With the calendar about to flip and a new year upon us, it’s a perfect time to consider making some resolutions for 2018. Since “New Year’s Resolutions” have a reputation for being short-lived, we like to think of these as pledges to ourselves. These suggestions will make you better prepared to apply to PA school.
1. Buckle down and study hard
Whether you’re taking courses in your undergrad, taking additional classes to meet prerequisites, or getting certifications now is the time to make the most of your investment and get the best grade you possibly can the first time through the course. Nobody wants to have to retake a class because of a poor grade, so make sure you do it right the first time. That might mean additional study time. It might mean less sleep or time with friends. It will be worth it when you get a grade that reflects your commitment to this career path.
2. Start volunteering
This does not have to be medically related, although it can be useful to volunteer somewhere that feeds your interest in the medical field. Regardless, PA programs look for candidates who spend time giving back to the community at large. Youth sports teams, Big Brother/Big Sister, mentor, organize a blood drive, lead a fundraiser for an underfunded cause, volunteering can be anything that sparks a fire in you and gives back to the community.
3. Find a Physician Assistant to shadow
Even if you’re just discovering the PA field (and we’d suggest it’s just as important if you’re in that position) for a number of reasons it’s important to shadow a PA. Not only will it give you the opportunity to see “a day in the life” in real time, it will give you a glimpse of that PA’s area of practice. Because PAs are so versatile and can work in virtually any area, the more you know about how they function in different clinics, specialties, and emergency departments, the more informed you’ll be about the world ahead of you. Oh, and did we mention most schools require shadowing hours for all their applicants?
4. Cultivate good relationships with Mentors
No, we don’t mean you should become a teacher’s pet. However, professors are humans and making a connections with bright students is probably part of what keeps them in the profession. Be your wonderful, engaging self, and we’re confident you’ll naturally stand out from the crowd. Take it a step further and be the one to ask follow up questions, attend study sessions, and take advantage of all the learning opportunities you can get; in other words be one of the awake students.
Another beneficial relationship to establish is one with a medical professional. If you have a PA to talk to, they can offer key insights into the field and the application process.
5. Prepare for a Marathon
Don’t physically prepare for a marathon (unless that’s your thing, then totally go for it) but in the same way, prepare yourself mentally. Marathons are not only completed by putting one foot in front of the other. There’s a head game involved as well. There are five applicable principals in this article.
The journey to PA school is not a short one. It takes time to accumulate the skills, experiences, and education required to be prepared to even apply to PA school. It’s not something one does quickly. There will be difficulty, sacrifices, all as investments in what can sometimes feel like a distant finish line. The better prepared you are mentally for the long haul, the more likely you are to stick with it and achieve your goal. (And just for laughs, you might find some parallels in this video about running a marathon.)
You can do it!
You probably have your own personal New Year’s Resolutions and we certainly wish you all the best with those. We think if you adopt one (or all) of our five pledges 2018 will be a fruitful and rewarding year, a year you look back on as one that successfully advanced your journey to PA school.