Monday, July 25, 2011

Pathologists' Assistant Interviews - Guest Post

Guest Post!

Another guest blog in my series on applying to Pathologist's Assistant Programs

As previously mentioned, Duke University interviews two candidates a day and on the day I interviewed my fellow interviewee was at the beginning of a week long journey up the east coast for multiple interviews. I was fortunate enough that she stumbled on this blog and was willing to write up her experiences to share with other people going through the PA application/interview process. I present it as it was sent to me with very minimal editing and a great deal of thanks! :)

Application and Interview Experiences for Pathologists' Assistant School
By Yorkster

First off,  I procrastinated with my program applications. This was a bad idea, especially for programs that have rolling admissions, versus programs that wait until a certain date to review applications. I know that Quinnipiac, Drexel, and Rosalind Franklin's programs have rolling admissions, but Duke, IUPUI, and I believe UMB wait until a certain point before the deadline to start reviewing applications. In total, I applied to 6 programs and interviewed at 5. Most of the applications I got in by mid-January. I got all my interview invitations within about a week of each other, so I pretty much took a week and just made one giant trip up the coast to all the schools I could. I started with an interview at Duke, then took a train up to Baltimore to interview at UMB, then took a train to Philadelphia to see Drexel. I also interviewed at RFU and IUPUI, but I'm from Indy, so not much traveling there. I'll just go down the line and give a brief summary of what each application/ interview was like:

I applied about a week before the deadline in December 2010 for the 2011 class. I heard back from them in March, and not surprisingly, they did not grant me an interview, but told me I could be considered for the following year's class. Probably should have saved my money on that one.

Drexel contacted me at the beginning of February for an interview even though I didn't have all my supporting documents in. They gave me the choice of a telephone or in person interview, and I chose phone and did a tour of the facilities with Tina Rader, one of the program directors, while in Philadelphia (they couldn't schedule an onsite interview while I was there). The actual interview was in early February and was with Jim Moore, the other program director, and it was pretty informal. Mainly it was him finding out my background, what I knew about the profession, and explaining Drexel's program to me. I got the impression that they were just as focused on making sure their program was as good a fit for me as I was for them. Both program directors were really nice and seemed really dedicated to the program. I did not hear back about their final decision because I chose a different school by the end of March, and had them remove my application. I have heard that they sometimes don't make the decision on the final few slots until a month or two before classes begin.

I applied to Duke in early to mid-January and heard back for an interview the first week in February. I would agree that how That Girl described the interview on her blog was pretty accurate for mine too. Especially what she said about the interviewers knowing your application inside and out. More than one interviewer quoted me on my essays, mentioned things from my reference letter, and remarked on specific grades. I will say that Duke was my first on-site interview, and was probably one of the more intense and formal interviews I went through. Either that or I just got more used to them as I went along.

University of Maryland 
I got a phone call from Carmen White, the program coordinator, with an invitation to interview at the beginning of February.  Dr. Castellani is the program director and he is very nice and was very helpful in accommodating my schedule. He actually met me the night before my interview when I arrived in Baltimore because was he not going to be there the day of my actual interview. He also gave me contacts of current students so I could get their take on the program. The actual interview lasted from about 10am-2pm, and consisted of a campus tour, lunch with current students, and interviews with the chief resident, several of the PA's, and the medical director. Overall it wasn't intimidating at all, and felt more informational and relaxed than some of the other interviews. Everyone was incredibly nice and helpful. They did ask some interview questions, but nothing too intense or difficult, mostly about why I wanted to become a PA and what I knew about the field. Basic questions that you would expect any of the schools to ask. They accept 10-12 students and usually make same day decisions about applicants, which is nice because you don't have that agonizing waiting period. They were also very patient awaiting my decision and didn't require a deposit to secure a spot immediately, which was nice since I was still waiting to interview at a couple other schools.

