Ever struggle with the thoughts of thinking you’re not a quality enough applicant to get accepted to PA school? Me too. Ever think you should wait another year to apply so you can enhance your application by retaking classes, retaking the GRE, or gaining more experiences? Me too. But guess what? It only takes one. Takes one admissions committee member to notice potential on your application. Takes one admissions committee member to fight for your seat in the upcoming class. It takes one acceptance. If you never apply, you already know the admission committees decision. Don’t let the fear of inadequacy and rejection keep you from submission of applications. There will be rejections, and that is okay. Every rejection is a learning experience and does not mean that you are not a quality applicant. Never let a rejection dictate your confidence in yourself. I know it is easier said than done. I struggled with this too while going through the application process. I thought I would have to redo my prerequisite courses in order to make myself a “worthy” applicant. I was wrong, and the sting of rejections is instantly forgotten when you get that one acceptance needed to change the trajectory of your education.
PA programs are not (I repeat NOT) looking for everyone to have an identical background, perfect scores on entrance exams, or even a stellar GPA. They are looking for collaborators; people who are willing to work together and teach each other for the betterment of medicine. Just because you had low grades in your undergraduate studies does not mean you will make a terrible PA. Likewise, if you had high grades in your undergraduate studies that does not mean you will make a fantastic PA. I thought for the longest time that my undergraduate grades were a reflection of my potential to be a great PA-S and PA-C. I was wrong. By no means did I have a 4.0, nor a stellar GRE score; in fact, they were purely average. I had extracurriculars, shadowing, and volunteer work. But, so did everyone else that applied. What did I offer that other students didn’t? What made me special and something that I could showcase on my applications? I struggled with that (as I am sure you are too) because I felt as though I was a mediocre applicant at best and someone that would blend in with the rest of the applicant pool. It took a lot of self-reflection to find something that made me stand out, no matter how small. I shadowed for 40 hours? No, everyone has 40+ hours. I volunteered at the hospital for 3 years? No, everyone has volunteered in the hospital. I have a couple of years of experience as a pediatric medical assistant? No, everyone has experience as a medical assistant. I started thinking about what I could offer the program that other students couldn’t. Wait a minute. People probably have experience as a medical assistant but what about PEDIATRIC medical assistant? Probably not. What about my job as a pediatric medical assistant can make me stand out to the admissions committee? I can help my future classmates become competent vaccinators. At first glance, that seems like a small feat. However, that is a unique contribution I can make to the class. The vaccine schedule can be confusing and overwhelming. When does each vaccine need to be given? What is each of them protecting against? What are the side effects? That is knowledge I have gained throughout the course of my job. My background in pediatrics will allow me to help my classmates master this information too.
What did I learn from the application process about mediocrity that I hope you can understand now? Your idea of mediocre is not the same as someone else’s. Someone on the admissions committee saw my potential and fought for my acceptance. The same will happen to you. You are a quality applicant. All you have to do is showcase your unique qualities and knowledge. Present the PA programs with a student that they don’t already have, and a student that can better other students. If you have a background as an artist, you can use that unique perspective to help your classmates see the art in medicine. If you have experience as a business professional, you can guide your classmates regarding business operations and management. Show the university that you can contribute something to make yourself and your fellow classmates better overall future providers and advocates for the profession. It is about the TEAM and programs are thinking in the long term about what will help everyone be competent providers. Do not underestimate your capability to be a successful student and professional by comparing yourself to others. Nourish your talents so that the admissions committees see who you are and if that thought of “Are you good enough?” ever pops back into your head, just remember: YES.