Pre-PA

How to Make PA School Applications Cheaper and More Affordable

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Applying to physician assistant school is expensive. There’s no denying that. It takes many sacrifices of time and money to fulfill the requirements and steps necessary to become a PA. Jamie (@jamienicole_pa on Instagram) previously wrote a guest post on the unexpected expenses of applying to PA school, but today we’ll get into ways to make the process cheaper.

First of all, there are reasons the process is set up the way it is. The requirement of a bachelor’s degree and the hours of patient care experience, shadowing, and volunteering are what separates becoming a PA from nursing and medical school. You have to put in the time and money up front to get the benefit of a shorter training program. Being married to a medical resident, the amount of money required for medical school and the time and lack of adequate salary for residency is a huge sacrifice as well. For nursing, you would finish sooner, but not make the salary or have the responsibilities of a PA. If the time and requirements were all the same, there wouldn’t be as much differentiation between the various career paths.

For some background on myself, I don’t come from a medical family. My parents were both teachers. They worked extremely hard to give me great experiences growing up and encouraged my education. I’m very thankful for that. I worked hard in high school to earn a state scholarship that paid for the majority of my undergrad education at a public school and my parents helped me with living expenses. When it came time for PA school, there was no way they could afford to pay for it. I took out loans like the majority of my classmates. I come from a financially stable background (at least, that’s what my parents portrayed, but now that I know how much things cost in the real world, I know they made huge sacrifices), but it wasn’t always easy. To complete all of the requirements during undergrad, I sacrificed my time. During undergrad, I went to a CNA program every Saturday for 3 months that was an hour away and did my clinicals during spring break. I actually never went downtown to party, I was too busy studying. I worked full time in the summer while taking classes to graduate early and save my parents the expenses of an extra semester. Looking back, I might would change some of those things, but I achieved my goals and I’m happy with where I ended up.

PAs are known for being resourceful and go-getters. You must have a good amount of self-motivation as a PA because there’s a lot of learning to be done on the job. When it comes to finding time to shadow and volunteer, you’ve got to make it happen. This can be tough as an undergrad having to work multiple jobs or as someone with a family to support. Sometimes the answer may be taking a little bit longer and spreading things out to reach your goals. There tends to be a rat race with pressure to get to the finish line as soon as possible, and while sacrifices will certainly be required, it’s okay if it takes you longer than you would prefer. Make sure you meet all of the requirements of a program before you apply so you don’t waste your time or money. I’ve seen way too many applicants applying with GPAs or grades below the requirements, and the schools will never see your application with that method.

Even if you have small chunks of time, use them wisely. Find something you enjoy doing as volunteer work so it doesn’t just feel like you’re checking a box. Finding shadowing hours is difficult, but eventually someone will say yes if you keep trying. Ask your neighbor’s cousin who works with a nurse if they have any connections and you may be surprised. You’ll never know until you ask. Cold call offices like I did, and even if only one calls you back, it’s a start. Instead of getting bogged down by the many requirements and your lack of time, take it one step at a time and realize that if you’re doing the best you can, that’s all you can do!

Sometimes becoming a PA may mean taking a pay cut to get patient care hours. Many entry level jobs don’t pay that well or even much more than minimum wage. Being frugal for a few years may have benefits in the end. Put the numbers down on paper. Look at everything you spend money on, and see if you can make it happen. Most of us have a good bit of stuff, and I know I’ve personally raided my closet and put things on eBay to reach financial goals at times.

Look for waivers and scholarships. One of my biggest regrets from undergrad was not applying for more scholarships. A simple Google search will bring up many options, and a lot of them are geared toward healthcare students. You never know if you don’t apply, and it doesn’t take that long to fill out a form and write a short essay. Go to your financial aid office and see what’s available from your school. The GRE and CASPA both offer income based waivers to help cover the costs associated with applying. CASPA’s fee waiver covers the first application fee of $179, and is given on a first come, first serve basis so you need to have everything organized before it’s time to apply. The GRE costs $205 and the waiver covers 50% of one testing. On test day, you can send your score to 4 programs for free. Make sure you have a CASPA account set up to take advantage of this. Plan ahead and know the expenses that are to come so you can start saving even if it’s just a little bit along the way.

When it comes time to interview, start thinking about it ahead of time. Pay for everything possible with a credit card that will earn you points for travel, and try to pay it off in time. My bills, tithe, and everything go on my card and those points add up. The Southwest card by Chase is a popular option that helps with flights. Look for cheaper hotels or find someone else to share a room or Airbnb with. Start looking for your suit early so you can get in on a deal. Check out the thrift stores nearby, or ask a friend to borrow theirs. Mine came from the Banana Republic Factory Store clearance rack.

Put in an effort to look for resources because they are out there. If you go back and read through the blog posts on The PA Platform, listen to The Pre-PA Club podcast, watch the videos on YouTube, join the Facebook group, and read previous Instagram posts, I can guarantee you’ll find most of the answers you’re looking for and get great advice. And it will all be free. If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, go to Google, And if you STILL don’t find the answer, email me and I’ll get you one. You’d be amazed at the number of messages and emails The PA Platform receives daily. While we can’t evaluate everyone’s individual application completely, we can point you in the right direction. We continue to put out content in an effort to make this entire process easier for everyone. And I’ll be honest, it takes a ton of time.

Instead of just complaining about the issues, let’s try to figure out ways to do something about it. That’s the point of The PA Platform being a resource offering information to make the application process easier.

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Accepted!: Lily - Low GPA to Bryant University

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Undergraduate education: Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

Overall GPA: 3.34

Science GPA: 2.95

GRE: 309 - V 157, Q 148, W 4.0

Total PCE hours: 2,560 - working as a physical therapy aide in college

Shadowing hours: 15 - shadowing 3 local PA’s briefly during breaks from school

Other volunteer hours: Teach for America corps member on Chicago’s west side 2014-16, which adds up to about 1,600 hours. I then continued teaching HS science as a TFA alumnus until the end of the 2018 school year.

LORs: Physical therapist (former employer), Physical therapist/Athletic trainer (mentor), and School Principal (current employer)

How many times did you apply?: 3

Age: 27

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 18 total, first cycle: 4, second cycle: 7, third cycle: 7

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2, 1 left me on the waitlist, and the other I was accepted after.

Where will you be attending? Bryant University (Smithfield, RI)

Any red flags on your application? Low (low, low) science GPA and quantitative GRE score

Anything you found surprising about interviews? Honestly, I was surprised at how friendly and kind all of the other interviewing candidates were. Despite being direct competitors, all nervously corralled into rooms waiting to make our best possible impressions, at both interviews I attended I met really interesting, fabulous people. This was a refreshing surprise and made the days far more pleasant than I was expecting.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I read Savanna’s Physician Assistant School Interview Guide cover to cover, completed mock interviews with the PA Life, and listened to the Pre-PA Club podcast on my way to work. I also did something a little unorthodox. I was unsure if I’d get accepted at a school that started in January, June, or September, or simply be rejected all over again so I started applying for jobs. I landed several interviews for positions as a medical assistant and a medical scribe. And even though it was clear to me that I was not interested in working at some of these places, I took the interviews anyways. I was determined to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, so forcing myself into interviewing regularly helped me to practice my answers to common questions and be less nervous in this setting.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? “Never, ever, ever, ever give up.” Seriously, look at my science GPA. It is abysmal. But I have experiences and skills that are unique and unlike many other candidates’. This is something I made a point of emphasizing at every possible opportunity during my interviews. I used the shortcomings of my past to paint a picture of growth and newfound drive, as well as sharing what positives about my background could be useful tools as a PA student and as a provider.

This is the best advice I can give to pre-PA students. Whether you have glaring red-flags academically as I do, or a low number of patient care hours, etc. Don’t ignore it, address it and show the interviewers how it has shaped you positively. Moreso than that, it is very important to impress upon your interviewers what other assets you have to offer the program and the profession, despite these weaknesses. What specifically sets you apart from the next PA- hopeful who walks into their office? Why should they overlook the flaws on your application and dial your number when making acceptance calls? That is where your focus needs to be when preparing for interviews battle. Good luck!

Where can we find you? @lilyboyle or boyle.lily@gmail.com


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform


Accepted!: Tarika - Future Georgia PA Student

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Undergraduate education:  University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Overall GPA: 3.8

Science GPA: 3.7

GRE: 314

Total HCE hours: 250

Total PCE hours: 4500 (MA and scribe) 

Shadowing hours: 1000

Other volunteer hours: 320

LORs: 3 (1 PA, 2 physicians) 

How many times did you apply?:  2

Age: 24 (by the time I start) 

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 5

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? so far, 2. Accepted from one, waiting on the other. 

Where will you be attending? Not sure yet, but somewhere in Georgia! 

