The path of getting into PA school is lined with questions. From the personal statement, to the supplemental essays and then finally…
…The Interview. And not easy questions, either! Admissions committees are trying to get to know you and determine if you will not only be a good fit for their program, but if you will be good for the PA profession.
We will spend the next few weeks going over common questions that you may receive from your top programs and how to navigate your response.
Question: Describe a time when you received criticism from a supervisor or a college professor and how did you respond?
What they want:
This is a loaded question. Admissions committees are evaluating your character, your maturity, and your professionalism. They want to see that you can handle criticism, because when you are learning medicine this is a given. You will be wrong. You will be wrong so many times. And you will be wrong in front of people that you respect. When you are standing in that hospital during rounds and the intensivist asks you a pathophysiology question (in front of 10 other people), how do you respond when you get corrected? When a faculty member gives you tough feedback on your masters project are you going to get belligerent or are you going to be open?
What they don’t want:
Humble brag. Please don’t use this as an opportunity to disclose how awesome you are. There are other chances when this is totally appropriate! Be succinct and stick to answering the question.
A good example:
As a recent graduate from college, I obtained a position as a manager of a food program.Every night we would cook a meal, serve, and clean up. The meal was for the homeless community in my neighborhood and I found the job rewarding. I spent most of my time organizing volunteers and making sure they had what they needed for the meal. When I first started I was very judgemental about what foods the groups were bringing in. I criticized one group on their reliance on canned goods, rather than fresh fruits and vegetables. During my training my supervisor took me aside and explained that many people volunteering were impoverished themselves and that they received the food from a food shelf. She discussed with me the need to be more sensitive with the improvements that I wanted to make, because often times the volunteers that came in were also recipients of the services. That was a lesson in humility for me. I understood that I needed to be more aware of the people around me and their perspectives. Going forward, I asked for people’s input before giving my opinion and made sure I understood the situation fully prior to making any changes to the program.
A bad example:
As a top biology student in my major, I found it difficult to do group projects. The material came very easy to me and was often difficult for my teammates. My professor assigned a project that I found particularly challenging because of the group aspect. He came to me after announcing the assignment and advised me that I needed to allow other students to participate fully in my group. I was able to restrain from completing the project myself and worked at allowing all of my team members to contribute. This experience taught me that it is good to allow others to learn at their own pace and there is value in group work.
I hope you can appreciate the difference! Whether these questions happen in written form or in an interview, make sure to think through before giving an answer. Admissions committees want sincere answers that show you have insight into your own shortcomings and will learn from your superiors. That is a character trait that will serve you for your entire career. What other questions have you come across that you need help with? Let us know and we will break it down!