I am excited to have Tangie Guest give advice on how to choose a physician assistant school. She is finishing up her final semester of didactic year and soon to be a new Mommy! Tangie blogs at TangiethePA.blogspot.com, where she shares her experiences throughout PA school and offers advice to pre-PA and current PA students. You can find her on IG @_bettycrocker_ or via email at TangiethePA@gmail.com
Applying to a Physician Assistant School is already a nerve-wrecking process, but how do you decide which schools to apply to? If you don’t have enough money to apply to an infinite amount of schools, (because who does?) you have to be smart and strategic about choosing the PA school that is best for you.
Here are some things I think you should consider when choosing a PA school
Where do you want to be? Think about city vs small town. Consider possible distractions. What’s the climate? You will be spending the better part of 2-3 years there, make sure you like it.
Research the School
What are the school’s mission, goals, and values? Do those align with you? Is the school accredited and when is their next review? Have they lost accreditation before and why? What is their PANCE pass rate? This is important because ultimately you are there to acquire the skills and information you need to become a certified, practicing Physician Assistant.
Consider in-state vs out-of-state tuition. Also, consider the cost of living in the area where you will be attending school. You will still be responsible for rent, bills, and groceries without any source of income. Of course, you can take out loans but seriously look at the cost. You may want to save as much money as you can.
What affiliations does the school have? Clinical rotations are equally as important as didactic year. You’re going to be practicing the skills you learned during didactic year. Some students are hired by locations where they did a rotation, so actually liking the location where your school or rotations are is a plus!
How many students do they accept? Don’t just think about this for your chances of getting in. Instead, think of the class size in the aspect of how close and personal you want to be with the staff and your professors. I only applied to schools with class sizes ranging from 20-50. I wanted to make sure if I needed help or special attention, there would be enough staff to accommodate my needs.
Length of Program/Start Date
How long is the program? Physician Assistant School ranges from 23-27 months. When is the start date? Some schools start in January for Spring, Summer, or Fall. Think about where you are in life and how this factors into choosing a Physician Assistant School. Will all of your undergrad courses and prerequisites be complete by the deadline? Do you want to try to work and save money before starting school? Any other obligations going on (personal, family, etc). Take all of those things into consideration.
Does it feel right to you?
After your interview, talk with the professors, staff, and current students. How do they feel about the program? Current students can provide a lot of insight. Don’t be afraid to ask them anything. Remember going to Physician Assitant program is an investment in yourself. Be sure to choose a Physician Assistant school that feels like the perfect fit for you.