Any red flags on your application? I still have a prerequisite to complete. The first time I applied, I asked a PA who I only shadowed ONCE to write me a letter and that was a mistake.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? My interviewers were surprisingly super warm and they made me feel really comfortable! They just wanted to get to know me rather than "grill me" with hard questions. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I read "how to get into PA school" by Andrew Rodican. (Affiliate Link)

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Have patience! Good things happen when the time is right. Don't lose focus and don't give up if this is something you really want! Form good relationships with the PA's/Doctors you shadow and work with because your recommendation letters really matter! DM me if you have any questions! 

Where can we find you? @tarika03 on instagram! 


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 


Accepted!: John - UAB

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Undergraduate education: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) 

Overall GPA: 3.93

Science GPA:
3.92

GRE:  313; 157 Verbal (76%ile), 156 Quant (61%ile), 5.0 Writing (92%ile)

Total HCE hours: 900 hours (400 at primary care corporate internship, ~500 in research at time of application)

Total PCE hours: ~20 hours

Shadowing hours: 130 hours

Other volunteer hours: > 2,000 hours (in addition to many other volunteer opportunities, I worked pro-bono at a summer camp that I lived at for the entire summer)

LORs: 4

How many times did you apply?: Only once! 

Age: 21 at time of application

Gender: Male

How many programs did you apply to? One; due to having so few PCE hours, I opted to only apply to my home program the first year, and then if I was not accepted, I intended to work and gain more PCE and re-apply the next cycle to far more programs. 

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I interviewed at one school and was ACCEPTED! 

Where will you be attending? I will be attending UAB!

Any red flags on your application? Of course, my abysmally low patient care hour count. I’m thankful for the fact that UAB did not have a hard-and-fast PCE requirement, as that allowed me to supplement my application elsewhere with a variety of HCE and other leadership positions. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

I was pleasantly surprised at just how low-key the interview was. Of course the stakes were high and there was a lot of preparation that, appropriately, should go in to the interview, but I was very quickly put at ease by the entire body of faculty, staff, and students that helped orchestrate interview day. You could tell that the entire team wanted the applicants to be put at ease, and they truly want their future students to succeed, meaning there weren’t any ridiculous curveballs that were thrown at us. The whole process was truly enjoyable and I feel like I was able to leave with confidence in hand. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process?

To be totally honest, other than a few articles on interview etiquette around Google, as well as some really helpful articles on thepalife.com that surveyed PA vs. MD (the other career I was considering early in undergrad), most of my preparation came through on-campus career development resources, my wonderful Biomedical Sciences advisors, and some really insightful professors. One in particular was my former communications professor who graciously gave me audience a week or so before my interview to really coach me through useful things to say. Making friends and building bridges with those who are a few chapters in life ahead of you is so invaluable.
 
Any other advice for other pre-PA students? 

Aside from the comments I made in the last response about making connections, building bridges, and picking others’ brains, one of the biggest things you can really do to serve yourself well in your journey to PA is to find out what it is that makes you tick, and why becoming a PA is the most fulfilling and appropriate way for you to apply yourself as a professional. In other words, why PA? Why do you want to practice medicine? When a respectable salary and a relatively short schooling lose their luster in yet ANOTHER long and challenging work day, what is going to motivate you in your medical career? For me, it was through my shadowing experiences that I recognized firsthand the kind of impact a PA was able to make while having a wonderfully broad scope of practice. I was enamored with having a career that would allow me to see patients, perform H&Ps, order tests, perform diagnostics, make a diagnosis, deliver or order treatments, and even perform surgery, all while allowing me to do so at a much lower cost in less time than medical school. To really be able to challenge myself every day in a field that I love where I can think critically and analytically about my patients, all while delivering compassionate medical care to those who are relying upon me is truly the most fulfilling career that I, personally, can see for myself.  

This is one of the things that, outside of your stats, will do the most to propel you out front in interviews: know yourself well and spend the time discovering and thinking through your motivations. Portray yourself as someone who has carefully thought through their decision, who has shadowed and worked and studied and researched to the point that you can precisely say why a career as a PA is the absolute best decision you can make. That’s an applicant that I would want in my program. 

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc): Find me on Instagram with the handle @the.musical.pa, where I will be documenting my journey through PA school and offering a glimpse into what it’s like to evolve into a healthcare professional. You may get a taste of my music career here and there as well. ;) 


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform.

Accepted!: Amanda - MEDEX PA Student

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Undergraduate education: Bachelor degree in Clinical Physiology

Overall GPA: 3.96

Science GPA: 3.99

GRE: I did not submit my GRE to the PA programs because it wasn't that good, haha. I graduated from my undergraduate degree in June of 2015, and immediately began an intensive one year Masters in Medical Sciences program from 2015-2016 so when I applied for PA school, I had both an undergrad and a graduate level degree, therefore eliminating the need for submission of my GRE. I did not do the Master's program solely to replace the GRE, but knew it would increase the strength of my application while also demonstrating my commitment to the healthcare, since I worked full-nights in an emergency department while completing the Master's degree. 

Quant - 155

Qual - 152

5.0 

Total HCE hours: 4,000

Total PCE hours: 2,500

Shadowing hours: 300 with MDs in an ER, PA in an ER, PA in an urgent care clinic

Other volunteer hours: 500 at a nursing home over 5 years, doing manicures and game days.

LORs: 5 (2 professors, 3 MDs/PAs)

How many times did you apply?: Once

Age: 25

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 2

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? Interviewed at both, accepted to both

Where will you be attending? University of Washington MEDEX, Tacoma cohort

Any red flags on your application? I had substantially less patient care hours than the 'competitive applicant' (UW considers a competitive applicant to have upwards of 10,000 hours of PCE) 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? They were surprisingly really, really fun. Completely exhausting, but if you can relax and try to make a few fast friends, it makes a world of difference to make your more personable and more outgoing, even with the nerves. I was also surprised to find that I truly am a worthy and competitive applicant. I think the majority of us go in to these things and think "oh my gosh, am I really good enough, qualified enough, competent enough compared to all of these other people?" Once the day gets going and you realize, hey, I actually am ready for this! and can accept that you were chosen out of thousands of applicants, it is so encouraging, and to see that the other amazing people you are interviewing with have a lot in common with you (work background, education background, similar personalities). Allow yourself to be open to accepting that you are a qualified, competent, competitive applicant! 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? A fellow PA I worked with gave me a copy of How to Ace the Physician Assistant School Interview (affiliate link) by Andrew J. Rodican and that was so helpful to even begin to fathom what the day would be like. My undergraduate university (Central Washington University) offered mock interviews tailored for whatever the need was, and I took full advantage of that. I think I did two mock interviews at CWU, and those were oddly nerve wracking and even more intense than what the real interview day was. But it made the interview process day of feel familiar and subsided my nerves immensely. I knew what I was going to say, I knew somewhat what questions might be posed, I learned how to reign in my excessive hand gestures, but to still show enthusiasm and fine tune my body language. 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Don't compare your chapter of life with someone else's chapter of life. Being unique, totally your own, and your own timeline has INCREDIBLE value. Someone else's story and specific chapter in life are totally their own, but yours and theirs are equal in valuable. Mock interviews are invaluable. You cannot prepare for the interview day enough, and mock interviews eliminate a huge source of nerves. PA school is becoming more and more competitive, and even though interviews are where you sell yourself as a competent, compassionate and capable PA student, the GPA and personal statement are what gets you noticed in stacks and stacks of applications. Spend time on your personal statement. Don't have more than 4 or 5 people review it as to not overwhelm you, but I spent the better part of 12 months working on it to make it as perfect and concise and a "story" as possible. Getting through the initial review process is critical, and making the strongest application on CASPA will get you to that interview!

Where can we find you?

@amanda_rae_the_PA or @amandababy1292

Ultimate Physician Assistant Gift Guide - 2018

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Wondering what to get for all of the PAs in your life? Whether Pre-PA, current students, or practicing PAs, we’ve got you covered with this 2018 Holiday Gift Guide. We’ve broken it down by category and you’ll find more practical options to go with some of the more fun choices. Feel free to pass this guide along to your family and friends to give them some hints about what’s on your shopping list. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means we get a small percentage if you make a purchase as no extra cost to you. This list is just in time for Black Friday so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for deals!

To Wear

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Looking professional is a staple as a physician assistant! Medelita is my go-to brand for medical wear in clinic. A gift card will provide a choice between the various scrubs, white coats, or scrub jackets, but I’ll share some of my favorites.

Medelita offers free shipping, the option of embroidery, a 1-year warranty, and at-home try-on. What more could you ask for? I recommend any of the scrubs, and my favorite white coats are the Ellody or the Rebecca. If you’ve never bought anything from Medelita, you can set up a new account and get $20 off your first purchase over $70. Use the code PAPLATFORM4 for a 20% discount.

