Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guest Blog: The Interview Process for WVU's PA Program

Guest Post!

Having decided there was a dearth of information on the internet concerning applying and interviewing for Pathologists' Assistant programs I've started this series for the prospective student. 

I wrote a blog on applying to Duke's PA program and one with basic information about all of the accredited programs, and am working on getting first person accounts of the various other programs. To this end I've enlisted the help of a fellow blogger who is a current student of the WVU Pathologists' Assistant program

The Interview Process for WVU's PA Program

By Forrest Merrill

The other day, I had the pleasure of participating in an interview, so the process is very fresh in my memory. You may be one of the many who will be applying to West Virginia University's PA Program this year or even next year so I'll do my best to outline how it works.

Once you have been accepted for an interview, you'll need to fly or drive to Morgantown. If you come by plane, you'll be coming in from Washington Dulles International Airport. I believe that the Morgantown airport only offers service to Washington Dulles, but there is a Grey Line bus running between Morgantown and Pittsburgh. If you come in by plane, you can call a taxi at the airport. The only regional taxi service is called "Yellow Cab". If you are driving, be warned that the roads can be confusing for first time visitors. Morgantown's roads are not set-up in a square grid pattern and the beautiful rolling hills can block your view of where you are really going. A good map or navigational system will help you.

With a campus as big and diverse as WVU it's expected that finding one's destination can be intimidating. As of right now, the interviews are held at the Health Science Center which is located on the Health Sciences Campus (east of the Evansdale campus and north of the downtown campus). If you can see a huge brick-red hospital (Ruby Hospital), then you are very close. Just north of Ruby Hospital on a large hill is the Health Science Center. This is where the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy are located.

When coming by car, the easiest way to get to the health science center is to turn off from Van Voorhis onto Elmer Prince Drive. There is a parking garage and it does require a fee to park there, but if you're willing to walk a little farther you should be able to find Ruby Hospital Parking at the bottom of the hill. You'll want to come in from the front entrance, which I've marked with a red circle above the parking garage on the map.
Now the Health Sciences Campus looks small on a map but when you get there in person it can be a labyrinth. Interviews are typically held in room 2149 and it can be a bit of a mouse maze to get there, so I've provided you with some directions to help you all out. Of course, once you've been here for a while most places here are easy to find.
 Here is the entrance to the Health Science Center. It's really a beautiful campus. Soon after entering you will see the four huge pylons as shown in the next picture.

Here's what you'll see soon after entering. You'll need to go to the second floor by going up these stairs.

At the top of the stairs, you'll see this. Make a right.

This is a long hall. As you are walking, keep your eyes on the left side. You will turn left at the next passageway.

Now we're getting closer. Turn left after entering the passage way. From here on, the hall twists and turns like a snake, but if you keep going you can't get lost.

After passing the class pictures of the PA students and MT students you'll come across a 4-way intersection. Turn right here.

And you've made it! Just in time for your interview in room 2149.

The interview itself takes about 35-40 minutes and consists of 3-4 interviewers. The interviewers are usually PAs who are working at Ruby Hospital, some pathology professors, some PA students and most often the director herself, Cheryl.

Now, I know exactly what you're all wondering. "What questions do they ask at the interview?"...

I'm not saying.

But, I will tell you that it is a standard interview and you can expect the usual questions that are asked at interviews to be asked. My advice is, if you haven't already, to purchase a book regarding common questions asked at interviews and come prepared with your responses in your head. There are plenty of books available on amazon.com. As goes with Murphey's Law, you can't prepare for everything so despite your practice you may be asked a question that you hadn't expected.

This is graduate school, so you should dress professionally and be punctual in arriving. After the interviewers have asked their questions the interviewee will get a chance to ask their own questions about the school and the program.

You will be happy to know that there is no essay question to be completed after the interview. There was an essay portion of the interview in years past, but it is no more. The professors thought that the essay responses just did not add much weight to the applicants overall score, so it was eliminated.

After the interview, you will be given a brief tour of the health science center campus and all of the places relevant to PA students. You won't be graded once the interview is over, so you can feel free to relax. One of the students in my class will escort you to the health science center library, the morgue, the gross room and so forth. You should use this opportunity to ask some more questions about classes, studying, etc... After this, you may return home! I'd recommend that once you get home you write a thank you letter to the program director, Cheryl.

