Tips for Writing an Awesome CASPA Personal Statement


The CASPA personal statement. This is your ticket to the interview–your chance to get the admissions committee to say, “I want to meet this applicant in person.” Be prepared to spend many hours writing, rewriting, rearranging, editing, cutting, and polishing your essay. Give yourself at least a month to write and edit it before you plan on submitting CASPA, and–this is key–have several proofreaders. Allow ample time for them to make suggestions, and for you to consider and incorporate their advice. Don’t ask more than 3-4 people to look over your essay, because multiple editors can quickly become overwhelming–choose trusted writers and people in the medical field (especially a PA!).

Here are my biggest tips (approved by classmates) for your fantastic future personal statement.

In the years before:
I highly recommend keeping journals about all your medical experiences, both shadowing and working! I have countless documents chronicling my high school hospital volunteer days and my first surgery observation as a teenager, to my recent CNA jobs. Writing things down not only helps you process what you’re learning, it provides you with an invaluable resource to return to when you need to write application essays. Instead of trying to remember how you felt three years ago doing some job or exactly how a particular patient encounter went, you can go to your journal and read it. Often I will even copy pieces from my journals and edit them to fit into my essays, making sure I change identifying details. I can’t emphasize enough how useful these have been, not to mention fun to read!

DOs and DON’Ts of writing the actual personal statement:

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PA School Application Expenses: Tips to Make the Process Cheaper

Applying to PA school can be a huge financial burden, especially if you are still an undergrad student trying to pay your way through your bachelor’s degree. The first thing that any pre-PA out there needs to be aware of is the actual cost of applying. There are a lot of associated costs that may not occur to you at first. Through this blog, I will share with you some of my money saving tips I’ve acquired through my application cycles to help you cut some costs.

CASPA, or the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants, charges a per school fee to apply. The first school you apply to is $175, and each school thereafter is an additional $50. The average number of schools an applicant applies to is 8; so that means an average of $525 on primary applications only. Most schools also have secondary applications and an associated application fee. Most secondary fees range between $35-100. That means you will most likely spend another $500 on secondary fees. So all in all, you are looking at spending at least $1,000 for both primary and secondary applications, which is if you are applying to only the average number of programs.

Another expense is the GRE; not all, but most programs now require the GRE. It currently costs $205 to take the GRE exam. When you take the test, you are allowed to send your scores to 4 schools for free! I seriously wish I had known this prior to arriving on test day because I could’ve saved myself over $50! It costs $27 to send your GRE scores to each school. If you make sure you are prepared come test day, with a list of 4 programs you want to apply to, you can save yourself a little dough! Also, be sure you check to make sure that the programs you send your scores to actually require the GRE. I freaked out a little bit and just named 4 schools I knew I wanted to apply to off the top of my head, and it turned out that 2 of the 4 didn’t require the GRE so if I had been prepared with a list, I could’ve saved some money there.

Now if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about how you most definitely do not have an extra $1,500 laying around, so plan early and SAVE! But if that just isn’t feasible, or even if you can swing it, but you’d like a smarter way to pay, then this next tip is for you! Apply for a flight rewards credit card! Now there are a lot of reward credit cards out there, but the reason I suggest a flight rewards credit card is because you can bank flight miles which will definitely come in handy come interview season when you are jetting across the country trying to make your PA dreams a reality. There are so many options for flight reward cards so I’ll give you a few tips on how to narrow it down.

My first screening criteria would be to sort through which card has the best promotion at the time. I have 2 different flight reward credit cards and I chose these because I got killer deals for signing up. I have the Citi American Airlines Advantage Platinum Select card and the Gold Delta Skymiles AMEX rewards card. Both of these cards offered the same deal for joining, which was 50,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. If you find a few cards with great deals like this, I would then sort through them by airlines you prefer and typically fly. There are also generic travel rewards cards that aren’t associated with a specific airline. The cards that aren’t associated with a specific airline tend to not be the best deals though. For example, the Capital One Venture Card you must spend $3,000 in 3 month to earn 40,000 bonus miles. Sounds like a lot right? Well this is only equivalent to $400 in travel benefits. So you tend to be better off when they are for a specific airline. I’ve attached a link to a site with current promotions on flight reward cards.

http://www.creditcards.com/airline-miles.php

So you’ve got your flight booked, now where will you stay? Airbnb is a great option when traveling for interviews. Not only will staying at an Airbnb save you money on the room, but it also offers certain amenities that are appealing to a solo traveler. Many Airbnbs have ensuite style kitchens or kitchenettes. The Airbnb I stayed at in Florida had a fridge and oven which was very useful for saving money on meals. I was able to cook all my meals myself, except for one lunch I stopped at a sandwich shop on the beach. The Airbnb I stayed in was near a grocery store so I was able to walk to get groceries and did not have to take a cab or an Uber.