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If you’re looking for something more casual, check out Medthusiast for the cutest and comfiest T-shirts and sweatshirts. Both Medelita and Medthusiast are companies that were created by PAs, which makes them even cooler!

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To Read

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For the Pre-PA Student - To help future PA students reach their goals, there are some must have resources out there to make the process much easier. The Applicant’s Manual of Physician Assistant Programs provides information about all of the current PA programs. This is a huge time saver because it can be difficult to track down that info. After applying, the interview is the next step, so the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide is a great present for anyone in the application process.

For the current or soon-to-be PA Student - There were 2 books that were extremely helpful to me while I was in PA school - the “green” book and Lange Q&A. I used these the entire time and particularly when studying for boards. I’ve also heard great things about PANCE Prep Pearls.

For anyone and everyone - Dr. Atul Gawande is my favorite non-fiction/medical author. His books should be mandatory reading for anyone in medicine. Better and Complications would be welcome stocking stuffers for any PA!

For School

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While PA school is thankfully a somewhat distant memory for me, there are a few things I couldn’t have survived without.

A great computer. If you really love your PA student (or soon-to-be student), make sure they have a functioning laptop. I’ve heard great things about the iPad Pro and Notability for taking notes, so that’s a good option too. I started school with a MacBook Pro and ended with a Microsoft Surface. I wish I had my Surface at the beginning of my program so I could have taken notes directly on our never ending PowerPoints. I’m back to a MacBook now, but the Surface was great for studying for boards.

A functioning printer. Even though everything is online these days, I’m still a pen and paper type of person at times. I like to write things out and take notes by hand, particularly for last minute studying before a test. I have the HP Envy, and it’s wireless, and does the job.

A water bottle. I’m the first to admit I’m the worst at staying hydrated. At work I use one of the large Tervis tumblers to keep my drinks cold or a good Yeti cup. I love this water bottle that helps to remind you to drink frequently by glowing to help increase water intake.

Amazon Prime. Having 2-day shipping was a lifesaver during PA school and clinical year. When my feet and back were so sore during my surgery rotation, I was able to get some compression socks and better shoes on the way ASAP because by the time I got off work nothing was open and I just wanted to sleep.

For Clinic

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If you’re in the market for a new stethoscope, and want one that functions excellently and looks sharp, check out the ERKA stethoscopes from Medelita. I don’t use a stethoscope frequently in dermatology, but my husband has claimed by ERKA as his own and uses it daily at the hospital. There are plenty of color options, and the tubing holds up nicely even with frequent use.

For a coffee drinker, Medthusiast has amazing ceramic coffee mugs with gorgeous artwork on them. These mugs will be the envy of everyone else in the office!

For CME

While I wouldn’t recommend booking a full CME trip for someone else, travel essentials are always a great gift. After going to a few conferences this year, I’ve realized I don’t have great luggage or carry-ons, so those are at the top of my list this Christmas.

Lecture halls at conferences are always freezing for some reason. While I dress business casual and professional when I go to CME events, I’ve been carrying my Medelita Ionic scrub jacket with me to keep me warm. It’s a great weight and still looks professional, so I’ll just leave it at my seat in between sessions. Mine is embroidered so I don’t worry about it going missing. These are available for men and women, and they fit true to size. This is also my husband’s favorite jacket to wear at the hospital, even more than his white coat. (And don’t tell, but even all of the non-medical people in my family are getting these jackets this year!)

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At conference, I always take a good size purse or bookbag to lectures, and I have my trusty Lilly Pulitzer notebook and a ton of pens. You could create a little conference survival kit and that would be an awesome present. Don’t forget the candy and snacks!

For Fun

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Makeup and skincare are always a nice present because who doesn’t love a little pampering. Put together a basket with some bath bombs, sunscreen, and skincare kit for someone who needs to relax a little bit. I’m the first to admit that I’m a product junkie, but most recently, I’ve been using the FRÉ Skincare line. Being a dermatology PA, I’m very picky about products, but these are easy to use, gentle, and leave my skin feeling fresh. The choices aren’t overwhelming and I love that I only have to leave the Detox mask on for a few minutes. You can use the code SAVANNA1 for 15% off, and make sure you’re following me on social media for extra deals (and there’s a really good one coming for Black Friday!)

For more of my recommendations and favorites, check out my Amazon list.

Accepted!: Alexandra - Western University

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Overall GPA: 3.90

Science GPA:3.85

GRE: Did not take it

Total HCE hours: ~2,000- I work in a clinical microbiology lab and had some experience working in a clinical research center at a hospital.

Total PCE hours: I didn’t have any at the time of the application, but before the interview I had just started volunteering in hospice care, so I was able to bring that up in conversation.  

Shadowing hours: None. Just work with PAs at my current job.  

Other volunteer hours: ~1,700. I was involved in Relay for Life, Catholic Newman Club, Compton Initiative, Pomona Beautification Day, and was a Resident Advisor for three years.

LORs: 3.  Two from professors I was close with and one from my supervisor from when I was a Resident Advisor.

How many times did you apply?:  Once

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? Only Western University. I didn’t quite meet the PCE for other programs just yet, and since Western was always my number one choice, I couldn’t wait to apply!

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I only interviewed with Western and I got in!

Any red flags on your application? I had no PCE at the time and there were a couple misspelled words on my app. Get someone to proofread your personal statement and app before you send it!

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was surprised how short it was and how detailed the questions were, but I ended up liking it better that way. I was SO nervous leading up to it, but when I got there it was more like having a genuine conversation with the students and faculty rather than an “interview” feel.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? 

YES! For prerequisites I felt that teaming up with people to study was how I got through them best. I used Khan Academy for certain concepts that were harder to grasp and made fun mnemonics with my friends to help with memorizing some of the material.

 For the interview I read How to "Ace" the Physician Assistant School Interview by Andrew Rodican which was very helpful in preparing me for a wide variety of questions (affiliate link). I was/am avidly on “The PA Platform” as well as getting some helpful tips from Jazmine Kwong, a PA student at WesternU who also has an incredible PA blog/instagram (@jazminek_pa). I did mock interviews with my professors and family and made it my goal to talk to ten strangers within my community about their life goals when the opportunity came (work/school/gym). This helped me quickly adapt to different personalities and connect with people I wasn’t very comfortable with. This is also important to practice for the profession itself.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

Ever since I was younger I dreamt of being a PA and as I got older I felt that there were a lot of people, even supervisors, who told me I shouldn’t pursue it because it’s too competitive. This really discouraged me, and I know there may be people (even yourself) that will try and do the same, but just know that if it’s your passion, find the people in your community that will help you reach your goals. I had incredible professors, supervisors, and friends who believed in me and pushed me to this point and it was just a matter of finding those individuals who have your back. So, find your people!

One thing I didn’t know is that there are non-licensed medical assistant jobs out there that are just difficult to find. I think I would have done this if I knew earlier because not only is it an incredible way to get experience, but you also get paid without having to go through the MA certification process.

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) 

My Instagram is @alexgionta and feel free to add me on facebook!


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 

Accepted!: Alexis - James Madison University

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Hello everyone, my name is Alexis. I am super excited to share my acceptance story and some of my pre-PA advice. Hopefully, you pre-PA peeps find this information helpful. Also remember every applicant is unique, so try not to get too caught up in the numbers.

Undergraduate education: B.S. in Biological Sciences with minors in Chemistry and Psychology at Florida State University (Go Noles!)

Overall GPA: 3.72

Science GPA: 3.79

GRE: 317 (Verbal = 159, Quantitative = 158, and Written = 4)

Total HCE hours: ~270

Total PCE hours: 266 at application (over 2,000 hours currently)

Shadowing hours: ~40 

Other hours: I performed research in a neuroscience lab for a year to complete my Honors Thesis project and, afterwards, I worked in my neuroscience lab as a researcher/vivarium manager/lab manager for another year. So I had ~3500 research hours. 

LORs: My neuroscience lab PI (also an assistant professor), my nursing director, and the ER PA I shadowed.

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 23

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 10

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I received 6 interview invites and 4 rejections. Out of the 6 interview invites, I only attended 3 interviews and I was accepted into all 3 programs.

Where will you be attending? James Madison University

Any red flags on your application? My PCE hours were the biggest problem with my application. I truly did not think I was going to be accepted with PCE hours that low as a CNA. Also I received a D in Calc 2 during my first semester at FSU. To compensate for my low PCE hours, I put a lot of time and effort into making a strong personal statement that showed the diversity of my experiences and the importance of my experience in the neuroscience lab. I also worked really hard while at FSU to compensate for my one bad grade, so I practically only got straight A's after my first semester (plus 3 B's sprinkled over 2 years).

