Physician Assistant School - Application
Each PA school has specific application/deadline submission dates which are noted on individual websites. CASPA is the centralized application service that many PA schools use, however not all PA programs participate in CASPA. A current list of participating PA schools is on the CASPA website). It is important for you to know the deadline dates for the schools/programs that you plan to apply to as well as any requirements needed.
Many PA programs have minimum healthcare experience requirements as part of their application process, so gaining experience by engaging in direct patient contact through working, internships, volunteering and shadowing will be key to one’s acceptance at a competitive program. Additionally knowledge of a foreign language and multicultural competence is expected for many PA schools.
Most PA schools require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). See the ETS website for more information on preparing for and taking the GRE). Test scores need to be sent directly to the schools you apply to by their deadline. Most schools will not accept test scores older than 5 years at the time of application.
Letters of recommendation are critical. Letter requirements vary from school to school but generally, two to three letters of recommendation are required. Students can find specific LOR requirements on the PAEA’s Online Physician Assistant Programs Directory. Most schools require letters from professional references who are acquainted with the applicant’s academic, work and volunteer experience. In general it is also wise to obtain a letter from a PA who can speak to your interests and knowledge of the healthcare field. Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you are submitting the correct letters for each school you apply.
You can influence the quality of your letter by providing your letter writer with useful information that will aid them in preparing your letter: a copy of your transcripts, your resume, a copy of your personal statement discussing why you want to be a PA. You should plan on meeting with you letter writers to discuss the letter they will write you.
Electronic letters are strongly preferred by individual PA programs as well as CASPA. Follow the instructions on individual application websites regarding what you need to do as well as how your writers can upload your letters. Read more tips and resources for how to obtain strong letters of recommendation.
A written personal essay is required in the admission process. In your statement, plan on addressing why you selected PA as your career. The statement is an important aspect of the application and should receive careful attention. This is your opportunity to discuss how your relevant personal background and interests, education, and experiences have led you to select an education in the PA field. Take time to review and rewrite your statement as many times as needed. Select individuals who know you well to either personally or professionally to read your statement and provide you feedback. There are various character limits for statements; however CASPA has a 5000 character limit including spaces. Also refer to individual school application sites that don't participate in CASPA for complete details regarding their statement requirements.
Not all PA schools interview candidates. In many cases interviews are offered only to competitive applicants at PA programs. Other schools may require you to interview as the next step in the admission process. Interviews will vary from school to school. You may be interviewed by a faculty member or practicing PA. Your interview may be just you or you may be part of a group. When you are offered an interview, it is important that you research the type of interview each school conducts so that you can best prepare yourself.
The interview helps the school get to know you better. Like a job interview, schools are looking at you from a professional point of view. You may be asked questions regarding your accomplishments, why you selected physician assistant, your educational and experiential background, your communication skills, how you cope with change, stress or conflict, and your decision making and problem solving skills. Prior to your interview, take time to review your application, research the school and practice your interviewing.
Interviewing for Health Professions offers some tips and suggestions to help you prepare for your interviews.