Deciding what you want to do with your life can be stressful. In college everyone expects you to be thinking about this. Every visit home will be greeted by relatives who pinch your cheeks and ask, “Have you figured it out yet?”

I come from a large Italian family (imagine My Big Fat Greek Wedding), so I had to field this question at least thirty or forty times per visit. And when I decided to become an English major, it really stirred up some questions. Honestly, it’s still exhausting to think about.

“No, I don’t want to teach.”

“No, I’m definitely not becoming a lawyer.”

“I don’t want to write for a newspaper.”

“I just ate dinner, I’m really not that hungry.”

“I don’t know, I might try to get a job in publishing.”

“Yes, I’m sure I don’t want to teach.”

“Seriously, I’m not hungry.  Where did all of this food come from?”

Does any of this sound familiar? When I was in college, I had no idea that I wanted a career in medicine. As a matter of fact, I thought about it and decided that that was definitely NOT what I wanted to do. Only after working several different jobs after college did I start to figure out what kind of work I liked and what I didn’t like.

If you are like me and you chose a nontraditional major in college, you might be worried that it will harm your chances of getting into PA school. Don’t tie yourself in knots though: experience has taught me that this is the exact opposite of the truth. In fact, I believe that it helped me to get in.

Just about every PA school I looked at while applying mentioned (in some form or fashion) that they were looking to add diversity to their class. As a matter of fact, one of my essay topics asked me for suggestions on how to build a more diverse program (by accepting me, of course!).

Your nontraditional major might just turn out to be your greatest asset. If you know how to swing it, that is.

The challenge is to find ways that your major (or background) will make you a better Physician Assistant. In both interviews and essays, I touted that my English major was my biggest strength as a candidate.

I said that the greatest task of a PA is to demonstrate empathy and connect to their patients. As an English major, I have spent much of my life learning to see the world through the perspectives of others. Reading has given me a window to experience other cultures, religions and philosophies. It has taught me to empathize with characters from all walks of life. Even those who have made poor choices.

Furthermore, I discussed that the tasks of an English major are essentially the same as those of a Physician Assistant. As an English major you learn to analyze stories and sift through them for the significant details. You read between the lines and evaluate characters. You form hypotheses and support them with evidence. And you also learn to communicate effectively.

You see? My English major is perfect for the PA profession. And it adds some much needed diversity to a class full of Chemistry and Biology majors. If you are in a similar situation, don’t sweat it. Turn your nontraditional major into your biggest asset and apply confidently, knowing that you have a leg up on the competition.