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The vast differences between each program's interview process. Some programs will provide you with a reassuring "application received" or "application under review" email after you submit CASPA, while other programs will leave you completely in the dark. Some programs will invite you for an interview 4 months in advance, while other will give you 4 days notice. The programs may have one-on-one interviews, three-on-one interviews, group interviews, or multiple mini interviews (MMI). So the point is to be prepared! I bought my suit, bought the "How to Ace the PA School Interview" by Andrew Rodican (affiliate link), wrote out answers to interview questions, thought of applicable patient care stories, practiced out scenarios, saved my money, and made friends at work (so they would be willing to switch days with me) BEFORE I was even invited for a single interview. There is absolutely no harm in preparing early, only benefits! 

The most surprising part of the interview experience was the fact that I just knew when the program was right for me! Going into the interviews, I was planning on choosing a program based solely on their resources and cost. However, I ended up choosing JMU off of my gut. I got this amazing feeling from the faculty and current students that I would not only learn a lot and feel supported, but I would also have fun doing it. Obviously, JMU has an excellent PA program with great resources, but it was the most expensive school with which I interviewed. So I was very surprised at how little cost mattered and how important the program made me feel was for making my final decision.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? Well my main resource for studying during undergrad was quizlet.com, flashcards are amazing! For the application and interview process, I read a lot of blogs to help prepare me as much as possible: thepaplatform.comlifeasapa.comdoseofpa.blogpspot.compajourney.comapthepa.blogpot.com. I also utilized thepalife.com's personal statement revision service to help ensure my personal statement was top-notch. As mentioned earlier, I used Andrew Rodican's interview book, but Savanna also has a PA school interview guide recently made available. I definitely suggest picking up one of those helpful interview books. I would not have felt so comfortable or performed so well in my interviews without thoroughly preparing beforehand. Side note- don't prepare by memorizing answers, just get an idea of the points you want to get across and a handful of experiences you may want to use.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? 

Don't let one weakness in your application prevent you from applying! Practically every applicant has a weakness in their application (GPA, PCE, GRE, etc), but they compensate for that weakness with strengths in other areas of their application. After reading all the accepted student stats on multiple PA programs' websites, I genuinely thought that I was going to get rejected from all 10 programs because I had very low PCE as a CNA. However, my application was very strong in every other way to compensate for my one weakness and I was invited to interview with 6 PA programs! So my advice is if you have a low GPA, then take some extra upper level courses during the application cycle to boost your GPA. And if you have low PCE, then work full-time during the application cycle to increase your hours. By working on your hours and grades even after submitting your application, you will be able to show the committee your improvements at the interview or, worst comes to worst, have a stronger application for the next cycle.

Be yourself! I think a lot of people try to alter their application or their interview answers to create this alternate persona that they believe the program's committee wants to see, but in reality they want to know about YOU! The committee genuinely wants to know who you are and to see your true passion for the PA profession. 

Get involved in things you are actually passionate about. Again, a lot of applicants feel the need to show that they are "the perfect applicant" by volunteering for things in which they are not genuinely interested. Not only will you be unwilling to repeatedly commit your leisure time to something you are uninterested in, but also the people you are volunteering with will recognize your disinterest. If you get involved in a passion project (mine was my neuroscience research, some people play sports), then you will be excited to dedicate your nights and even weekends. Plus it will be an interesting topic of discussion for your interview that will allow the committee to see who you are and what your interests are. 

My biggest piece of interview advice is to try to relax and enjoy yourself. You have already prepared for the interview, the work has been put in. Now is the time to socialize with your possible future peers and ask the current students all your burning questions (studying, housing, clinical experiences, etc). Also don't be scared to interview the program as well! Deciding which PA program to attend is a big decision. If you want to know how they compensate for not having a live cadaver lab or why their PANCE pass rates are lower than average, then don't be afraid to ask! You are investing your time and money into this program, so make sure they can take you across the finish line and help you pass your PANCE!

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) If you want to read more of my pre-PA advice or follow along as I stumble my way through PA school, then check out my blog www.alexisleighpa.com and follow my instagram account @alexisleigh.pa_s. If you have any questions about my stats, the CASPA application, or the application process, please feel free to message me on instagram or email me at alexisleighpa@gmail.com. Thanks for reading my acceptance story!


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform.

Accepted!: Anna - Rocky Vista University PA Program

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Overall GPA: 3.0 - My lowest semester was a 1.5 and I was placed on academic probation. By the time I graduated, I made Dean's List Honors and my last 60 c.h. was 3.56.

Science GPA: 3.1

GRE: 313.5 (162 quantitative, 147 verbal, 4.5 analytical writing)

Total HCE hours: 3,456 hrs - mostly from working in an oncology research lab conducting animal research.

Total PCE hours: 1,520 hrs - mostly from working as a research coordinator for lung cancer clinical trials' patients.

Shadowing hours: 171 hrs. - I shadowed a variety of PAs, MDs, NPs, and RNs to better understand the different roles.

Other volunteer hours: 36 hrs. - I volunteered as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and also as a member for an advisory council collaborating with Colorado's Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to improve access to Medicaid.

LORs: 4 - 1 from academic professor/PI, 1 from mentor/pre-health pipeline program (MD), 1 from PI of oncology research lab (MD), and 1 from mentor (PA).

How many times did you apply?:  I applied 3 times.

Age: 26 yrs.

Gender: F

How many programs did you apply to? A total of 31 programs over 3 years. The first time: 3, second time: 12, third time: 15.

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I received one interview invitation, and they accepted me! :) I am so grateful!

Where will you be attending?  Rocky Vista University - I will be in their inaugural class of 2020. 

Any red flags on your application? Definitely my GPA, and the fact that "academic probation" was stamped on my transcript. I think it's important to demonstrate growth (both academically and personally). I didn't retake many of my classes; instead, I took higher level classes that were similar (e.g. physiology AND mechanisms of human pathology, chemistry AND organic chemistry 1 and 2 AND biochemistry, etc.) and excelled in them. During my interview, I had the opportunity to explain this and how this turned out to be a huge learning opportunity that brought me to where I am today. Also, most of my healthcare and patient care experience was through research, so I had to really explain well how those skills would translate. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The most surprising thing was how peaceful I felt after the interview. There was so much pressure leading up to it -- I mean, this was my 3rd application cycle and my ONLY interview invite thus far... But I left feeling like, "OK, I did my best. WOW, everyone that I interviewed with was amazing. If I don't get in, it's completely fair, because every. single. person applying is seriously, really amazing and that's just how competitive PA school is right now." Knowing and understanding that really helped me find peace in all of it, and kind of gave me the strength that I needed to prepare for my 4th round of applications if I didn't get in. :)     

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? There are so many! The social media platform that PAs and other PA students are using have been so helpful, including blogs, YouTube videos, Podcasts, snapchats, and IG accounts. Books: How to get into PA School by Andrew Rodican, How to Ace the PA School Interview also by Andrew Rodican, So You Want to be a Physician Assistant: Your Guide to a New Career by Beth Grivett, and The Applicant's Manual of Physician Assistant Programs by Mark Volpe and Brittany Hogan. (Affiliate Links)

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Good luck and don't give up. Don't make any assumptions (e.g. I made the mistake of assuming that people know that a research coordinator is direct patient care experience, without explaining the capacity of how closely I worked with patients to manage their care). BE YOURSELF and be able to articulate why you care on a PERSONAL level - the most helpful thing for me was just being able to talk to people about it! It's hard and puts you in a really vulnerable position, but it's good practice because that's exactly what you'll be doing for your personal statement and also for your interview. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE, and don't lose your voice in your application by framing your answers around what you think people want to hear. Most importantly, rejection is likely but it's NOT personal, as everyone else applying is a really great applicant... But guess what? SO ARE YOU! Try to enjoy the process as much as you can -- you really learn so much just by going through the process of applying and getting into PA school. And remember that it's not IF you get in, it's WHEN. :) 

Where can we find you? IG: @anna_the_pa, feel free to email me if you have questions too! annatn15@gmail.com


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

Accepted!: Hana - Detroit Mercy PA Student (@hana.futurePA)

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Undergraduate education: Nutrition and Food Science; Health Psychology

Overall GPA: 3.80

Science GPA: 3.62

GRE: 154 (Verbal)  145 (Qualitative) 5.0 (Analytical) I didn't score well with qualitative but scored in the 93rd percentile for the analytical part of the exam.

Total HCE hours: 1000+

Total PCE hours: 1000+

Shadowing hours: 40 hours (of an ER and urgent care physician)

Other volunteer hours: I have thousands of hours in community service/volunteering because it is a deep passion of mine. It is not directly related to health. I work in the realm of youth empowerment and organizing in schools and communities.

LORs: I had one letter of recommendation from a PA who I've worked with in the realm of community organizing. I had another from my mentor who is a physician I shadowed. My last LOR was from an orthopedic spine surgeon from the clinic I received my patient and healthcare hours through.

How many times did you apply?:  Once

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 10

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I was offered three interviews, I accepted two. I was accepted at both schools I'd interviewed at.

