Applying to PA School
Identify Schools of Interest
The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Program directory is a great resource to begin your search for appropriate schools. You may begin your search with the following considerations:
- GRE requirement - Just over half of PA schools in the PAEA directory require the GRE. Some schools will accept the MCAT in place of the GRE.
- Start dates - Programs vary in start dates, the most common being August, May, June, and January.
- Duration of the program - Programs are typically 24, 27, or 28 months long but can be longer.
- Tuition - Tuition information is provided on each school's individual website.
- GPA - While more than half of PA schools in the PAEA directory require a minimum GPA of 3.0, accepted applicants typically have higher GPAs.
- Location - Consider where you would like to live for the next few years as well as where you may want to practice in the future.
- Accreditation Status - Because the field is expanding rapidly, PA programs are still being developed. Apply only to programs with only continuing or provisional status.
- Your eligibility based on prerequisite courses - Schools vary considerably in terms of prerequisite courses. Identifying which courses are required by the schools you are interested in can help you reconsider any schools that require extra courses or courses you do not wish to take.
- School Mission - While you are considering what criteria you look for in a school, the school mission statement can give you insight into what qualities they look for in a student. For example, a school strongly rooted in addressing medical needs in rural areas of New York State may be something you are passionate about, or conversely something you have no connection to at all.
- Number of clinical experience hours required - Schools vary significantly in their requirements for clinical experience. It is important to keep in mind that while some schools have a lower requirement than other schools, gaining extra experience will make your application more competitive.
Narrow Your Search
We recommend creating a spreadsheet to track potential schools’ prerequisites, test requirements, minimum GPAs, program length, program start date, application deadlines, letters of recommendation, application fees, or other factors that are important to you.
Prepare to Apply
Familiarize Yourself With the CASPA Application
The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants(CASPA)is a common application that allows students to apply to multiple PA programs with a single application. To avoid common mistakes that will prevent your application from being processed, it is important for you to read the information on the CASPA Portal before creating an account.
Identify Reference Writers
Identify a list of potential reference writers and confirm their willingness to support your candidacy. Since the number and type of recommendations vary from school to school, check these requirements for each program you are interested in before completing the reference section of the CASPA Application. For instance, one school may require two letters from professors and one from a supervisor, whereas another school may require one letter from a health professional, one from a supervisor, and one from a professor.
Create a CASPA Account
The CASPA application opens in mid-April. Even though schools have stated deadlines, they accept applicants on a rolling basis and admission is highly competitive. Therefore, it is wise to apply well in advance of schools' stated deadlines. Only after you have read the portal's information on how to navigate the CASPA system should you create an account on the CASPA website. The PA Focus Website includes tabs with information on CASPA.
90% of accredited PA programs use CASPA, so there may be a program to which you wish to apply that requires a separate application to be submitted to the individual program. The PAEA Program Directory indicates whether or not a school is a CASPA Participant and the submission deadline type. In addition, schools may require supplemental documents and essays. Directions for completing the CASPA application are within the system.
Complete Your CASPA Application
In addition to the letters of recommendation, the CASPA Application will include:
Applicants must generate a transcript request within the CASPA application for every post-secondary institution attended. This may take time so it is in your best interest to submit your requests as soon as you create your account. You must also enter your coursework into the system manually, so it is suggested that you request a transcript for yourself to facilitate this process.
After you enter your coursework into the system, it can take up to four weeks for your application to be verified and emailed to your designated PA Programs. Again, with rolling admissions, it is in your best interest to complete this step early in the application cycle. At the latest it should be complete 4 weeks before your earliest deadline.
You will write an essay expressing your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant. This essay will be sent to every school you apply, and must not exceed 5,000 characters.
Though we strongly encourage early submission of applications, you should be aware of the three types of CASPA program deadlines and 9 submission deadlines:
- Submitted - The application must be submitted by the deadline date. Documents don't have to be received by CASPA by the deadline date.
- Complete - The application must be submitted and all transcripts, payments, and at least two letters of reference must be received by CASPA by the deadline date.
- Verified - The application must be submitted, complete, and the GPA calculation must be completed by CASPA by the deadline date.