The competition to get in is high, just like anywhere else. I don't have any figures on how many applicants there are every year, but your acceptance depends on many factors. The interviewers really do look at the whole picture and spend hours and hours selecting which applicants can matriculate. It's really a tough process because there are so many qualified applicants but so few spaces. Things that they look at include, but are not limited to, your gpa, the classes you took in college, your work experience, your volunteer experience, your personal growth, your letters of recommendation and your interview score.

Because the competition is so high, you may be turned away even though you would have become a perfectly fine student. The PA Program at WVU is still expanding and more spaces are opening up, but at the same time, the number of applicants has also risen. There is no waiting list at WVU that I'm aware of, so if at first you don't get in, you should apply to as many other PA schools as possible and don't give up on your love for pathology.
For those of you who do get in, welcome to graduate school! You'll find yourself quite busy once classes start, so enjoy your remaining time at home and get a head start on studying anatomy. You can thank me later.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Information on Applying to Pathologists' Assistant Programs

When I was looking to apply for a Pathologists' Assistant Program I was very much focused on Duke, but in the interest of actually getting in somewhere if the program I really wanted didn't let me in I compiled some preliminary information* on the other schools. I thought it might be nice to share with prospective students (along with whatever first hand experiences I can get from other students/applicants like the WVU interview process blog Forrest wrote- which I will be reposting in its own entry).

In general, 1200 and above is a solid GRE score while 3.0 is an acceptable GPA. Higher is always better. Just like earlier is always better when it comes to when you submit your application. For the schools that practice rolling admissions a fairly high percentage of their incoming class is already filled with students from the previous application cycle.

There used to be a pdf from the NAACLS with program information but the links I've found to it no longer work. But if I remember correctly Rosalind Franklin accepts the most students (24 maybe?) but total there are fewer than 100 Pathologist Assistant student slots between all the programs each year.

So, in no particular order these are the programs and information I have about them:

Now available in delightful table form! Click for a larger version.

Duke's Program:
Requires the GRE - they will accept MCAT scores but strongly prefer the GRE
Does not have a minimum GPA
Applications are due January 31st of the year you are applying for, with classes starting in August.
Applications become available the preceding summer.
You cannot apply online.
Students are notified about acceptance with a phone call after all the interviews are complete. There is a wait list and you receive an email if you are placed on the wait list. From the time applications are due to the time acceptances go out it is less than two months.
You can also read my Duke application/interview process blog here.

Quinipiac's Program
Does not require the GRE
Has a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75
Applications are due December 15 of the year before you are applying for, with classes starting in June, but admissions are rolling and spots are awarded as applicants are interviewed.
Applications become available the preceding summer.
You can apply online, but will have to mail in (it looks like anyway) some supporting documents.

Rosalind Franklin's Program
Does not require the GRE
Says successful applications usually have a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) undergraduate GPA but isn't a hard and fast requirement.
Admissions are rolling, with the website listing Feb. 28th of the year for which you are applying as the deadline and the preceding Summer/Fall as the optimal time to submit your application.
Applications should be continuously available.
You cannot apply online.

WVU's Program
Does not require the GRE
Says successful applications usually have a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) undergraduate GPA but isn't a hard and fast requirement.
Applications are due by July 31st of the preceding year, with classes starting in January.
Applications open on March 1st of the preceding year.
You cannot apply online
Students are notified about acceptance with a phone call after all the interviews are complete. There is a wait list and you receive an email if you are placed on the wait list. It looks like class invitations go out in mid to late August.

IUPUI's Program
Does require the GRE
GPA is 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) for both Math/Science and Total GPA.
Applications are due March 15th of the year you are applying for, with classes starting in August.
Applications become available the preceding fall.
You can apply online.

University of Maryland's Program
Requires the GRE with strong preference given to students with a combined score of 1200 or greater and an Analytical Writing score of 4.5 or greater
There is no minimum GPA.
Applications are due February 1st of the year you are applying for, with classes starting in June.
Applications become available the preceding summer.
You can apply online.

Drexel's Program
Appears to require the GRE/May accept the MCAT.
Does not have a minimum GPA
Admissions are rolling with applications due the second Friday in February, with classes starting in May.
Applications should be continuously available.
You cannot apply online.

Wayne State's program is transitioning from a BS to a MS in the near future; however, their website still has the undergraduate information so I'm going to hold off on putting up their information.
Western Onatrio University's PA program is no longer on the NAACLS list of accredited programs so I'm going to not list their information right now either. If it changes I will come back and update it.