Where will you be attending? I will be attending the University of Detroit Mercy PA program in the fall! 

Any red flags on your application? YES! I received a C+ in Organic Chem II. I deeply considered retaking it and decided that I would if I didn't get into PA school. I also included 40 hours of CNA work that happened over the course of 2 weeks because I ended up quitting that quickly. I took a gamble putting it on there but wanted to be honest about my experiences. I feared that the application committee would see me C+ as an inability to handle rigorous work. I was afraid that they'd view my short stint as a CNA to exemplify a lack of grit.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? No! It was very much what I expected. It was a balanced experience where I interacted with students in the program. The interviewers for both interviews were a mix of serious faces and openly kind faces. In my first interview, we went on a tour of the school and sat in a lobby watching students walk into rooms to interview. My personality tends to be pretty calm but I could feel the anxiety in the lobby. You were staring your competition in the face. In my other interview, you did not know who else was interviewing so your focus could be entirely on mental preparation for the interview.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? Yes! This long list from the doseofPA blog was exceptionally helpful! I also appreciated the following Podcast for the process of answering ethical questions. I took notes and then searched the web for ethical questions to test my thinking. Dave The PA Coach (aka the OG PA coach) has been the ultimate confidence booster for not just interview prep but all throughout. I've been watching him since I was in high school! For application help, talking to someone who has gone through CASPA is SUPER helpful, anything else was just confusing for me. Khan Academy is a must for pre-requisite courses.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

Pre-requisites: Be mindful of balancing your pre-requisites throughout your schooling. It demonstrates a mindfulness and can really help mitigate the stress that comes with overloading on science courses. If costs are a concern, take your pre-requisites at a community college! Take Anatomy and Physiology I and II instead of a single A&P course. I did the latter and so many schools refused it as a prereq! I had to take A&P I and II after graduating during my gap year!

Building connections: Ask any healthcare worker you know if they know and can connect you to a PA, you'd be surprised at who knows who. I also recommend joining OR starting a pre-PA club at your university/college. It is a great resource hub and they often do mock interviews and bring in PAs as speakers or representatives of PA programs to discuss the application process.

Patient Care hours: If you are struggling immensely with finding a patient care focused job and unable to, as a last resort, try to get a job as axillary staff in a PRIVATE PRACTICE (receptionist for example) and then ask for on the job training. You can explain what your intentions are and that you still plan to get all your other job duties completed. Private practices are more flexible with cross-training staff versus a hospital or long-term care facility.

Just make sure to accurately document your PCE versus HCE!

Finding schools to apply to: I sat down for a few nights during my senior year of college and looked at EVERY SINGLE PA PROGRAM in the US to evaluate where I could apply. I tried to be realistic about where to apply and how much I could put towards the cost of applications. I never took biochemistry, physics or genetics so that eliminated a huge chunk. Email programs or call if you're unsure about the pre-requisites. For example, some schools accepted my nutrition courses as fulfilling a secondary biology requirement. My advice is to really study each school and their website. If they offer to mail information, take that offer up. Email the advisor about their stats. When it comes to interviewing, it really shows how well you read up on each individual program and it can work to your great advantage to know the program, the hospital systems they work with and what makes their program unique.

Interview Prep: It is ESSENTIAL. Please don't skimp on this if you're able to get an interview. It is the difference between good and great. I watched students fold under the pressure and felt so bad. What I did for interview prep included watching Dave The PA Coach's videos for some confidence boosting and other youtube videos on PA interview prep. I had an interview session with a best friend at the mall. We walked around, she asked me questions and I answered. My main focuses during this session were -eliminate the phrase "ummm" from ALL my answers -be comfortable with taking time to think without apologizing for it -answering the question that was asked without tangents. I then asked another close friend to have a more serious interview session. I emailed her my resume, CASPA application, behavioral/personal/ethical questions and had her GRILL me. She had me shaking because of how great she was. She picked up on my nervous tic (speaking fast) and made me conscious of it so I was able to avoid it at my interviews. I've slacked during some pre-requisites and honestly even during my CASPA app process, but the interview prep was given 100% of my energy and it was well worth it.

Where can we find you? @Hana.FuturePA on instagram (or just look up Hana Alasry if my username ever changes)! Feel free to reach out, I answer all my DMs and am more than happy to help without judgement.


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

The MD vs PA Quiz

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Are you undecided about your decision to pursue PA school? Take this quiz to gain some insight on whether the PA or MD route is best for you. It’s 20 questions based on research on both careers that should give you direction. Share your results with your friends and get them to take the test too!

Here is a link to the quiz.

Accepted!: Megan from @meganinmed

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Undergraduate education: University of California, Davis - Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Overall GPA: 3.63

Science GPA: 3.54

GRE: 322 (V 157, Q 165, W 4.5)

Total HCE hours: 120 hours (volunteering at medical center in pediatrics and ED)

Total PCE hours: 2,800 at time of application—Back office MA in pediatric primary care, pediatric urgent care, and orthopedics

Shadowing hours: 30 (Orthopedic PAs, Dermatology PA, Pediatrician, Pediatric NP, Internal Medicine MD, Internal Medicine NP)

Other volunteer hours: 100 hours through sorority and honor society philanthropies, 50 hours at local food bank, one week volunteering at senior home in Costa Rica

LORs: Pediatrician (my boss), Pediatrician (my other boss), Orthopedic PA that I worked for, supervisor at food bank

How many times did you apply?:  2 times

Age: 24

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 10 programs

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 

7 interview invites, attended 4 interviews—3 acceptances and 1 waitlist

Will be attending University of California, Davis class of 2020!

Any red flags on your application? 

low Shadowing hours, low volunteering hours, C’s in Organic Chemistry

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

I encountered so many different types of interviews (3-person group interview, 10-person group interview, MMI (Multiple Mini Interviews), one-minute speech, observed group activities).  It's important to prepared for anything!

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? 

PAEA Program directory (online), How to Write you Physician Assistant Personal Statement, individual program websites and emailing admissions at each program (the BEST way to get accurate information about prerequisites, deadlines, etc  for each program)

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

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If you’re a reapplicant, try not to get discouraged. Retake classes, shadow more, volunteer more, and WORK more.  You might surprise yourself with how much more successful you can be with another year of experiences behind you! Also, every application has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to remember that your app will be looked at as a whole, and that your weaknesses can be balanced out by your strengths. Good luck!

Where can we find you? 

Instagram: @meganinmed (feel free to DM me with questions!)


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

Accepted: Lena from @lenainmedicine - Loma Linda PA Student

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Undergraduate education: UCLA

Overall GPA: 3.5

Science GPA: 3.4

GRE: 312 (V153/Q159/4.5) 

PCE: 2000+ (MA, EMT, Optometric Assistant)

HCE: 1800+ (MA, Scribe, Community Health Fairs)

Shadowing: 174 (Family/Sports Medicine, Emergency, Urgent Care, Pediatrics)

Teaching/Non-healthcare volunteer: 220 (CPR/BLS, Geriatrics, High School, Orphanage, Community Nature Restorations)

Research: 110 (Nephrology, Neurology)

Extracurricular: Meditation Classes, Yoga, Backpacked through Central America

LORs: MD, PA, PA, Microbiology Professor

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age when applied: 24 

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 17 programs

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I was offered 9 interviews and 3 acceptances!

Any red flags on your application? I had C’s in my core science courses, but this experience helped me learn how to study. It refined how I approached material in the future. I ended up retaking my classes to show academic maturity. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I actually met a lot of great friends at interviews. It was an awesome opportunity to meet people from across the country. I kept in touch with a few people from every interview and overall the experience was really welcoming and warm at every program!

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Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I found awesome resources on YouTube, Instagram, ThePAPlatform.comHow to Ace the PA School Interview book by Andrew Rodican, PA-C, and PhysicianAssistantforum.com. This application cycle showed me how collaborative the PA community is. I found a community online that helped with revisions, mock interviews, and more!

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Be proactive in everything you pursue. Planning ahead will definitely help you in the long run. Don’t be afraid to take that step to ask. The worst thing that can happen is someone can say no, but there are so many opportunities waiting if you just ask politely and stay proactive.

Where can we find you? Instagram: @lenainmedicine 


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

When to Apply to PA School

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When should you apply to physician assistant school? This is a very personal question that comes up very often. The first step to deciding if you’re ready to apply is understanding the application cycle for PA school.

When you decide to apply, you essentially will need to submit your application approximately a year before you start school. A few programs with January starts are the exceptions to this rule because you would apply in April and potentially begin the program less than six months after receiving your acceptance. For most schools with a May or August start, submitting in April would give you a full year to interview and plenty of time before starting your program. You have to take this into account when choosing which year to submit your application.

