This is my very first blog post! I'm super excited to start sharing my story with you all. I decided to make my first post about being a pre-PA student in college, and I want to talk about what the pre-PA lifestyle was like for me. Being a physician assistant is one of the most satisfying, flexible, and happening professions in the country right now, so naturally the path to get there is not a simple one. Bottom line is: being a pre-PA student is HARD. If you know me on a personal level, you know I've never been good at sugar coating things, and I made a promise to myself to be fully transparent about my experiences on my blog.
What was it like being a pre-PA student?
I was amongst aspiring physicians, nurses, pharmacists, biologists, chemists, veterinarians, physical therapists, and other pre-PA students in all of my core science classes. I think it goes without saying that's not a stupid bunch of peers, so the bell-shaped curve is not always your best friend. I was taking some of the most challenging exams on campus, while also trying to fit in shadowing hours, patient care hours, volunteering hours, and extra-curricular activities that would make my application stand out. Not to mention, I was trying to safe haven my GPA at the same time. It's a lot of pressure knowing that every exam grade matters, and there was definitely some unhealthy amounts of stress associated. It is nearly impossible for pre-PA students to avoid the big three: test-taking anxiety, social exile, and tears (don't worry everyone's doing it). I quickly noticed my priorities shifting from social scenes to the library, and I had to reassure myself on a daily basis that I was making the right decision. But Negative Nancy aside, no one said it wouldn't all be worth it someday. I mean seriously, no one would put themselves through all of this if the end goal wasn't rewarding. And the trek to get there was not all full of misery. I felt great reward with every small accomplishment, I made great strides in both personal growth and maturity, and I met lifelong friends who share my same passion. It was worth it.
What should I major in?
I was a Biology major because I felt that it would best prepare me for the rigor of PA school. This major covered all of the necessary pre-requisite courses, while also testing my ability to handle multiple science classes at one time. That being said, major is not a determining factor in getting accepted into PA school. You can major in whatever you want! From chemistry to exercise science to public health, really, it does not matter. Now it is obviously much easier to major in something science-related if you're on the four year plan, and it definitely makes more sense, but it is by no means a requirement to be a biology major. This does not mean that if you are a business major that programs won't question this choice during your interviews, but it also doesn’t mean you'll get rejected all because of a major title. With that being said, I am constantly recommending pre-PA students to major in Biology because it is known for its challenging curriculum. It makes your GPA that much more impressive. Those courses like organic chemistry 1&2, physics 1&2, and biochemistry really do test your academic strengths and demonstrate that you can handle the course load of PA school.
What kind of characteristics do I have to have to go pre-PA?
Sacrifice was a huge theme of my college experience. You need to be dedicated to your studies day in and day out. You need to be determined enough to keep going when exam material doesn't come easy to you. You need to have the grit to muster through the tough days, while always keeping the long term goal in sight. You need to have passion for the soul reason you're perusing a career in medicine. Simply going into a profession for recognition or money will never be enough. That's a promise. You need the heart, the compassion, and the empathy to care for others, but the mental strength to handle tragedy gracefully. You need to be outgoing enough to ace an interview or work in a team, but reserved enough to show your maturity. And you need a support system to help pick up the pieces every time something doesn't go as planned. It definitely takes a special kind of personality to go pre-PA, but the qualities of the people that are accepted to and graduate from PA school are the same qualities that title PAs as a more "patient-centered" provider.
What if people don't understand the pre-PA path I've chosen?
Don't ever get bogged down by all of the "Why didn't you just become a doctor?" or the "So are you going to medical school after PA school?" questions from friends and family members. Half of the time people just simply don't understand the role of the PA. The other half will realize you made the right choice three years later when you're making a healthy starting salary at a young age, when you're not drowning in student loans, and when you are able to raise a family comfortably while working a full time job. Educate others! The more they know about this profession and all it has to offer, the more acceptance it will receive. And at the end of the day, the healthcare system is nothing without ALL of its team members.