Back to some pre-PA stuff with this post!
At this point, the acceptances from schools should be coming in (AGH), and while this is SUCH an exciting time, it can also be incredibily stressful. How are you supposed to make the decision on where you want to spend the next 2-3 years of your life? What happens if you make the wrong decision? What should factor into your decision on where to go? I’m going to talk about the factors that helped influence my decision on where to attend PA school, and landed me at my school
During my interview at GW, there was one thing that the Director of the program, Dr. Wright, really said that stood out with me. She told all of us interviewing that while that day was about determining whether we were the right “fit” for GW, it was as much about determining if GW was the right “fit” for us. This statement stuck with me through the rest of my interviews at different programs, and is still something that resonants with me today.
Bottom line: You want to choose a school that fits YOU.
First things first, take a step back and ignore the “ranking” of a school. Honestly, this is kind of arbitrary and is gathered based on opinions given by all the PA school. In the end, longer standing programs end up being ranked more highly. And in the end, it doesn’t matter as much as some of the things on this list.
Look at the PANCE pass rate. This is one of THE most important things to consider when picking a school. The PANCE determines whether or not you become a certified PA (PA-C), and you NEED that certification. So you want to make sure that the education that you’re getting is going to adequately prepare you for that, and one way of judging this is based off of the PANCE pass rates for pass classes.
Think about the drop-out rate. I was told at one school by just graduated student that his class had lost like 15 people. Uh, what?! This terrified me. You want to know that the faculty has your back and wants you to be there. Sure, there are always crazy circumstances that affect your life, but I can tell you that my faculty works very hard with students to keep them in school, and if all else fails, will try to work out a plan for them to enter the next class in some way.
Decide if you’re okay with the cost of living and tuition for that school. DC is an EXPENSIVE area, and GW is an expensive school. While I had a lot of hesitation over this, I ultimately decided that the education I was going to get here, and the experience of living in the city, was worth the price tag. But you need to take a long hard look at the finances and decide if you’re okay with the amount of loans you will have. There are some great repayment opportunity, as well as some scholarships, out there but they can be hard to get. Realistically (unless you’re independently wealthy-in which case-I hate you, kinda kidding), you’re going to be taking out loans.
Reflect on your interview experience with your fellow interviewees. Did you feel comfortable talking to them? Did you have things in common? Did you make a “friend” that day? These are possibly the people that you’re spending the next two-three years of your life with, and you want to make sure you mesh well! Granted an interview is a high-stress occasion, so you can’t be sure of someone’s personality based on that. But at the same time, if you felt really, really uncomfortable all day, that would be a red flag.
Reach out to current students. Ask them if their happy with their decision. Ask them their thoughts on the program and faculty. What would they change about it? What do they absolutely love about the program? Do they think that they’re getting a good education? Are they confident in what they’re learning? I get asked stuff all the time, and I’m going to be honest with you because I want you to have the BEST experience you could during PA school. Just be polite and respectful (as with everything in life). This is a great test of the program! Also reflect on the students you met during the interview-did they look happy?
Think about the “vibe” you got at the school. This sound weird I know, but there were some schools during the interview process that I walked about thinking “Damn, I could definitely see myself at home here” and there were some schools that I did not feel that way at all at. THIS MATTERS. Don’t try to push it in the back of your mind. If you just were not feeling a place, chances are you’re just not going to “feel it” for the 2 years you’ll spend there.
Like I said before, bottom line is how happy you’re going to be at a program! Think about YOU.
If you’re worried you made the wrong decision, I can give you this piece of advice. Its only two (or three) years. What you make of PA school is going to determine what you get out of it. A positive attitude can make all the difference.
Comment below on your thoughts about choosing the right PA school. Share what made you chose the school you did! I would love to hear your thoughts.
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