I’ll use my application as an example. I started working on my application in April 2011 and submitted in June of 2011. I was scheduled to graduate in December 2011 (I took an extra online class to finish in 3.5 years), and I knew that I would prefer to NOT have to take a gap year, so that meant applying at the end of my junior year.

If you want to avoid a gap year, you’ll need to apply at the end of your junior year or beginning/during your senior year.

I had my first interview at the beginning of September with 2 weeks notice. Soon after, I received a second interview invite for the beginning of October. I actually got my acceptance call from the first interview there! And 2 weeks later, my 2nd acceptance came in. That sounds confusing, but basically I received my acceptances in the fall of 2011. One program started in May 2012 and one started in January 2012, and I chose the one that started in May. To put it in terms of cycles, I applied in the 2011-2012 cycle for a 2012 start.

You won’t apply in April for an August start of the same year. It will be the NEXT year that you are applying for. This confuses a lot of applicants.

Taking a gap year isn’t a bad thing, it just wasn’t my preference. Once you’ve figured out when you would ideally like to start, the next step in deciding when to apply is making sure you meet the requirements of the program. As confirmed in Episode 55 of The Pre-PA Club Podcast with PA Professor, Wes Johnson, if you don’t meet all of the school’s requirements, your application will never be evaluated. They probably won’t even see it!

As a general rule of thumb, if you meet the minimum requirements of a program and can check all of the boxes, go for it.

When it comes down to it, you could always take more time to improve your application, and you shouldn’t stop doing that, but you also shouldn’t delay applying for too long. Eventually, you just have to go for it!

Once you’ve decided this is your cycle, you’ll increase your chances if you apply earlier to programs with rolling admissions. In the past, July-August was considered early, but with the competitiveness of PA school, May-June is now more ideal. Does that mean if you submit later than that you won’t get any interviews? No way! But it can help you out more just by submitting earlier. Rolling admissions means as soon as an application is marked as “complete” it is evaluated, and if they like what they see, you’ll get an interview, which hopefully results in an acceptance.

Comment below with any questions about the application timeline!


Accepted!: Jeremiah - UTMB Galveston PA Student

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Undergraduate education: Bachelor of Science in Community Health, Texas A&M University

Overall GPA: 3.68

Science GPA: 3.52

GRE: 293 combined. Verbal Reasoning: 145. Quantitative Reasoning: 148 Analytical Writing: 3.5 

Total HCE hours: 606

Total PCE hours: 20

Shadowing hours: 60

Other volunteer hours: 41

LORs: 3 total. 1 PA, 1 Research Professor (PI), 1 Postdoctoral fellow 

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 22

Gender: Male

How many programs did you apply to?:  8

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interview invites (accepted only the first one since I got accepted 3 days later after my interview). I will be attending The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) in the summer.

Any red flags on your application?

My GRE scores are below average! I know myself, and I do not excel in standardized testing. I weighed out the pros and cons if I should retake my GRE and made the decision not to. I knew my GRE scores were low, but I didn’t dwell on it. I trusted the strengths of my application to move me forward. Do not be intimidated if you get a GRE score that is lower than what you wanted. I was below the average, but that did not stop me from applying! 

I also had 2 C’s and Q drop during my freshman year.  It was definitely an eye opener, and I was not expecting the difficulty of undergrad. I thought I knew how to take notes, study, and prepare for exams. BUT I DIDN’T! My freshman year was a big learning curve for me. I tried different methods in studying and went on YouTube for tips for effective note taking. It was trial and error for me, but I eventually found what worked best for me. Do not be discouraged about one or two C’s. Instead, learn from it and make improvements. PA schools love seeing the exponential growth from the beginning of your undergrad to when you apply. It shows that you had a rough start, but took the initiative to improve and get better throughout the years. MAKE YOUR WEAKNESSES INTO YOUR STRENGTHS ☺ 

I lacked patient contact experience. I went on forums, blog sites, and talked to past PA applicants and most everyone had over 1000+ hours in PCE. I am not going to lie, I was intimidated by the numbers that everyone had. So I learned, DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Each applicant is different! I accepted the fact that I was late in the ball game deciding that I wanted to become a PA. It was my junior year fall semester 2016 that I had that realization. I applied that following cycle and submitted my CASPA application in July 2017. I focused on what could do at that time to improve my application. I did not get caught up in “chasing” a magical number for my application. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

I only attended one interview, but I can say that it was really laid back and very chill! The faculty were really friendly, and the current PA students were open to answer a lot of our questions! When it came down to my actual interviews (two 20 minute 1-on-1 interviews), I was a bit nervous at first but I made it into a conversation instead of an interview. That made things more relaxed, and I could express myself more and show more of my personality. At the end of the day, the school invited YOU to their interview, so that means YOU need to showcase yourself! Be proud and confident that they chose YOU! Trust in yourself, show how great you are to them, and enjoy the process!

 TIP#1: Research the staff prior to your interview, read up on their BIOs, and make a connection with them during your interview. This way there is a common ground between you and the individual interviewing you. This will make the interview into a conversation!

TIP#2: Your interview starts when you step out of your car, so be the best version of yourself when you are around potential future classmates, current students, and just everyone you pass by. Walk with a big smile ☺ 

TIP#3: Print out a resume AND a CV. There is a difference, so having both shows you mean business! 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? 

One thing that helped me a ton was definitely YouTube. I YouTube “how to be a competitive applicant for PA school”, “interview tips PA school”, and “tips on writing a personal statement.” There are endless amounts of videos on YouTube that can help you on your journey! I am a visual learner, so watching the videos really helped me a lot. I also read a lot of people’s blogs/websites about their journey including the PA platform of course! I went on the physician assistant forums to read on other people’s past experiences when it came to interviewing and submission CASPA applications. 

Any other advice for pre-PA students? 

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For those who are in the process of applying, I know how hard and stressful it can be, but don’t lose site of the end goal and always REMEMBER YOUR WHY!!!!! Remember why you want to become a PA in the first place. Remember that patient you worked with, remember the PA that inspired you, and remember your curiosity in medicine! Remember that all your hard work will pay off in the future, trust the process, and most importantly believe in yourself. Good luck to everyone who is applying this cycle, I believe in all of you guys! 

Where can we find you?  Instagram: jeremiahdvelasco 


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story and advice through an "Accepted!" post, send an email to savanna@thepaplatform.com 

How To Get Into PA School from Undergrad

There's no denying that gaining admission to PA school is becoming increasingly competitive every year. While we can discuss what you can do to become the best applicant possible, many believe it's impossible to go straight from undergrad into PA school. And that's not true! You can find many of these stories in our "Accepted!" post series, and I was one of these students myself. There are still plenty of applicants who are accepted into PA school while finishing their degrees, and you can take some actions if that is your goal. 

Once I decided I wanted to go to PA school, my priority shifted to making sure I was meeting all of the requirements, and that I would have them complete in time to apply during my senior year. This meant taking a CNA course on the weekends so I could gain some hands-on patient care experience.  (Find programs in your area now!) I had to be very organized when it came to choosing courses, and I had to take some summer classes to meet the deadlines. While that meant giving up some of my free time, it was all worth it once I was accepted to PA school. At one of my interviews, an interviewer even commented that for my age, my application was impressive. It was nice to hear that they took the fact that I was still a full-time student into consideration when comparing me to people who had many more hours than I did. 

Go ahead and make a list of the programs you're interested in, and figure out what you'll need to meet their requirements. That will help you in making a plan. You could also consider a Pre-PA Assessment if you're unsure of what you should do to become competitive. Each program is different so that may take some time. They should have this information listed on their websites. If that seems daunting, you can find all of the program's requirements and stats condensed into the Applicant's Manual of Physician Assistant Programs (affiliate link). 

When it does come time to apply, make sure you get your applications in early. That's one of the best ways to ensure that your spot for an interview because most programs have rolling admissions. That means they look at applications as soon as they are complete and start giving out interviews and filling the class, even if it's before the deadline. On your application, and in your personal statement, it's important to show that even though you are a younger applicant, you are mature and ready to take on PA school. This will be important in the interview as well. 

Even if you feel like you've done all of these things, it's best to go into an application cycle planning to reapply. Keep working on every part of your application in the event that your first attempt is not successful. If you've put in the necessary work and you can successfully say that you meet the requirements of the programs you're applying to, be confident. There are definitely still plenty of students being accepted straight out of undergrad. If you decide to take a gap year, that's okay too! You've got to do what works best for you, and don't let others discourage your plans. 


Accepted!: Neda - Low Science GPA to PA Student

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Undergraduate education: California State University of Long Beach, major: Psychology 

Overall GPA: 3.30

Overall Non-science GPA: 3.36

Science GPA: 3.12

GRE: No GRE

Total HCE hours: 750 hours

Total PCE hours: 4040 hours as a medical assistant and physical therapy aide.

