Are You a Strong Candidate for PA school


I have created several audio podcasts on this topic. The first one is embedded within this post. It is a raw file, unedited, but it is free. You get my thoughts I recorded on one of my many trips to work. These are one hour commutes. I hook up my microphone and recorder, tape my notes to the steering wheel and talk. Part one is about the GPA. I compare two programs in NC that are representative of all programs – Duke the national program and Wingate the local program drawing mainly from a 200 mile radius. Are you a strong Candidate? I will post these every week or two and you can leave me questions and discussion points in the comments section below. If you find these helpful you should sign up for my video series. It is free also but the cost is getting on my email list and getting a few extra emails from me. Also free is your ability to leave this link on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter or share it on your favorite social media site. Ultimately, I want you to hire me as a coach. See the link above for details.

Here is the first audio podcast in this series.

Here is a link to download it and listen off line.


Categories : Pre-PA Univ


  1. Bruce, You’ve got great tips for those looking to consider going back to school and being a PA. GPA does count, but it’s not everything, and I love how you compare the programs.

  2. Bruce says:

    Thanks for your comment Michelle. GPA is the base, without it, you don’t get a second look most places. but to really stand out, you have to have a great essay.

  3. Bruce,

    I remember the good grades thing. My first few majors in college were pre-med based. Then I discovered chemistry and med school went away. My overall GPA was a 2.8, but my core curriculum GPA was a 3.2. I also had to work the whole time I was in college b/c I had to pay for it myself. 20 hrs a week at work takes away that study time, and requires more adjusting before you figure it out.

    Personally, after spending so much time working in industry, I’d rather work with people who have a 2.5-3.0 GPA, and I don’t like working with most people who have a 3.2 and above GPA. The 2.5-3.0 group, IMO, is more willing to work harder, learn faster on the job, solve tech problems on their own, and get along with coworkers better. The high GPA group seems to think, in my general experience, that they should be allowed to sit on their laurels a bit, or not have to do the grunt work, or treat people who report to them as unequal to them.

    I have a rule that I never give a task to anyone that I would not perform myself, and had performed myself in the past. The only caveat is if I need help with that task, usually physically. Then I’ll work with someone else or a group. I worked in R&D, and there was often a lot of crawling around on floors, under lab benches and cabinets, building equipment from spare parts, and generally getting your hands dirty.

    I’m sure there are plenty of very nice B+ – A people who work hard, are good team players and will do the grunt work when they need to. I just haven’t met many of them.

    You mentioned getting a masters degree to bring up your grades.

    If one were to go the masters route, which degrees would you recommend? Biological sciences, biochemistry, biophysics, biomechanics, medicinal chemistry? What would be a good choice?

    Also, what is the difference between a licensed nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant?

    Which of the two is more in demand?

    I ask because my students ask me.

  4. Bruce says:

    Sherri, I have read that the A students will be taking their direction from the “c” students who found the companies. The exceptions to this are areas like Law and Medicine. The base to be accepted to PA school is a 3.0 average.
    You don’t get a look unless you show the ability to handle very heavy academic loads successfully. You have to have developed a system for organizing and remembering knowledge. I do this very well but I can’t remember your name.
    It is weird but I think it is a habit you form. I found that the difference between an A and a B was my willingness to do what it took to get the A. I had trouble with chemistry also, but I got the grade I needed through grit and a system of
    learning. There is demand for mid-level practitioners both NP’s and PA’s that exceeds supply. Their orientation is a bit different at the start but there is no difference in 5 years, unless it is an individual one. As for majors, you need to do the
    prerequisites which are about the same for all schools, so science majors have it easier. One of the best new PA’s I know majored in Spanish and Psychology and did all the prerequisites in addition – essentially a triple major. Graduated in
    4 years from UNC with a 4.0. Went to Emory for PA school, was president of her class, wrote a book for indigent young women on health care and graduated with a 4.0 there. She is working in the inner city in W Chicago practicing medicine
    in Spanish and doing a great job.

  5. Bruce,

    I’m getting off-topic, but I hope you find it food for thought.

