join. It’s more intrinsic than that. So simple, and yet astonishingly complex at the same time.

It’s your compassion. Your commitment to service. Your ability to actually care about your patients makes you a standout PA candidate.

a woman talking to a patient
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

I told you it was simple

Hear me out. We can teach you medicine. We’ve done it before. Every year a new cohort of students come to PA school eager to learn, and we help mold them into excellent and competent providers. We teach evidence-based medicine, critical thinking, pharmacodynamics, and surgical skills. And students learn them. Every year they master aspects of medicine through hard work and sacrifice. We know we can teach you medicine.

But how do you teach compassion? How do you instill ethics? Or get students to actually CARE about their patients?

Teaching empathy and compassion is so much harder. We want you to come in with these personality traits that will make you an amazing physician assistant; we’ll teach you the medicine part.

So, if you’re asking yourself what makes a good PA, think back to your patient interactions, take a deep inventory of why you want to serve, and your commitment to making the lives of your future patients just a little bit better.

Because we can teach you medicine. But we can’t teach you compassion. That’s something you need to learn on your own.

The Pre-PA clinic social media links provided below:

Published by pensmenger

I am a Biology Major attending Arcadia University. I started the company My Biology Experience in hopes to connect the Biology community on a closer level.

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