Shadowing hours: 80 - I have also shadowed an Orthopedic PA, Family Practice PA, and a dermatologist PA.

Other volunteer hours: 786

LORs: 3 total: I received letters of recommendation from a Family Practice PA (who I shadowed), professor, and a Podiatrist who I worked for as a medical assistant for two years.

How many times did you apply?:  one

Age: 29

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? 15

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 1 interview and was accepted.

Any red flags on your application? Definitely my GPA (YIKES). I didn’t have a D or F on my transcript, but I did have one C in Chemistry. Most of my science classes were B’s and I had some A’s. In my statement of purpose, I pointed out my weaknesses and during the interview the faculty members didn’t seem to be concerned, but I did have to explain how I have mentally and emotionally prepared for the rigorous few years of PA school (in my case 33 months). I explained that while I was taking my science classes I was working two jobs, shadowing PAs, and was involved in community service.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? My interview was designed as MMIs (multiple mini interviews), group interview and written portion. I listened to every YouTube video about PA interview tips and read every single page on AAPA website to have a good idea of the news that’s going on in the PA field. At the beginning of the MMIs I was very nervous, however after a few that I went through (total of 8), I felt more comfortable. Throughout the whole MMI process I did have to keep reminding myself that if I mess up on one I have to move on to the next with full confidence and not let that discourage me. The school that I interviewed at had a very relaxed interview environment and the faculty/staff members just wanted to get to know the true me and were not trying to trick me with their questions.

It’s very important to make sure that your answers are truthful and unique to you. Don’t memorize answers. Look up examples, but come up with your own answers. AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE your answers with someone to make sure you are confident.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process?

How to “Ace” the Physician Assistant School Interview – by Andrew J. Rodican (affiliate link)

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School - by Andrew J. Rodican (affiliate link)

Aapa.org

Youtube.com

PA Platform, PA Journey, The PA Life

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

I’ve been working hard on my prerequisites, community service, and working two jobs for the past 5 years (Since 2013). It can be discouraging at times and can be very hard, BUT don’t give up. All of your hard work will pay off. Keep moving forward, keep your head up and don’t let anything/anybody stop you from pursuing your goals and your dreams.

In your personal statement show who you really are. Be unique and don’t try to write what you think the reader wants to read – SHOW YOU, BE YOU.

Where can we find you?  I’m not in any social media but you can reach me at nedatahami@gmail.com


If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story in an Accepted! post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now. 

Q&A with a Paramedic

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After a recent post on Instagram, I connected with Mike, and he graciously offered to answer some questions and add his insights into being a paramedic. It's a great option for getting patient care hours for PA school, but there's a lot involved and I am certainly not an expert, so I'm happy to share his firsthand experience with you. I learned a ton from his responses! On a side note, Mike just got his first interview invite, so send him all of your good vibes. 


What steps does it take to become a paramedic?

Becoming a paramedic is certainly not an easy task, but if you are willing to put in the time, it is extremely rewarding. 

Step one: Become an EMT- Basic. Many people under value their time as EMT-Basics. People tend to want to jump straight into becoming a paramedic because you get to administer medications and perform all types of procedures. A common phrase you will hear in the EMS world is “you can’t have good ALS (advance life support) without good BLS (basic life support).” My time as an EMT Basic was essential in properly learning how to assess and determine if a patient was sick or not sick.

Step two: Find a good program and enroll. A great deal of programs will be run by community colleges (which keeps the cost down) and vary in length. Typically, it takes 12 months to complete the certification program or 2 years to complete the Associates degree. During this time, you will meet anywhere from 2-4 days a week during the day or night. My program met twice a week for 8 hours a day. Classes will run for a full year, including winter and summer. On average you will take between 15-18 credit hours a semester, but do not fear, the classes tend to piggy back off each other (i.e. Medical Emergencies and Pharmacology will be taught together). While in class, you will also be responsible for scheduling multiple ride-along shifts. This will be done during your free time and is required by all programs. Ride along shifts can be equated to clerkship time found in PA school. It is time for you to put into practice the skills you are learning. You will be required to perform a set number of assessments and practical skills to be check off by your preceptor. It may seem intimidating, but it is probably the most exciting part of class. 

Step three: Take the National Registry. The National Registry Exam is the national certification exam for paramedics that is accepted by almost all states. This is a two-part exam which consists of a practical portion and written exam. Each phase of the exam is usually taken on separate days and your program director will need to approve you to take the test. 

Step four: Find a job/state licensure. Once you have passed both the written and practical exams you will be a Nationally Registered paramedic, but that does not mean you can practice just yet. To be able to practice, you must be affiliated with an agency or hospital. As a paramedic your certification or license will need to be tied to a Physician/Medical Director. Being affiliated means that the agency recognizes you as a provider and the Physician/Medical Director approves you to operate under their license. Essentially, you need to have a job to practice. 

Side note: Most states accept national registry certification alone, but there are others that require Registry and state licensure. This will require you to take an additional state specific protocol test. 

If someone wants to become a paramedic, what is the first thing they should do?

The absolute first thing a person should do is become an EMT basic. If you are already an EMT-B, reach out to your local paramedic program and find out what their program requires for admission. Typical prerequisites for a paramedic program are Anatomy & Physiology, and basic English and Math. Some programs used to require a certain amount of experience as a EMT Basic. Programs are starting to shy away from this due to the shortage of providers. Check locally to find out.

What is the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?

In the field of EMS, there are multiple levels of care. The most basic level is called an EMT-B or Basic. This is what most people think of when they hear the word EMT. At the basic level, school typically is a couple months. What an EMT can do is usually determined by the state and or the Medical Director, but common practices are assessments, splinting, administration of low level medications (i.e. Tylenol, aspirin, glucose paste) and the assisting of already patient prescribed medications (i.e. nitroglycerin, albuterol inhaler). Again, this is a state/physician-based decision. A paramedic is typically the highest level of EMT care found out in the field. Paramedics carry a wide range of medications as well, and the portable monitor. Paramedics are trained to make differential diagnoses and follow protocols established by the medical director when treating patients. Paramedics can perform a wide range of skills such as; intubations, IVs/IO, Needle Decompression, Cardioversion, Defibrillation, Pacing etc. As a paramedic, I also carry a drug box and based on protocol and assessment, can administer a wide range of medications.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

I work in a fire-based EMS system in a major metropolitan area that borders the District of Columbia. That means my department is extremely busy! The best answer to this question would be there is no typical day. That is one of the exciting parts about being a paramedic. My department works a 24/72 schedule, meaning I work 24 hours on and then have 3 days off. Shift change is at 0700hrs, but it is customary to arrive at least 1 hour before. This ensures the crew coming off does not get stuck on a late call and gives you time to settle in and mentally prepare for the day. After dropping a pot of coffee, I head over to the Medic unit with my partner and begin our morning checks of the unit and equipment. During checks we replace any expired medications or damaged equipment, perform basic maintenance checks on the unit (oil, washer fluid, tire depth, lights, sirens), then finish up by ensuring the narcotics are locked up and signed over. 

Following morning checks we drink more coffee, have breakfast, and wait for the calls to start. On average my department as a whole, runs just under 500 calls a day. The average number of calls for a medic unit is around 8 a day. A long, detailed call will take me around 2 hours to complete and a simpler call can take as little as 30 minutes. 

How will your experience as a paramedic help you to become a PA?

I have heard that PA schools really value the patient care experience paramedics bring to the table. As a paramedic, you learn the basic steps to diagnosis and development of treatment plans. You also learn how to work as a team and think on the fly. I’d like to believe that PA school admissions respect the time and discipline it takes to become a Paramedic and believe that this will translate into your studies as a future PA. 

For me personally, when I think of this question, people will automatically assume the clinical aspect of being a paramedic is most important. While I do feel I have learned a lot clinically, I also have seen that there is so much I do not know. More importantly, my time as a paramedic has taught me life qualities that I believe will help me be successful in medicine and life. Here is my not so short list.

  • I have learned how to lead and how to follow. 
  • I have learned how to be humble and ask for help. 
  • I have gained confidence in myself and my decision making. 
  • I have learned how to work as a team
  • I have learned to do more with less and think on the fly
  • I have also learned the true meaning of empathy and compassion. 

What is the craziest thing you’ve seen?

In 2015, my partner and I were dispatched as the only advance life support unit to a single vehicle motorcycle accident in the parking lot of a strip mall. A rescue squad and a basic life support ambulance was dispatched with us to make a total of 7 providers. As we were approaching the scene, the officer on the rescue squad in a panicked voice asked for an alternate channel. When questioned why, the officer yelled to start an EMS Taskforce and give him the channel. A motorcycle attempted to run a red light when he was clipped by another vehicle. The motorcycle slid into a crowd of people including several children. There were multiple critical patients requiring advance life support intervention. My partner and I jumped off the rig and were directed by the basic crew to assess a young child that was fatally injured. I began to assess the patient and directed my partner to go quickly assess the condition of the other patients. Both my partner and I were brand new medics at the time (only 1 year of experience) just off our internship. Neither of us had experienced a mass casualty incident and as the highest level of care on scene, everyone was looking to us to make decisions. What a crazy and stressful experience. 