Hotels that are near the school can be very tempting because they are so close and you can just walk there or take a few dollar Uber ride. But, be aware! Hotels that are in close proximity to schools know when interview season is! They bump up their prices making it more expensive for the lowly college student just trying to make it into grad school. I’m not saying that Airbnbs could not do this as well, but I have noticed the trend more in the hotel industry. Also, hotels close to the campus tend to generally be more expensive than hotels a few miles out, so if you go the hotel route, branch out a little bit.

There is one area of the process where I do not suggest cutting corners, and that is your interview attire. It can be very tempting to just pop into H&M and get some business professional clothes for really cheap, but in my opinion, this is an investment piece. Spend the money now on getting a nice, professional suit that can be used for job interviews and rotations in out-patient settings that require professional dress. You will be strapped for cash in PA school, so if you can invest in this item now while you are still making money, you definitely should. But still be frugal; keep your eye on sales going on at department stores. Macy’s is literally always having “one day sales” so take advantage of these days and use them to get your interview attire. And start looking early; it may be because I’m a girl, but I looked for weeks before I found a suit I liked at a price I could manage. Interview invites come out of the blue so be sure you are looking soon after you submit your applications. Also, in my experience, this is when suits are at their cheapest because no one wants to buy a suit jacket and long pants in the middle of the summer!

You’re going to spend a decent amount of money applying to PA school, and then amass a large amount of debt once you’re in PA school; it’s just inevitable. You have to keep everything in perspective though. This is just a necessary step to achieving your end goal of being a PA-C. These tips can aid you down the right financial path to starting your life as a physician assistant, and help you keep your debt level at a minimum prior to entering PA school. And once you’re admitted and sitting pretty, you can use your excess flight miles to take a victory vacation! Heaven knows you’ve earned it!

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When Mind is Not Over Matter – Increasing Mental Illness Awareness

 

Not every disability is visible, not every illness can be diagnosed with labs and diagnostic test.Some illnesses require the skill of listening and understanding behavior . Psychiatry is the field in which you take care of the body and mind.

The Stigma

The stigma behind mental illness is something that affects us worldwide. Imagine if patients got blamed for having cancer or heart failure? Mental illness is real and it affects  a lot of individuals.  We have society thinking that mental illness is something  that’s  “ all in your head.” That’s the stigma, we live in a world where if you are in a cast everyone will rush over to sign it , but if you would tell people your bipolar , suffering from depression they look at you like you’re an outcast.  Like if our brain isn’t an organ that can suffer from neurotransmitter malfunction.

I’m a second year physician Assistant Student at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg , Texas. I’m in my clinical year, and I began my rotations with Psychiatry. I had the pleasure to rotate with Dr. Igoa at Doctors Hospital At Renaissance Behavioral Center. This rotation opened my eyes and made me fall in love with the field . Whether an illness affects your heart, muscles, bones or brain it’s an illness and it’s very real.  I remember my first day in the rotation rounding in Inpatient hospital . I was exposed to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, addiction etc. At that moment it hit me , There’s people that I probably pass everyday in the hallway, street, grocery store who are suffering from a mental illness .

Interviewing my first patient I had my “ AHA moment” , and any medical provider can tell you these moments are precious.  My first patient was suffering from withdrawals, the patient was coming in to get help.  It hit me , here’s this patient going through physical and mental symptoms , the courage he must have had to come in and say “ Hey I can’t do this alone.”  This patient told me he was homeless, that he had children, why his addiction began and his story went on and on.  At that moment I realized the gift we have as providers.  This man didn’t even know me  but he trusted me.  I had my white coat on and made sure to tell him Dr. Igoa , his staff and I were all here to help , that’s all it took for this man to trust me.

Being in this inpatient facility, I realized that mental illness is a field that needs so much insight and help.  Often I hear medical students/ PA students themselves not respect this field, often they get the adrenaline rush from being in an emergency room and Operating room.  For me , Dr. Igoa taught me how important it is to get these patients mentally stable. Many of the patients I interviewed had families, jobs, and other illnesses, If their mind is not healthy how will they be able to fulfill all their duties and responsibilities.

Imagine having to get up every morning dress your children ,make them food, get ready for work and have a mental illness?  It’s honestly something that goes on very often, and we as providers have to play an active role in making sure our patients are healthy in body and mind.

I can speak from experience, I lost my Godfather as a Senior In high school. I went through depression and anger issues myself, only my parents and my boyfriend got to experience this. At that moment I didn’t understand why couldn’t I just get up and get through my day like a normal person. My parents and boyfriend did their best everyday to be there for me but I would cry at random moments , get angry at anyone or anything. At this moment I didn’t realize that I was going through grief and wasn’t coping with it well.  This lasted about 1 year and a half.  I could be on a date with my fiancé and out of nowhere I would just cry and have to talk about it.  Depression hits you hard , it affects your everyday life, you lose the pleasure of doing things that you once loved.  I realize now that often patients are scared to admit they are having these feelings because its been known that we as a society don’t respect these sort of illnesses.

