So, let’s talk about those supplemental application – super fun, right? This can be kind of a tedious process but you definitely need to do it. If you submitted a CASPA application, you would literally be wasting your money if you don’t finish the supplemental application. Please don’t do that. Even if you’re suddenly having doubts on if you’re a qualified applicant or debating whether you really want to go to the school, you can’t know for sure until you try (and you don’t want to send the CASPA money down the drain)
Supplemental applications will be school dependent on what they entail. It could be just a resume like sheet where you fill in items, or it could be a series of questions essays! I talked more about some of the money aspect of applying HERE.
If you have to re-enter grades and prerequisites, I would block out a good hour or two time frame to force yourself to get this done. I know it’s annoying, and I know you did this for CASPA, but schools want to have it easily accessible.
Next, you’re going to do the essays (the real fun part). Check out my tips for the personal statement here. They’re still very applicable to these essays!
However, something different than the personal statement — the supplemental essay is your chance to show the school how you are perfect for THAT school. Make sure to have research done on how you’re a good “fit” for the program. You want these essays to be individualized to the program.
While I was interviewing, I was told by more than one school that the schools are looking for a student who is good fit for the program, but that the applicants need to look for a school that’s a good fit for them.
So do some research! What’s the mission statement of the program? Why do you want to go there? Do you like the emphasis on volunteering, or surgery, or rural care? If you have the opportunity to hear and alumni speak, or talk to a current student, or go to the schools information session, do it! Learn what makes the program different than the others you’re applying to.
And DO NOT REUSE YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT. I cannot emphasis this enough. A supplemental essay is another chance for you to show how unique and perfect you are for that program! It’s for you to show how great you are and why you deserve to be a PA!
Here are some ideas on how to start an answer for typical questions:
- How has your patient care experience influenced you as a person? How have you grown?
This is a great question and so important. I don’t care if you hated getting your PCE, make it sound good. I HATED working on a med/surg floor as a CNA 99% of the time. It was gross, it was hard, patients are smelly, and I was underpaid. BUT working as a CNA made me in to a better person. I learned empathy and compassion. I learned the importance of knowing my patients as individuals and not their diagnosis. I grew through my work, and I’m sure that you have too. Sit down and think about how your interactions with patients have made you grow over time. Think about the patients who made an impact on your soul. What did you learn from them? How did they make you feel? What emotions get brought up as you think about them?
Next, sit down and think of good qualities a PA has. They don’t want to hear about how you learned to change a bed with a patient in it (that’s cool, I know). They want to hear about how you became more devoted to your dream of being a PA. They want to know how these patients will influence how you interact with patients later in your career.
How will you take working at the bottom of the healthcare team and utilize the skills you learned as someone diagnosing and treating patients?
- Have you ever encountered an underserved community, and how have they influenced you?
This can be a hard one for some individuals if they haven’t had the opportunity to see communities outside of their own. First piece of advise: most PA schools focus on primary care. You can and will leave school and be a wonderful primary care provider — this was the original focus of the schooling. So, think about this question in a primary care format (unless you are applying to a school that isn’t a “general” school, like UAB).
If you haven’t had a chance to interact with an underserved community, sit down and do some research. Learn about how hard it is for these individuals to get care and what it means for their health as a whole. Learn about food deserts, the lack of health care is some areas, and what it means to not have insurance. Think about what you would want to do to help these people (you should want to help them). Think about what you would learn from these individuals.
If you’ve ever given back to your community for volunteering, think about these experiences when you’re answering this question. What did you learn from it? How did it make you feel? How did the individuals you were helping feel?
At the end of the day, what do you want to do to help bring healthcare to everyone?
- Why are you a good fit for (insert school here)? Why do you want to attend (insert school here)?
This is where all of the research you did comes in. Make sure to talk about the school positively and spin it to how you are as a person. Talk about your good qualities. And please, don’t just say the school is the best and you want to be the best. Actually learn about the school and use that knowledge to influence what you’re writing.
This essay topic is also a huge part of what an interview investigates. Use this topic to your advantage so that you can get an interview and actually be able to showcase who you are!
- Who has influenced you the most in your desire to be a Physician Assistant?
This is a great question. Probably my favorite. You can literally talk about SO MUCH here. It could be a patient you had who really touched you as a person and made you who you are now. It could be a provider you had as a patient or a provider you shadowed. It could be a parent or family member or friend. The possibilities are endless. But remember, while you’re talking about this person, make sure to mention all the things you learned from them and how you have changed. You want to make the focus on you (but not too much so that you sound conceited). The question is how did this person influence you, not to tell them about the person.
For every question you get, give thought. Read the essay you write outloud. Make sure to have good grammar and spelling. Have personality. Follow all the stipulations they give you. Answer the question they ask. This is insight into you -use it to your advantage. You want to show how you are a good candidate and how that by choosing you to interview, they’re going to find a candidate who is a good fit for the program.
I would love to hear your thoughts on writing supplemental application essays! Also feel free to subscribe to the blog or follow along on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) as I try to survive life with a stethoscope and some sparkle!