What is the hardest part of your job?

I think so far, other than very specific calls, the hardest part of my job has been telling someone that their mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter or friend has died. I feel that never gets any easier to say the words. I will never forget the first time I had to tell a mother their child had died. It will be an experience you will never forget. I think that is why it is important to find balance while working in medicine. Find a healthy way to relieve stress and let work go for a bit. 

Where can people find you?

People can find me on instagram @ mike_jeffe or on facebook. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about becoming a Paramedic or what it is like to be a paramedic. I will also be providing updates on my journey from EMT-P-PAC and updates of my application process.


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My name is Mike. I am a first-time applicant this year and currently in my last semester of undergrad. When complete, my degree will be a Bachelors of Science in Emergency Medical Care with an Administration focus. I have been working in emergency medicine for almost 8 years now. I first discovered medicine as a transporter in the hospital. I walked through the halls of the hospital, amazed by what I saw. I honestly felt like Harry Potter when he discovered the wizarding world. Everything was new and exciting to me. I was captivated by the amount of skill, knowledge, and selflessness that surrounded me. Over the years I worked my way from hospital transporter to EMT in the Emergency Department, finally landing in the fire department where I obtained my paramedic certification. I have been with the fire department for over 6 years, operating as a firefighter/paramedic for the last four.

Accepted: Gaby from @healthymode.pa

You may remember Gaby from Episode 35 of The Pre-PA Club Podcast. She has some great insights for getting into PA school with an international background. 


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Undergraduate education: B.S. Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University. Registered Dietitian (3 years), and Certified Diabetes Educator (1 year).

Overall GPA: 3.79

Science GPA: 3.69 (4.00 on my Post-Bacc classes, I had to re-take 2 physiology courses, psychology and microbiology with lab because I initially took these over 5-6 years ago. I also took Post-bacc medical terminology and ethics as pre-requisites for the programs I applied to)

GRE: 302 (151 verbal, 151 Quantitative, 4.0 writing)

Total HCE hours: 5866 hrs, as a Dietitian and Diabetes Educator for pregnant women with diabetes in the Maternal Fetal Medicine Department (High risk pregnancies)

Total PCE hours: 5704 hrs. (work experience, other volunteer opportunities as nutrition educator)

Shadowing hours: 47 hrs shadowing PAs (Emergency Dept. Urgent Care, OB Triage). 12 hrs shadowing an endocrinology MD

Other volunteer hours: 92 hrs 

LORs: 3. Physician Assistant, Nurse Manager (my supervisor for the past 3 years), Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine (my supervising physician for 2 years)

How many times did you apply?: 1

Age: 27 at the time of application 

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 2

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 1 rejection, 1 interview and was accepted to that program. 

Any red flags on your application? I submitted my applications to each school about 4 months apart. For the first school I submitted, where I was rejected, I did not have as many shadowing hours, had no volunteer experience over the past 2 years, and was not a member of any PA organizations. Once I received the rejection I made sure address these issues so my next application was better. I became a member of MAPA, found more shadowing and volunteering opportunities, and truly believe this helped me quite a bit.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? This may not necessarily be surprising, but I thought it was nice that there were 3-4 current students who the interviewees could speak with before going in to the interview with the faculty. The students were very nice and gave us a little insight as to how the actual interview is, and their perspective as current students, what they like or not about the program. Meeting the students before the interview, as well as other candidates, really helped me calm down and going in feeling more prepared. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? Yes! Books: "How to write your Physician Assistant personal Statement" by Stephen Pasquini PA-C, and "How to ACE the Physician Assistant School Interview" by Andrew J. Rodican PA-C. (Amazon affiliate links) I read them cover to cover and highly recommend both! Also, several social media accounts and YouTube videos by current students and PAs. I also submitted my personal statement to myPAresource for review, which was helpful to figure out what to include and what not.

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Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Research the schools you might be interested in, look at all of their pre-requisites and minimum requirements and compare what you have, also compare your stats to their current class' stats. Then, apply to the schools you know you fully meet the requirements. The application process can be very expensive, and I personally think that it is better to apply when, and where you know you have great chances. I don't believe in "I'll apply this year just to test the waters". If you don't think or feel you are ready to apply yet, maybe wait, and make sure you do everything to better your profile as an applicant. Schools have application deadlines almost all year round, so if you get a rejection from one, then try to fix what you can so the next you submit is better. This is actually what I think helped me. I got rejected in October and submitted the second application in December - I had 3 months to do more shadowing and volunteering, and singed up for AAPA and the state chapter. I felt like I improved my application and had better chances. 

Where can we find you? Instagram: @HealthyMode.PA YouTube: HealthyMode


If you've recently been accepted to PA school and would like to share your story and advice with other PA hopefuls, shoot me an e-mail to savanna@thePAplatform.com 

What is the Easiest PA School to Get Into?

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Alright, I’m going to be honest. There is no physician assistant program that is “easy” to get into. This is a question I’m asked almost daily, and I understand why. Not to be harsh, but I want to discuss what is necessary for gaining admission into a PA program so you can have realistic goals. After researching the PA profession, most people agree that it’s a great career for someone who wants to work directly with patients and have the responsibility of diagnosing and treating without going to medical school. It makes sense that any hopeful PA would want to get out in the field as quickly as possible, but there are some common roadblocks to consider before just applying. 

Getting into PA school is very competitive. It’s becoming more popular every year, which means more applicants. And not just any anyone, but more qualified applicants. The first roadblock to overcome is just meeting the admission requirements of a PA program. This includes taking necessary coursework (and doing well), gaining patient care experience, shadowing, volunteering, and obtaining letters of recommendation. These requirements are non-negotiable and there is no “wiggle room.” Part of the accreditation process for PA schools requires adherence to certain admissions parameters to maintain the quality of the program. It gets tricky because each school has their own specifics to consider. Think of each requirement as a checkbox for you to fulfill, and if you can’t mark something off as complete or in progress (if allowed), don’t waste your time applying. Schools have to narrow the playing field by removing applicants who are not qualified, so the easiest way is to weed out the applications that don’t meet the most basic of requirements. If you check out the Files in The Pre-PA Club Facebook group, there’s a great template for recording what you need for each school. 

What does this mean for you? You can’t assume a course or experience meets a requirement if it’s not exactly what they ask for. A good example is statistics, which is required for almost all PA programs. Some programs are flexible and willing to accept a variety of statistics courses, from intro to statistics to biostatistics to statistics for behavioral science. Other programs are strict and will only accept an intro course within the math department. It’s so important to take the time to meet the exact prerequisites of a program so you don’t waste your time or money. Patient care experience is another example. I get asked frequently whether a certain type of position will “count” as hours, and while I can give you my opinion based on your job description, it’s ultimately up to each program to decide. Some schools think scribing is great PCE and for others it is HCE. 

Beyond making sure you can “check the boxes,” just meeting the minimums is not the best mindset to have. You need to make your application as strong as possible and keep working to make yourself more competitive until you’re accepted. Don’t give up and think you’re smooth sailing after you click submit. It’s a good idea to go into PA school applications with the mindset of having to reapply. Evaluate your application and see what areas are weak and continue working on them. If it’s GPA, take more classes. If you’re lacking hours, look for another position or get additional certifications. 

GPA seems to be the most difficult minimum to achieve. 3.0 tends to be the magic number for hitting the requirement and getting your application evaluated, but keep in mind this is the minimum. The average GPA of a class of accepted PA students tends to be around 3.5 or higher, and even programs touting a “no minimum” requirement will have these numbers because they get more applications. GPA is tough because it’s much easier to lower it than raise it. (If you want to try to calculate your GPA, check out this post.) Essentially, you start with a 4.0, and the only way it can go is down. Schools put so much weight on GPA because academic performance has been found to be the best predictor of whether a student will be able to complete PA school successfully based on the PAEA’s Annual Reports. While it’s frustrating that mistakes from years ago may follow you into your PA school applications, it’s an unfortunate reality. 

I don’t want this post to be completely discouraging, so keep in mind that there are students who go through many application cycles, continue working on their application for years, and eventually gain acceptance. Aaron and Jazmine are great examples of students who got bad news, worked hard, and were successful in gaining admittance. When looking for the schools that will be the easiest for YOU to get into, make sure you’re meeting all of the requirements. If you’re unsure, reach out to the program and ask. And the more specific the requirements of a program, the more likely your chances of acceptance. Don't give up, and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you would like some guidance on making yourself a competitive applicant, consider a Pre-PA Assessment

What is the most difficult part of your PA school journey?