Waiting is hard. Waiting in line, waiting for that phone call, waiting for those test results, all these things are part of regular routine. Waiting for one of the biggest developments of your life is even harder. What should you do while you wait to get into Physician Assistant school?
Besides checking your email every 12 minutes, there are some useful, productive activities that will make you a stronger candidate even after your application is complete.
Read up on all the programs to which you applied
We are confident you’ve already familiarized yourself with the basics of the programs…right? Even so, there are more details to comb through, such as PANCE pass rates and job placement statistics, as well as teaching staff and specialized programs offerings. Many if not most schools include this information on their websites, so consider memorizing these (hello flash cards) for each program.
Another angle is to focus on a few buzz words. Each school has its own personality, its own set of core values. Know these and be conversant in them, able to cite ways your application and experiences tie into the program’s ethos. Each program looks for a certain type of applicant, and they’re usually not coy about it. Use this to your advantage, and speak their language. For example, if their website tells you: We value applicants who demonstrate a heart for service and a commitment to increasing access to health care as Duke’s program does, you’d be crazy to not mention anything that exemplifies any of these qualities.
Research common interview techniques and questions
There are a few questions that are good warm ups for an interview. You can count on hearing some version of these, so be prepared (this article can give you some pointers). In addition, most programs are up front with information about their programs in the FAQ sections of their websites; be sure you’re knowledgable about these. This is a great place to start your research.
Practice your interview skills
These are the nitty gritty, rubber meets the road skills that are so important to your future success. This is where you put on your interview outfit, polish up that smile, and practice your handshake. More than that, review your medical experiences, gleaning stories and examples to have ready to share. Practice talking to strangers in the check out lane. Bribe your roommate to act as interviewer. As for trusted friends to give you feedback on how you present yourself in formal settings, and adjust course accordingly.
At PA Trek Coaching we have two services specifically to help people prepare for their interviews: a mock interview with one of our coaches, and Interview Bootcamp. For a little more on interviews you can read one of our articles about it here.
Continue to bolster your application and experience
Now is not the time to sit back and relax. Well, okay, you can relax for a couple days. The application process is grueling you’ve earned a short break. Once you’ve taken a breath, keep volunteering, keep building your clinical experiences. Continue to be committed to academic excellence — slacking is not allowed and your grades still matter.
Cultivate healthy stress management
As you’ve probably been told, Physician Assistant programs are intense, stuffing students to the gills with critical information they must master if they are to graduate and pass their boards. The pace is fast, the learning is faster, and there’s hardly time to pause. So it may seem counterintuitive to cultivate things that could be viewed as hobbies at this point in the game. Hear us out.
Everybody has to handle stress. Everyone has a different tolerance for that stress. That means a stress level some people might equate to a pleasant summer breeze someone else might equate to a hurricane. Neither is wrong, they’re just different, and both groups of people have ways to manage stress in their lives. The key to handling it is finding an approach that works for YOU, and is a constructive outlet rather than something you’ll regret the next day. This is not only a way to blow off steam, it’s also something practical you’ll benefit from moving forward through life. It’s often a piece schools want to know: how are you going to not melt down when you’re feeling overwhelmed in their program?
Take walks or go for a jog, eat more veggies, drink plenty of water, try a yoga class. Find an outlet for stress, something that will serve you well beyond this waiting period. Go fishing, rent a paddle board, borrow a friend’s bike and find a scenic trail. You’ll feel better and it will help you enjoy this time while you wait for that invitation to begin the next chapter of your life.
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