As a future provider whether I end up working in psychiatry or any other field I will make sure to always assess my patient’s mental well being .  When you take the time to get to know your patients you can tell when something isn’t right, if they are feeling down or up. Sometimes it’s just about asking the right questions- How are you doing today ? How’s work? How’s the family?

It’s our responsibility to speak up for our patients when they can’t , to give them the strength and skills to surpass difficult challenges.  Psychiatric illnesses is something we often overlook as providers,  let’s educate ourselves and our communities that these illnesses do exist and do affect us each and everyday. `

 

 

 

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Medical Service Trips For Pre PA Students

Cape Town, South Africa

Hello everyone! I am Meghan Ross, a soon to be PA student starting in 2017. I’m here guest blogging for Andrea and am going to share my experiences and thoughts on Medical Service trips and how I believe they were a really big factor on helping me get into PA school. This topic is very close to my heart. Some of my best experiences of my life to date have been having the opportunity to take two out of the country service trips while in undergraduate school at the University of Missouri. I believe most schools have similar opportunities for those interested in service and medicine!

Service trips are not only a HUGE way to make your application stand out among the masses, but

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Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting PA School

Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting PA School

Hi all! I’m Aashna, a PA student in her second semester of didactic year. I’m excited to be guest posting for Andrea and sharing a few things about my experience as a PA student. Last Friday my school was doing their second round of interviews for the class of 2019. I got to meet the group interviewing that morning and one of the girls asked me what surprised me the most about PA school. That question sparked the motivation behind this post! Here are a few things I wish I’d known before I started PA school:

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Emergency Medical Equipement Available On Commercial Flights

Have you ever been curious what medical equipment is available if you were involved in an in-flight medical emergency?  I’ll admit that I’m one of the last people to raise my hand when flight attendants ask for medical personnel to assist. However, I’ve been on two flights where I was the only medical provider.  After being involved in two in-flight medical emergencies within the same year, I decided to investigate this topic further.  Surprisingly, there is no medical provider on 10-25 % of all flights.  It is estimated that 44,000 in-flight medical emergencies occur yearly with 7.3% of them requiring diversion of the flight.  It’s quite a foreign feeling to be assessing and treating a patient in a nontraditional setting without your everyday equipment readily available.  So, in the unlikely event this happens to you, here is a list of the minimum medical equipment requirements for commercial flights carrying at least 20-30 passengers with at least 1 flight attendant on board per FAA guidelines:

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Attending the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) Conference 2016

In recent years I have made every effort to attend the AAPA’s annual conference.  However, I spent my early years as a fledgling PA wondering what the conference was like and if it was worth the hassle of travel and added expenses.  I encountered very few PAs who stressed the importance of attending the conference, therefore, I assumed it should not be high on my priority list.  I was wrong.  A few years ago I attended my first AAPA conference and immediately craved more of the camaraderie felt during such an amazing gathering.  This year it was held in San Antonio, TX at an beautiful conference center with phenomenal keynote speakers, PA Kevin Lacz and Terry Stone.  Here is a recap of my week at the conference!


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DIY Cold Brew Coffee

DIY Cold Brew Coffee

I used to buy cold brew coffee (also called coffee concentrate) at the grocery store but then realized it is a hassle to stay stocked up and can become pretty pricey so I started making my own cold brew coffee about six months ago.  Once a week I make this using the recipe below and then use it for my morning iced coffee and protein shakes the rest of the week.  It’s extremely easy, inexpensive, and only takes about 5 minutes to make!

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What Is a Typical Day Like in the PICU?

Processed with VSCO with q4 preset

 

05:30: My alarm goes off which is the absolute worst sound in the world.

07:00: I receive checkout from the pediatric resident or PA/NP who covered overnight, discussing how each patient did, changes made, and any new admissions.

07:00-0900: I “pre-round” which entails examining all of my patients, assessing their clinical status, looking at newly resulted lab values, reviewing imaging studies, and deciding on a treatment plan for the day.

09:00-13:00:  Bedside multidisciplinary rounds occur with the attending, PA/NP, nurse, respiratory therapist, dietitian, pharmacist, and consulting services if available.  Bedside rounds consists of the PA, NP, or resident presenting their patient in an organized fashion, discussing them by systems, and stating their plan for the day.

13:00: Lunch

14:00-19:00: I spend the rest of the afternoon continually checking on my patients, reevaluating my treatment plan, ordering additional labs or imaging studies if needed, transferring patients, admitting new patients, dictating, and having fun with coworkers.  The ICU can actually be a pretty fun environment to work in.

19:00: I sign out all important information about my patients to the night resident or PA/NP then head home!  HOORAY!

 

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