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.

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