PA School Interviews - Things to keep in mind

Friday, February 19, 2016

I apologize in advance for a rather long post. For those of you who aren't applying to PA school, you might not enjoy the next post or two, but bear with me please :) 

While I was taking classes part time to finish my pre-reqs for PA school, I met a classmate who had also applied to PA schools. He was kind enough to pass down Andrew Rodican’s “How to Ace the Physician Assistant School Interview” book to me, which had been handed down to him as well. With the help this book, along with the advice of our A&P professor, and the many wise people I have been blessed with in my life, I was able to prepare for and ace my PA school interviews. Here are a few things to consider if you're getting ready for the next interview cycle:

First and foremost, know why you want to become a PA. Not only so you can answer the question at your PA school interviews, but also for yourself. Really know why you want to spend the rest of your life doing this. The cliché answer that you want to stay away from is “because I want to help people”. Yes, while that is a valid and very important part of why anyone would want to become a PA, realize that we can help people without being a PA. Please give it some more thought and have more reasons than just that.  

Try not to just memorize answers to any questions that you come across during your preparation. You don’t want your answers to sound rehearsed or scripted. Give some thought to what the question is asking and try to be as honest as possible. Also, if you simply memorize your answers, there’s a high chance you’ll get flustered if you forget your answer during the interview and make yourself even more nervous. Make an outline of things you might want to say, and then try to tie it all together. Practice! But don’t memorize.

You may be asked a different version of any question that you have prepared for. This is another reason you don't want to just memorize questions and your answers to them. Try to prepare with broad answers first and then have some details or events you want to talk about handy that you can easily throw in the mix depending on the question being asked. 

Don’t ever say something just because you think that’s what they want to hear. If you answer a question that doesn’t seem to match your personality or your application, they will catch it in an instant. You want to be your true self as they are trying to figure out if you are a good match for their program aka if you will thrive in the environment that you will be in at their school.

Remember that you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. So while you may be tempted to just impress them, remember that they need to be a good match for you too. Also try to keep that in mind when you get nervous or anxious during the interview, as that can give you even the smallest boost of confidence.

 Schedule a mock interview at least a week before your interview. A lot of colleges have a career services center on campus, and they will be happy to help you out! You may have to submit a resume and they will ask you a mix of general and some specific questions that you are most likely to encounter during your PA school interview. If that is not an option, ask a friend or a family member to help you out. You really need to practice answering out loud instead of just thinking about your answers.

 Be able to talk about why you want to go to a particular program. This is your chance to show what you know about their program and how much time you’ve spent researching about them. If you know someone who currently attends or has attended that program, be sure to mention that. That shows them that you took the time to really get as much detail about their program as you can.

Another thing to be ready to talk about are any poor grades, a gap year or two, and or your healthcare experience. None of these things are particularly bad, so don’t get defensive or deny them. The best thing to do is to acknowledge that C or any other part of your application that is not as strong and show them how you tried to improve from there on. We are not expected to be a cookie cut 4.0, traditional students. Our weaknesses make us who we are and it is more important to share how we kept at it and made it through, as those qualities will be really important in PA school.

Have a list of questions ready to ask after your interview for faculty members AND students. Anytime someone asks you if you have any questions, it is best to ask at least one question that doesn’t have a yes or no answer. Show that you’re interested and really want to learn as much as you can about them.

Take a deep breath and smile. Whenever I found myself getting nervous in the middle of my interview, I told myself to slow down, take a deep breath, and smile. The perfect opportunity to do this is when your interviewer(s) is asking you a question or is commenting back on your answer. Take a moment to gather yourself and your thoughts. It's also totally okay to pause and think before answering a question. 

And most importantly, try to keep in mind that you must have done a lot of things right to make it so far. If they invited you for an interview, you’ve already made enough of an impression academically and with your healthcare experience. Try to shine through with your personality, your desire and your initial motivation to be a Physician Assistant.

My last piece of advice is, be kind. Be kind to others and to yourself. Talk to other applicants, faculty, and staff and be friendly. Everyone else in that room full of applicants is just as nervous are you are. You have worked hard to get where you are, the least you can do is live in the moment and enjoy your interview day.

These are my pearls of wisdom I have gained through experience and by taking other people's advice. In my next post, I plan on sharing some of the interview questions I was asked and a few other questions that might be good to prepare for.

Do you guys have anything to add that you found helpful? Please do share!


  1. There are several great points in here that I think that we forget in interviews and life sometimes, especially, to breath and smile. Did you know that if you smile it will trigger personal happiness. try it!
    I really love your last note to "be kind." Often our actions speak louder than words and kindness is overlooked. If we are able to reach out on take the time to be kind, it may make a huge difference not only in interviews but in life. :)
    Great advice!

    1. Thank you!! Yes, I agree with you, that kindness does make a huge difference in everyday life! That's why I thought it was important to mention it, especially because we're usually very hard on ourselves when faced with a challenge or life changing decisions.