People told me being a reapplicant was a great thing. For the longest time, I would nod my head and force a smile on my face- I just didn’t believe them. I hadn’t met a single person who made it as a PA that had to reapply. I figured everyone was trying to just boost me up and avoid hurting my feelings, as I was unbelievably devastated when I didn’t get accepted on my first attempt. Turns out, I could not have been more wrong! Being a reapplicant is an awesome thing, and you should feel the same!
The basics of my reapplicant story are as follows: I applied for the first time in 2014. I thought fourteen schools would be enough places to apply. I got around to submitting my application in mid August (oops for rolling admissions!) and got my first rejection no less than three weeks later (it was so fast I actually felt like they must have opened my application and just said “OH HELL NO” and automatically sent out my rejection letter).
That application cycle was rejection after rejection. I didn’t get a single interview or even wait list to interview. By New Year’s Eve it had become clear I would not be starting PA school anywhere the following year. You can see how I started second guessing myself and everything I’d worked for up until that point. I continued working at the ER where everyone was anxiously waiting for me to come in to a shift with good news- I eventually gathered the courage to tell everyone it would not be happening that year.
One of the physicians who worked with me frequently at the hospital and knew my disappointment pulled me aside one day and asked me “Can you see yourself doing anything else with your life?” I closed my eyes, tried to picture myself down the road in any other career setting, eventually looked up at him and said no. He then told me he was certain I belonged in medicine and that my path to my goals might just take a little longer. “When someone like you is destined for medicine, they end up in medicine,” he reminded me. “The road there just might not be as fast or as swift as you think.”
It was here that I decided to pivot both my actions and my thought process. I started signing up for upper division classes again. I asked for extra volunteering shifts at the clinic. I got incredible news from the PI I had done research for at UCLA that our work from my undergrad years had finally been published. I applied for and was chosen for a surgical mission trip to Guatemala. I doubled my patient care experience hours in the ER. I shadowed three more PA-Cs. I called every program I wasn’t accepted at and two of them made phone appointments with me to explain where I needed to improve my application (most programs explicitly say they cannot call individual applicants back. I called anyway! 😀 )
I decided to wait an entire application cycle before I applied the second time. I knew I would need that entire calendar year to make myself as competitive as possible. (I did spent the 2015-2016 cycle “creating” an application to put in all my grades and experiences however- this saved me so much time in the long run!) Most importantly, I put the CASPA 2016 Opening Day on my calendar like it was Christmas. I couldn’t have been more excited to demonstrate all the work I had put in.
I applied to twenty four programs on my second application. I interviewed at four programs (three of which I had reapplied to!), got wait listed for interview at two, wait listed for acceptance at one and was finally ACCEPTED at one. All you need is ONE. There is no shame in reapplying. Two of the programs I interviewed at had a panel of current students speak to us about their applying process, and one student after another shared that they were a second time applicant. Or a third time applicant that got moved up from the wait list. As I listened to each of them speak, the smile on my face grew wider and wider. These ARE the stories of hardworking students who get accepted.
I cannot imagine trading everything I have learned over the last five years for starting at a program any earlier than now. I took chances and had opportunities I don’t think I will ever have again, and those experiences have been invaluable.
If you are a reapplicant, either now or at any point in the future, be proud. Tell your story! My biggest suggestions to those who are reapplying are as follows :
- Take a hard look at your application and be tough with yourself about what needs improvement (for me, it was offsetting my less than stellar GPA with volunteering and PCE hours)
- Work with an application review service to make sure you haven’t overlooked something
- Shadow additional PA-Cs to stay familiar with their roles in their respective specialties (and to stay motivated about what your future will look like!)
- Practice talking about what you’ve done since you last applied (I got asked this at almost every interview I was at) and be PROUD of it
- Don’t stop making yourself better. Just because you’ve submitted your application doesn’t mean you should stop gaining PCE hours, volunteering, taking classes etc. The application cycle is LONG and by the time you’re interviewing some admissions committees like to know what you’ve been up to!