I'm excited to share a guest post with you from a soon-to-be PA student, Aashna! Make sure to check out her site for more great advice and to follow her journey through PA school.
You don't have to be a biology or chemistry major to apply to PA school. I know a lot of applicants that majored in exercise science, HHP, and even in history before applying to Med/PA school. If you are a non-science major, make sure you take all the pre-reqs required for the programs you're looking at. This takes a bit of planning and something your advisor would be able to help you out with.
2. GPA & GRE
Every year PA schools are becoming more and more competitive and the minimum GPA and GRE scores required keep rising. It's important to keep in mind that the minimum required GPA & GRE scores and the average GPA & GRE scores of the accepted students are two different things. You want your GPA & GRE scores to be either in the same vicinity or higher than the average scores of accepted students. That doesn't mean that you won't get in if you have a GPA that's lower than the accepted average, but it definitely makes you a stronger applicant.
Most programs REQUIRE you to have a certain amount of minimum PA shadowing experience prior to applying to PA school. I would suggest shadowing at least two PAs in different specialties so you can a look at what all is out there and if becoming a PA is something you're still interested in. It's a good idea to start shadowing a few years in advance during your summer breaks to accumulate your shadowing hours.
Again, depending on the program, volunteering in a hospital or a clinic can count as part of your healthcare experience. It's a good idea to call and ask the program you're looking at what exactly they require. Not all of your volunteering needs to be in a clinical setting. While non-clinical volunteering won't count towards your healthcare experience, it's a nice way for you to show what else you're interested in and are passionate about.
5. Hands-on healthcare experience
Depending on what program you're applying to, they'll either have a set number of recommended or required hands-on (paid or unpaid) healthcare experience. While one program may accept shadowing and volunteering as part of your healthcare experience, others might not. At some programs, if you have 200-300+ hours of healthcare experience, you are considered a competitive applicant. But there are also programs out there that require a minimum of 1000-1500+ hours of hands-on healthcare experience. Don't let this intimidate you. These programs are usually for people who are considering becoming a PA as their second career. There are plenty of programs that you can apply to that don't require as much experience.
At one of my interviews, I was asked if I had any research experience. Although it is not required for you to have done research in order to apply to PA school, it can bump up your chances of getting an interview invitation. And it's even better if you've been published in a scientific journal. If you think you don't have the time to do research during the school year, try to find out if you can conduct research at your university during the summer. Another option is to look up summer internships that might available for undergrads in your area.
7. Letters of recommendation
A lot of people don't think about developing a strong professional relationship with their advisors, professors, or healthcare providers they shadow/work with until it's time to apply to PA school. Try to keep in mind that the people you work with or learn from can write a stronger and more personal LOR than someone who doesn't really know your strengths or your abilities.
These are just some of the things I suggest you consider while you're preparing to apply to PA school. It's important to keep in mind that every student is going to have a different background and experience, and that is okay. The admissions committee doesn't expect all of us to be the same. It's also okay to have a gap year or two in between, as I did, and still be considered a strong applicant. As long as you're passionate about becoming a PA and are willing to work hard, you can achieve anything you set your mind to!
Hi! I’m Aashna, a Physician Assistant student, documenting my journey of becoming a PA. When I was thinking of applying to PA school, there were not a lot of resources available to me where I could read personal experiences of other PA students or practicing PAs. I decided to start blogging as a way to provide support, encouragement, and advice for anyone that is looking into the PA profession. On my blog, I share advice and tips for pre-PAs and will soon start posting about my experiences as a PA-S. Sometimes, you’ll also get to read my random musings about life and how I try to stay organized. To read more articles, head on over to my blog at apthepa.blogspot.com