Rosalind Franklin 
Once again, I didn't have my application completed until a couple weeks before the deadline,mostly because I was waiting on recommendation letters and supporting materials. I received an offer for an interview almost immediately after they received everything. They only offered one interview date, but I believe that they have several at various times throughout the year. The interview at RFU was very different from any of the other schools. RFU has the largest class with over 30 students, and I believe they interview more applicants than other programs. My interview was done with about 20-25 other applicants, and lasted about 3-4 hours. They split us into two groups, and one group listened to a presentation by the assistant program director about the program and profession and then had a group interview with everyone, while the other group toured the facilities. The group interview consisted of the assistant program director and director of clinical education tossing questions out to a group of 10-12 applicants. Sometimes they went down the line and asked a question, other times they just threw a question out there and it was up to the applicant to speak up. Personally, I didn't like this interview style and felt like the interviewers didn't get to know me as well as if they had interviewed me one on one. Also, it is somewhat unnerving when the person on your right, who has the same background as you, says exactly what you were planning to say in response to a question. Anyways, I heard back about 3-4 weeks later with their decision in an email, however the dates were all messed up in it; it said I was wait-listed for the 2013 class but if I didn't get in then I would be offered admission for the June 2012...I applied for the 2011 class, so I was pretty confused. Also, I got a letter in the mail with their final decision, addressed to me on the envelope, but the actual letter was addressed to a different applicant in Pennsylvania. So...things seemed a little disorganized with their application process.

My last interview was with IU's program in Indy, where I currently live. They contacted me at the end of January for an interview and gave me several dates to choose from. As with Duke, the faster you respond the more likely you will get what dates you want. I ended up not interviewing until March, which put me in a difficult situation with a couple of the other schools that offered me spots. The interview itself lasted all day. The morning is spent touring parts of the IU Medical Campus, which is huge, much like Duke's. Luckily, they have a monorail that transports you from the various hospitals. My tour was given by Randy Stine, the program director, and you get to spend some time in the grossing lab with the PAs. I also met with Dr. Leland (the graduate program advisor for the program) to cover the program in detail, and answer any questions I had about the program itself. Then I had lunch with both Dr. Leland and Mr. Stine and afterwards more touring and then the actual interview portion with the admissions committee (which consisted of Dr. Leland, Mr. Stine, and one of the PAs). I think that they normally do things in a different schedule but they had to switch some things around for some reason the day I interviewed. To be honest, I can't remember specifically the kind of stuff they asked, but it was typical interview questions. I do remember them asking me several questions about what a PA does and the three main areas they work in (grossing surgicals, frozen sections, and autopsies). They definitely seemed to want to make sure I knew what I was getting into. After that, I had a writing portion. I can't remember what the topic was specifically, but I believe it was something along the lines of why I wanted to be a PA. I know I felt like I just regurgitated my admissions essay. They got back to me about a week later, but their process is a little different than the other schools. The admissions committee gives a recommendation, which then goes to the dean of the IU School of Medicine Graduate Division, who has to approve it. You then get a letter in the mail granting admission.

Now, I spent A LOT of time, energy and money on this process. And I realize that a lot people are limited to where they can apply to by location and money and other factors. But I will say that more than one school commented on the fact that I applied to so many places in a positive way in that it showed I really, really wanted to do this. Nobody said anything negative about it. I ended up accepting an offer from IUPUI, which kind of makes this whole process look pointless since I'm staying where I was at, but I am so glad that I applied and interviewed at other schools because it leaves me without a doubt in my mind that I picked the best fit for me. Hopefully this info is helpful to some poor applicant out there!


  1. Great blog on the interview process! I applied to three PA schools so far since August: Duke, Quinnipiac, and Drexel.

    For Duke, they wouldn't process my application completely because my GRE scores were "out of date," according to them. I took the test in Feb. 2006, and there's a 5-year shelf-life to the test, so they ruled that my test expired according to the exact date. In reality, my test is valid for 5 full testing years according to ETS, which makes the test expire in Jan 2012. I argued with them to no end over this fact, and I wound up withdrawing my application out of aggravation. Duke University is definitely a college I would not suggest anyone applying to for a PA Master's.

    As for Quinnipiac, I heard they have a waitlisting issue, and I still haven't heard from them yet. I sent out my application to Drexel the same time as QU, and I heard back from Drexel a month later (September). Just this past Friday, I went for an in-person interview, and it was GREAT. I interviewed with Tina Rader for over an hour. She was such a lovely person! We talked very informally about the profession, what to expect at Drexel, etc. In fact, it felt like I was already accepted! She even told me that with my undergraduate PA degree and working experience, I could be placed in a more challenging clinical rotation during my second year. After Tina's interview, I then met with a few of the second year PA students who were extremely nice and helpful. One of them said that I'd fit right in, too! As for Philadelphia itself, I really like the city a lot. Just walking through the streets from the Amtrak station to Drexel felt great!

    I sincerely hope that I get an acceptance offer from Drexel within the next couple months or so because I'm signing on the dotted line.

  2. Hi, I'm currently looking into the Pathologists' Assistant career path and I am wondering what are some of aspects you enjoy about being a PA and some of the aspects you don't enjoy about being a PA. Thanks for your help! :)