An unsuccessful application cycle can feel disappointing. However, the decision to persist, continue working toward your chosen career goal, and apply in a subsequent application cycle is nothing short of the definition of resilience!
In this blog, I’ll share some tips and suggestions for physician assistant (PA) reapplicants regarding how to update, improve, and enhance their CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) application.
Highlight NEW experiences
- Perhaps this is evident, but if you have completed significant new work and/or time in patient care, healthcare, research, shadowing or volunteering, be sure to add these as new experiences in the Supporting Information section of CASPA. You will have the opportunity to enter start and end dates; identify whether the experience was paid, volunteer, or for academic credit; and submit the total number of hours completed. Engaging in new, robust experiences will give strength to your overall application and demonstrate commitment to the process and field of healthcare.
Review your prior Experiences section
- It’s time to take a critical look at your prior CASPA application. Should all the same experiences you included the previous time be used again? Or can you identify a few weaker entries that you can now replace with more current work experiences?
- Ensure that every experience is categorized correctly. PA schools want to know that you clearly understand the difference between “patient care experience” and “healthcare experience” and understand that “shadowing” is different from “volunteering.”
- Every experience needs to have an organization and supervisor associated with it, complete with contact information. Failure to include these details makes an application look rushed and incomplete.
- Each experience offers the opportunity for a 600-character description. This text should be thoughtfully written, reflect your key responsibilities, highlight areas of growth, and, of course, be free of grammatical errors and typos.
Update your personal statement
- Because a year (or more) has passed since your prior CASPA submission, it is safe to assume that the answer to the question “Why do you want to be a PA?” has changed. After reading your prior personal statement, you might find that you can build on some foundational material and make some editorial changes, or you might feel that you need a total rewrite. Submitting the exact same personal statement as a reapplicant is not advised because this would not demonstrate change or professional growth.
Pay attention to the supplemental essays
Some schools might have specific secondary or supplemental essays for reapplicants. Questions vary, but here are some examples:
- “Address how you have improved your application from the previous cycle.”
- “Please share with us your plans and accomplishments since your last application(s) that have made you a more competitive applicant.”
- “Please highlight the specific steps you have taken to strengthen your application.”
Request a new letter of recommendation
- If you have formed a significant professional relationship during the interim since your previous application, you might want to ask this person for a new letter of recommendation. The strongest letters are typically written by individuals with whom you have recently worked, who can speak to both the depth and breadth of your skills and can advocate for your success as a PA candidate.
As the former assistant dean of student affairs and career development at the William Beaumont School of Medicine, Dr. Valerie Wherely worked directly with the dean of the School of Medicine, the associate dean of student affairs, the associate dean of clinical curriculum, and the assistant dean of admissions, as well as with Year 4 students on both residency application reviews/critiques and mock interview preparation.