Where to begin

I’m assuming there are many people who enter this field that were just like me when I began this process. I could imagine myself being a part of a PA program, and I could see myself working as a PA. Yet, there was still this amorphous chasm I saw in front of me; it spanned the gulf between where I stood and the ultimate achievement of being accepted into a school. I wanted to know who these committees and boards were that held the keys to the programs, and how I was to craft myself and my application to convince them of the things I knew to be true about myself! I remember often looking at the minimum requirements for the programs and the overbearing thought that came to my mind was: “I wish I had been a Biology major.”

At that time it was difficult to appreciate the BA degree I had received in Religion and French while looking at classes like Biochemistry, Immunology, A&P, Microbiology, etc.

The most helpful piece of advice I received at the beginning of this journey was to maintain a dual perspective. The large perspective helped keep me motivated as I pursued the vocation of a PA (picture a large masterpiece hanging on the wall as you practice your brush strokes and painting techniques). However, the small, day to day perspective helped make things achievable. This was the detailed checklist. This helped me say to myself, “what can I do today, and what decisions can I make today that will push me closer to my goal by tomorrow, or next week.”

So I broke it down. I made a list. I picked a few classes. I google’d some names. Simple things. And then I got to work. One step at a time.

An update

I began this blog nearly a year ago as I was about the start a second cycle of applying to PA schools. One year ago I was waitlisted for the ONLY school to which I applied. I know…few people affirmed my decision to only apply to one school. However, because of my family’s geographic situation, and because I was still working on pre-reqs, and because I had yet to take the GRE, it was my only option. I was thrilled to get an interview, but I felt defeated and disappointed when I got the email saying that I was waitlisted. Several weeks later at the beginning of January, 2014 I found out that I would be #52 on the waitlist. Yikes. Others told me waitlists were unpredictable, but I heard #52 as “better luck next year.”

My idea of the waitlist: “We really want you to be in our program, and we think you would be a good fit, but we just don’t have room for you.” Also a form of purgatory wherein you are unable to relinquish the possibility of being accepted to the program, however, you must continue on as if you will not be accepted. A really horrible place to be.

At this time I shifted my perspective as much as I could to focus on reapplying next year. I reflected on my application experience, interview notes, and tried to name the last 8 months as a learning experience instead of a failure. Applying to PA school is not easy. More on that topic in a future post.

A few months went by and I gradually climbed the waitlist. I would get email updates maybe once or twice a week letting me know I had moved up to #47…#45….#41…#39. Slow and steady. A slow enough pace that by the end of February I was certain that, at that pace, I would be #1 by 2016. Nonetheless, it was good motivation to keep focusing on next year. I had a game plan tailored and polished by this past experience, and that gave me confidence.

Then March rolls around (school starts at the beginning of June, by the way) and I start seeing #28…#21…#17…My wife and I spent a week in New York at the end of March and I went from #17 at the beginning of the week to #9 by the end. I felt like I was a 2 liter bottle of Coke being vigorously shaken, but the cap was glued shut. I would not let myself get excited about the idea of starting school in June. I had already processed through my rejection, and until I got the phone call from admissions, I was focusing on my application for next year.

April came and went and by that time I was sitting at #5. It was very difficult for my wife and I to not entertain the possibility that I could be starting school in less than two months, and we would have to rearrange much of our life to accommodate. I called the admissions office of the school to find a bit more clarity about why the waitlist was moving so quickly. Apparently, the school had been granted three additional spots in the program late in the cycle. This meant that admissions was calling #1, #2, and #3 on the waitlist and offering them these spots. Because it was so late in the application cycle, many of these applicants had already been accepted elsewhere and declined the offer. When I called at #5, the school still had TWO spots to fill and would be making those calls to #1 and #2 that week.

Over the next two weeks my emails said #4….#3….I couldn’t comprehend this. From #52 to #3. I began entertaining the possibility more and more each day. Towards the middle of May, I was still hanging out at #3 and I gave the admissions department another call to check in. The news was disheartening. The last two spots had been filled, which meant that the only way I would move up on the waitlist and possibly enter the class would be if current accepted students dropped out for some reason. By this time, most people have made their decisions, declined other schools’ offers, and are packing the moving trucks. I fought the urge to feel disappointed yet again, but it was difficult.

The first day of class, June 3rd, had arrived. Several of my friends encouraged me to show up at the school on the first day in case someone forgot to show up. That definitely would have worked at the Community College I had been going to, but I didn’t think it would quite work in this case.

#3. A wild waitlist ride for certain. Part of me took confidence in the fact that I nearly got in to PA school, and other parts of me still lingered on why I was waitlisted at #52 to begin with. If I had said one thing differently in my interview, or smiled a little more during a handshake, could I have started at #45? And would have have made the difference? Thankfully, I had many, many thoughts to process, and I took them all into the next application cycle, which by June had already been open for two months!

I hope to post about every aspect of the application process. For me, it’s a way to process and preserve this unique time, and I also hope that others are able to gain some helpful information if they are in the same boat! I know I appreciated the blogs and articles about anything related to this process, and I am excited to give back.

It is 12 months since I found out I was #52 at the only school to which I applied. Since that time I received interview offers to four of the five schools that I applied to this year. I chose to interview at three of them and have been accepted to all three. I never thought I would be in a position to make these kinds of decisions, but I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from my experiences last year and identify and improve my weaknesses. I will be starting PA school in June this year, and, until then, I’ll be posting about my experiences with this process.

Through the forest

I am creating this blog to help shape a timeline and history to what seems like an amorphous journey I have been on moving toward becoming a Physician Assistant. I have read quite a few blogs by others who are in my situation (not in a program yet), in a program, or working as a PA-C. In all settings I have found the information extremely helpful and I am always grateful people take the time amidst the chaos to document what their immediate circumstance has for them. Everything is framed inside of the journey of becoming a good provider as a Physician Assistant. This makes each and every post quite relevant for anyone at any point along that line.

This blog is mainly for myself. However, my hope is that it might bring help and clarity to anyone else out there along the ride for this incredibly rewarding journey.