Planning an Interview Trip
Planning for an out of state interview can be quite a stressful and expensive experience. So I decided to share my process for planning an interview trip out of state and the packing list that I utilized for my interview trips. If you have an in state interview, then some of this information will still be helpful, but you won't have to worry about as many things.
Planning an Out of State Trip
Transportation- First you have to decide how you want to get to the interview location, will you be flying or driving? If you do not have much time to get to the location before the interview, then I would suggest flying. When choosing flights, I suggest flying in the night before (especially since most programs host morning interviews) to relax and explore the town a little bit, then make sure that your departure flight does not leave until a little while after your interview to ensure you can make it to the airport on time! If you have time to take a road trip or you live decently close to the state, then I would suggest driving. When planning to drive, make sure you get your car serviced beforehand- the last thing you want is to get stranded on your way to an interview.
Ground Transportation- If you have decided to fly into the state, then you need to figure out ground transportation. Renting a car is insanely expensive, so I utilized either a ride sharing service (Uber or Lyft) or hotel transportation. For my interview in Roanoke, VA, I stayed at a hotel (~$20 more expensive than others) that included free local transportation. So I was able to get free transportation to and from the airport, to and from the Roanoke Star, to downtown for dinner, and to and from the school for my interview. Pretty sweet deal- I was able to get to multiple locations for a much lower cost and I was able to really explore the town the day before my interview.
Hotel- Talking about hotel transportation, you need to find where you want to stay. Some programs will provide you with hotel suggestions and sometimes even discounted rates at specific hotels. I have never utilized Airbnb, but that could be a cheaper option that you may want to consider.
Adventure- You are paying to travel to this location and you may be living here in the near future, so spend the day before your interview exploring the town! Beforehand, research the best things to do in the area and try to make an adventure out of it! Go to a local restaurant, eat the delicious food, go for a hike, walk around downtown, and shake off the interview nerves. Plus talking about your explorations at the interview is a great conversation starter for current students and fellow interviewees. Now don't go out drinking or partying late, you still need to go to sleep at a decent time and get a good night's rest.
Organization- Since there are multiple details that go into planning an interview trip, the best way to remain organized is to create a document or Evernote note (accessible on multiple devices) for each interview. After I was invited for an interview, I created an Evernote note for that PA program, researched the program, and gathered all the information about the program into the note. For each program, I documented:
- Program's mission
- Student characteristics = characteristics the program states they are looking for in applicants
- Program's measure(s) of success = PANCE pass rates, community outreach, national rank, challenge bowl winners, etc
- PANCE pass rates
- National rank
- Accreditation status
- Notable features = clinical experience during didactic year, community outreach, skills workshops, interprofessional education, etc
- Curriculum = # of months in didactic year, # of months in clinical year, # of months in total, # of clinical rotations, and # of elective clinical rotations
- Interview info = date, time, and location of interview, as well as the PA program's phone number in case of a delay or emergency
- Flight info = arrival flight date and boarding time plus departure flight date and boarding time
- Hotel info = dates of stay, hotel address, and check-out time
- Interview agenda (if provided by the program beforehand)
- Questions to ask during the interview (I had different questions for each program- questions that are program specific will show the committee your knowledge about the program and impress them)
Although this may seem unnecessary, the program information can start to get jumbled together when you have multiple interviews lined up, especially if they are close together. Creating this document about each program was the best way to keep the information straight, keep me organized during my interview travel, and remind me of the questions I wanted to ask that program specifically.
Canceling Interviews- As you may have noticed, traveling to an out of state interview can be quite an expensive process! Even though I was invited to interview with 6 programs (5 of which were out of state programs), I only attended 3 (including 2 out of state programs) to help save my money. In other words, I canceled 3 of my out of state interviews in order to allocate that money towards tuition deposits instead. If you have been accepted into a program that you know you would attend over another program that you have a future interview with, then cancel that interview! By canceling the interview you are not only saving money, but you are also providing an interview opportunity for a fellow pre-PA who may not have gotten the chance to interview otherwise.
Interview Packing List
To really ensure you do not forget anything when traveling to an important interview, make an interview packing list! Create a thorough packing list that you can check off before leaving for every interview. Thank goodness I created a packing list because when checking it off before leaving for an out of state interview I realized I forgot MY SUIT! Now that may seem ridiculously obvious, but I never packed my suit to prevent wrinkles so I forgot it was still hanging in my closet. An absolutely huge, stressful mistake avoided due to my lovely packing list! So I decided to share my interview packing list with all of you pre-PA peeps. Feel free to cater this list to you, especially male pre-PAs because mine is more catered towards female pre-PAs.
- 2 blouses (1 backup blouse)
- Nude bra and underwear
- Leather loafers
- Padfolio with legal pad, pen, sticky note with current PCE hours, honors thesis publication, and resume
- I never utilized my resume, but I prefer to be over prepared than under prepared
- Writing down your PCE hours on a sticky note is a quick, easy reference
- If you do have an honors thesis/publication, then I suggest bringing it along
- Interview book and notebook
- Curling iron
- Bobby pins
- Lint roller
- Dry shampoo
- Face exfoliating wash, shampoo, and conditioner
- Razor and shaving cream
- Purse and wallet
- Phone, phone/card holder, and phone charger
- Laptop and laptop charger
- Outfits for travel/exploring town
- Book (to read during travel)
- Headphones ( to use during travel)
Hopefully you pre-PA peeps found this travel information and packing list helpful! Considering I planned my interview trips in this manner and utilized this packing list, I know it was useful for me. Good luck on your interviews and enjoy your little interview trips! If you get an interview invite or an acceptance, then please feel free to share that with me! I absolutely love hearing such good news and would love to get to know you guys more! So if you have any questions or good news to share, then please feel free to message me on IG @alexisleigh.pa_s or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend everyone!