The Physician Assistant profession is growing rapidly and gaining popularity across the nation.
I mean, it was rated #3 in the US News’ 100 Best Jobs List!
Everyone’s experiences and backgrounds are so diverse and there is no one way of getting accepted into PA school but I’m here to share my own experiences and tips.
1. APPLY EARLY
Anytime I get asked if I have any advice for applying to PA school, I always emphasize the importance of applying early. Majority of the applications have to go through CASPA which usually opens around late April of each year. From this point on, many of the PA schools have what is called “rolling admission.” This means that the applications are reviewed as soon as the admissions office receives them. Because of that, as spots get filled up due to early applicants (and there usually aren’t that many available per school), you have less chance of being accepted even if your resume and applications are STELLAR due to the limited amount of spots.
My experience: I am a huge believer in this because I was actually accepted into PA school on my second try. Honestly, the only major difference was applying early. The first time around, I applied around August or September which is SUPER late. The second time around, I applied as soon as CASPA opened up and the results were so significant. The first time around, I only received a few interview invites whereas the second time, I received SO MANY INTERVIEWS. I got invited to top PA programs such as Duke and George Washington University. I really believe that this was possible because I applied so early. I barely changed my personal statement and the only other determinant that changed was more hours of experience but I already had so many (will mention later).The other benefit of applying early is the fact that if you do get accepted, you’ll know earlier during the cycle. This gives you a cushion! You can relax a little bit if you decide to attend other interviews because you already know you have at least one acceptance! This is exactly what happened to me and I was less anxious about the remaining interviews and even chose not to attend certain ones because the school I got accepted to was one of the top choices for me!
2. CLINICAL HOURS
Unlike some of the other healthcare programs, having clinical experience is a MUST for PA school. Whether it be volunteering or working, the more hours you accumulate, the better. It’s important to note that every school has a different requirement regarding clinical hours. They range from requiring 500 to 2000 hours of experience. I’ve met so many people during interviews and at school who dabbled in various jobs such as: medical assistants, CNAs, EMTs, scribe, phlebotomists, nurses, athletic trainers, PT assistants, etc. Some schools require mandatory “hands-on” hours meaning that they don’t accept certain experiences like being a scribe or a regular volunteer. Make sure you research every school’s requirement to see if you meet their requirements!
My experience: I accumulated around 4500-5000 hours when I applied. I worked as a personal assistant to students with disabilities for about a year while I was still an undergraduate student. I also volunteered a little bit during my sophomore year of college. The majority of my hours came from working as a medical assistant at an Urgent Care clinic near my college. I worked as an MA for about 3 years (summer of junior year of college to 2 years post-grad).
3. GRADES & GRE
Obviously these are very important factors when applying to PA school. The average GPA of PA applicants is 3.4 and GRE scores of around 50%. These factors are pretty straight forward. In order to increase your chances of being accepted, you need to be an excellent student. However, I’ve met people who get accepted with lower GPAs so don’t fret! PA schools tend to really look at each applicant as a whole and not just on their grades. You can always take post-bacc programs to increase your GPA (I know many people who have done that after undergrad and have been accepted into PA schools!) or strengthen your clinical experiences and other components of the application.Also, MAJORS. Does it matter what you major in? I would say no. As long as you have all the pre-requisite classes completed, your major really doesn’t matter. There are people who were in completely different career paths who have decided to attend PA school!
My experience: I majored in Molecular Cellular Biology and had a GPA of 3.6. I don’t remember my GRE score specifically but it was just slightly above average. I honestly just took the GRE once and called it a day because I absolutely despise standardized testing….
4. Other Requirements:
Letter of Recommendation: Most schools will require at least 2! Not only that, but sometimes PA schools require a letter from an actual physician assistant. Whoever you ask, make sure they highlight your strength and character as an applicant. You can provide your references what you want them to emphasize whether it be your patience, integrity, responsibility, or etc.
My experience: I got 3 recommendation letters: one from a PA I worked with, one from my manager (from when I was an MA), and a nurse that I worked with. I know that you can ask your professors but personally, I wasn’t close to any of them.
Personal Statement: The personal statement is an essential and important part of your application! It lets the admission staff know who you are as a person, not just in numbers and stats. Think about an experience that you had that made you want to pursue a career in healthcare or just talk about what you’re really passionate about! It’s super difficult to make the personal statement not cheesy and generic, but it’s also SO important to really make it your own. Draft your personal statement and revise, revise, and revise. Get it read by different people and receive feedback! HOWEVER, don’t delay applying just because you feel like your personal statement is perfect. I feel like there is always room for improvement but remember that time is ticking! There are many examples and tips online on how to write a personal statement so use those resources!
I hope that these little tips help you on your journey to becoming a physician assistant! If you have any other questions, definitely feel free to comment below or ask me via Instagram DM!
Applying to any kind of program is not easy & it will require a lot of work. BUT you reap what you sow! It will all be worth it in the end!
What I also want to say is: don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen on your first try. Yes, there are plenty of people who get accepted into PA school on their first try but there are SO MANY MORE who don’t. There are students that have applied 3-4 times, even! If being a physician assistant is what you really want, you shouldn’t give up! Truthfully, when I didn’t get accepted on the first try, I was pretty discouraged and really worried when I applied the second time around. Looking back though, I’m so thankful for that year of break because in that time, I got to travel SOOOO much and make great memories. Plus, didactic year of PA school is NO JOKE so I was grateful for the time that was given to relax and enjoy my social life hahah!