    I think there is a difference in the ways people think, just like there are differences in the ways people learn. I don’t think it’s simply trying or working harder. I think it includes innate abilities in learning and thinking styles as well.

    When choosing a career, people need to understand how they innately learn, think and store information; and how they are most comfortable using it.

    Let’s consider an example. Assume that all people are equally intelligent, motivated, and hard-working; and all are in the 17-24 year old age group. They haven’t had much time to gain experience that age brings us. All thinking and learning styles are equal, everyone has different ones, and all styles differ in significant ways that influence outcomes. Careers I mention are more typical of the types of careers people with these certain styles tend to flock to, but are absolutely not determinative.

    The way the brain is physically altered by studying music from childhood (age 7 at the latest) consistently through at least the mid teens, and how it changes the ways musicians think and learn is fascinating, but I won’t go into that here. See the documentary “Music Instinct: Science and Song”. It’s on Netflix and free on PBS or Discovery Science, I’m not sure which. Use the Google machine.

    Physical scientists and engineers are taught first principles, and we derive everything we need from them. We are a more hands-on (kinesthetic) bunch. I know hands-on learning is what you do once you get to PA, NP, or med school, and where you have to recall large amounts of the information you previously learned.

    I didn’t have trouble with chemistry. It’s my career, and I have a 3.2 average in those courses. My early pre-med adventures are what sank my overall GPA. But, in the process, I learned how I really think and learn.

    Getting an A instead of a B or C in physical sciences depends on a puzzle-solving thinking ability, and deriving ways to solve what is thrown at you that you haven’t seen before. When you are first learning, you don’t have experience. You have to do it to the best of your innate ability, and with the experience you can gain by working more problems. But there is a time limit to working enough problems for your own needs. If you couldn’t work enough problems, you won’t get an A.

    Learning and retaining large amounts of information are also time-constrained while you’re in school. Success depends on your innate ability to take in information and store it for accurate and fast retrieval on a long-term basis in the allotted amount of time. If you couldn’t review and retain enough of the material for your needs, you won’t get an A.

    If everything else is equal, the difference between making A’s and a few B’s instead of B’s and C’s is influenced strongly by the way you think and learn.

    I can remember lots of material and recall it fast, but I couldn’t learn it within the time constraints required in college.

    As far as grades go, that comment was from my own personal experience in the chemical industry. At one point my company hired a bunch of new graduates, and some were straight A students in chemistry or engineering. They were hubristic and had to be told to do routine work and other tasks they believed were beneath them. They either learned to play on the team or left.

    This is not typical behavior of future medical or law students, even though you have A’s and B’s and at least a 3.0. I should have been more clear about differences in where you are going with those grades.

    IMO, physicists, chemists and engineers with straight A’s or all A’s and B’s need to go to grad school and get their Ph.D.s. But they don’t have to do so to work in the professions they studied. They can inflict themselves on a work place at 22. In medicine and law, you have to go on in school.

    Those seeking high grades for the purpose of getting into medical or law school are not like that. The grades allow you to clear the requirement hurdle to go forward in school and do a lot of not-so-sexy work later.

  6. Bruce says:

    You are correct here Sherri. Most A students work for C students who learn to improvise and take chances. But professionals like M.D.s and PA’s have to get the grades to get into school.

  7. Levi T. McMahan says:

    Hello Bruce,

    I am a Psychology Major, and will be obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree in said major. However, I will be taking all pre-requisite coursework for South College’s P.A. Program, and Lincoln Memorial University’s P.A. Program, both located in East TN. I have maintained a 3.2 GPA, but my only real concern in regards to being accepted to a P.A. program is obtaining relevant healthcare experience. I plan to volunteer at several local hospitals including University of TN Medical Center, Children’s Hospital, and Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. I work full-time, and must do so because I support myself and my wife, who is currently in school to become an RN, so my options for obtaining healthcare experience are limited. Do you recommend any additional options for obtaining healthcare experience that might be flexible in scheduling? I know that working while in a P.A. program is highly discouraged, for obvious reasons, so my wife will be working while I am in the program, but I would like to already have all my “ducks in a row” by the time I am able to apply, and hopefully get accepted on the first attempt.

    Your attention and response is greatly appreciated.

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