Guest Post: Benefits of Attending a Provisional PA Program

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I was so excited when Pooja Sitapara reached out to provide her insights on being part of a brand new PA program. I get a lot of questions about whether or not it's a good idea to apply to provisional programs or just new programs in general. Now we get some personal opinions! 

Hey, ya’ll! I’m a PA-S1 in the inaugural class at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. With so many new PA programs opening up next year, I wanted to share why I chose to attend a new program instead of a continuous-accredited program. 

There are so many reasons I love being part of a new PA program! In my opinion, newer programs tend to have more updated facilities and resources to teach you. My program has a state of the art building that’s brand new, a cadaver lab and SPECTRA table, multiple simulation mannequin patients, and OSCE rooms with a two-way window with a debriefing room on the other side for our professors and classmates to watch and provide constructive criticism. The OSCE rooms also have cameras and microphones so our professors can record our patient interactions and play them back for us. My program also has a lot of other equipment such as dermatoscopes, otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes in each exam room, and models of patients with detachable parts, such as different ears that have different pathological conditions. Most of these resources weren’t available at some of the older and more established programs I interviewed at. 

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Another benefit of a new program is that your feedback and opinions carry much more weight with the faculty and administration. The director of my program has monthly meetings with my class to ask about our concerns and feedback, and our administration is very readily available to help us at any time. Almost all of our suggestions are immediately implemented, or the faculty explains to us why they can’t implement our wishes. The faculty also makes it a point to ask us how they can teach us better

A newer program is much more flexible in making changes and trying newer and better ways of doing things. I also feel as if newer programs want you to succeed just as much, if not more than you, because the student’s success and feedback is an integral component of their accreditation process. My program even pays for a tutor to come in after each body system we finish to provide supplemental materials and learning!

Lastly, being a part of a new or newer program means that you get to play an active role in the ARC-PA accreditation process of a program. Throughout your time in PA school, you get to share your feedback through interviews and surveys. This is definitely a skill that you can use to market and set yourself apart from other PA students! 

On a personal note, I know it can be nerve wrecking to consider a new PA program. However, on a logistical note, if you start a provisionally accredited/new program, the ARC-PA mandates that the program graduates you and lets you sit for the PANCE. This really took a lot of the worry off my plate. And I know the process of applying to PA school is one that is very much driven by your brain, but trust your heart and your gut when you decide which program to attend. Honestly, a new program wasn’t high up on my list, but after interviewing at CSU, I was so impressed with the director of the program and the faculty and it just felt so right that I knew this program was the right fit for me. When choosing programs to apply to and interview at, remember you are interviewing the program just as much as they are interviewing you. You’re investing a lot of time and money into your PA education, so find a program that will not only educate you, but will also align with your personal mission statement and goals. 

Good luck with the 2018-2019 CASPA cycle! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at I’ll try my best to read as many of them as I can!

Fun Fact: I chose to become a PA after I figured out what I wanted to do! My short/midterm goal is to get experience in the PICU, orthopedic surgery, and general pediatrics. My ultimate goal is to open a behavioral health center and use my medical experience to treat abused and neglected children in South Carolina. I needed a career that allowed me to work in multiple specialties and get a diverse quality of medical experience, all while being flexible enough to let me keep volunteering locally and abroad, which is really important to me! Physician assistant was the perfect career for my goals and checked off every single one of my boxes!

Up and Coming: South University (West Palm Beach)

Location:  West Palm Beach, FL

Number of students: Planning to accept 50 students

Application Cycle: April - November 1st through CASPA

Interview dates: June - unknown due to this being the first class.  Rolling admissions, so likely until class is full. 

Start date: Expected to start first class January 2017

Length of Program: 27 months

Public/Private: Private

HCE: Recommended, but no specific requirement

GPA: Overall >3.0, BCP science >3.0, all prerequisites with grade of C or better

Shadowing: No specific requirement

The Good Stuff:

  • Program is seeking accreditation this year for Provisional status
  • GRE is required, with preference to scores >50th percentile
  • Biochem OR organic chem
  • Courses from 4-yr college or university are given preference
  • Labs recommended, but not required, for General Biology courses
  • On a quarter system instead of semesters
  • Cannot have more than 2 outstanding prereqs at time of application to be considered
  • "Behavioral interviews" - 2 general interviews (either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1), and 1 with the program director

Program Link: South University (West Palm Beach) PA Program Website

For the most up to date information on PA programs in one place, check out The Applicant’s Manual of Physician Assistant Programs. (Affiliate link)

Up and Coming: Heritage University


Location: Toppenish, WA

Number of students:  32

Application Cycle:  April - November (Apply by July to be considered for early interviews)

Interview dates:  2 separate dates in December and January with rolling admissions

Start date:  May

Length of Program:  24 months

Public/Private:  Private

HCE:  Minimum 1000 hours at time of application 

GPA:  Minimum 2.75 overall (recommended 3.0), minimum 3.0 science; must have 3.0 in all prerequisites 

Shadowing:  No specific requirement

The Good Stuff:

  • Currently in Provisional status
  • Medical Spanish is included in the didactic year 
  • Focus on rural healthcare, and clinicals are in smaller towns in the Northwest 
  • Prerequisites must be completed by January of the preceding year
  • Medical scribe is accepted as HCE
  • No GRE required
  • No specific Organic Chemistry requirement
  • Does not accept Letters of Recommendation from professors 

Program Link:  Heritage University PA Program

For the most up to date information on PA programs in one place, check out The Applicant’s Manual of Physician Assistant Programs. (Affiliate link)