Also, the links to the programs aren't necessarily the same links on the NAACLS list but rather the most direct link I could find to the PathA program information.

*I know this would be much neater if put into a useful reference table, but this is what you get. If you don't like it, feel free to put into a lovely useful table and email it to me :-D Thanks to the awesome reader that put everything into a table! Hope you guys appreciate the super convenient format! ;)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

5 weeks left at work, give or take

Not that I'm counting down or anything
I feel like my last day is going to be July 28th since the 29th is my son's birthday and a Friday... I'm not entirely sure though since they haven't hired a replacement for me or seriously started looking. They haven't bothered to advertise but have asked everyone if they know anyone. I feel guilty for leaving the people I work with but impatient to start this next chapter of my life.

I finalized my financial aid and tomorrow I'm going to set up my parking stuff. I also have to call my doctor's office and get an appointment set up to make sure my immunizations are good, etc. I need to do the same for the kids. I should make a to-do list. 

It is strange to be leaving. This is the first time I am moving with children old enough to be cognizant of the change. In all likelihood after I graduate we're going to pick a part of the country we want to live in and move there. We don't have deep roots in SC and my parents aren't planning to stay in the country too much longer so it will be our chance to go wherever we want. It is just strange to be somewhere and realize, this is probably the last time we are going to do X. Last night it was go to The Big Mo drive in, last weekend it was picnic in our favorite park downtown. Final trip to the zoo will be very odd since it has been such a constant in my sons' lives. Same thing for the playground we go to every other weekend.

I have routines and know things here... I might be a bit intimidated by the idea of moving somewhere by myself. Thank God for google map apps though. It takes me forever to learn where things are. It would be easier if my husband were moving too but in the great big realistic scheme of things the sacrifice house sales on either side of us have killed our home value (both neighbors are in assisted living facilities now), we still need to renovate the kitchen, and his job would need to start hiring replacements for him now so he could train them properly.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Changing Dynamics at Work; 2 Months 1 Day

We have three vented storage cabinets at work that hold a weeks worth of specimens, each shelf is a different day of the week which is then subdivided by specimen type (This organizational set up is probably going to be my lasting legacy, btw.). So I have 2.33 more cycles through the cabinets before I leave or 7 weeks.

I am surprised/distressed that they haven't started looking for a replacement yet. It takes a couple weeks to get comfortable letting someone handle paperwork on their own, much less grossing independently. Also, the last time we had to train a new person the tables were set up right next to each other so it was easier for them to ask questions or for us to observe without hovering.
I just don't want the people I work with to have everything dumped on them because management may be underestimating the time it will take to train someone.

I don't know if talking to them will do any good.

Meanwhile shifts are occurring between the three of us at work. Normally our purpose is to get the specimens grossed and on the processors in the most efficient way possible, which means that each person ends up grabbing what they're best at and doing that.

For example: at the end of the night we usually get a cooler from a hospital 3 hours away and veterinary clinics and surgery centers all along the coast. Drey, who is the fastest one at basically everything human grabs the bulk of the specimens (smalls like derms, cervical biopsies or GIs), Chris starts opening the vet specimens and I start in on accessioning the paperwork. By the time I'm done Chris has usually started grossing and I can pick up anything from the hospitals Drey didn't take- usually the appendix and gallbladder specimens. As a result, Drey almost never grosses vets, and I've done something like 90% of the appendixes in recent memory.

I like the big specimens and until Chris came on board two years ago I did all the vets. I don't mind a 16lb splenic mass, a uterus, or grapefruit sized mammary mass. Chris' background was veterinary pathology so she's the same way and she's also really good about being willing to gross something she's never done before.

Of course for any one person to switch to doing something new, we all have to change what we are doing, which will be different for a while but in the end we will all be more well rounded. We have just under two months, it will get done.

I am going to miss the people I work with, probably quite a lot. Just the three of us working together for 8 hours a day 5 days a week and after all that we all seem to still like each other (which says a lot about how tolerant they are since I'm the most talkative of us by far and have questionable taste in music).

So by this time next month I may be just a wee bit antsy since it will be the home stretch with three weeks left to work and one week before classes start.

I have prepacked everything I can prepack. I purchased a couch and have a washer and dryer just waiting to be picked up. I have towels, bedding, and decorative candles. I am working on not being too excited too early though. I still have to focus on life here for a while.