To all of you Pre-PA students who are getting ready for the CASPA opening, fret no more. Here is everything that helped me apply with ease!!
First off, here are my stats:
Science GPA 3.30
Patient Care hours: 2500
Shadowing Hours: 500
Applied: 14 schools
Patient Care Experience
If you are thinking of applying to PA school there is one thing you definitely need on your application... patient care experience!!! This can be a range of experiences, from being an EMT, Nurse, Medical Assistant, Scribe, CNA, Tech, etc. I recommend starting to accumulate hours during sophomore/junior year of college or 2-3 years before applying. These hours do 2 things: 1. they allow you to really get to experience the patient experience within a healthcare setting and it allows you to explore fields and specialties you may consider working in once you are a real-life PA. 2. It allows you to really boost your resume! If your GPA isn't the hottest these hours can really help you! The more hours, the better your resume looks. I really recommend getting at least 500 patient care hours! I was asked if I thought the type of experience had more weight than others and I will say this if you can get your hands dirty, do it! Meaning, if you can assist in procedures, help bandage, or help clean, do it! It will make your patient care hours look more fulfilling and impactful. However, the specific type of experience you get doesn't better or worsen your chance of acceptance.
Pro Tip: Create a spreadsheet of all the days your work or volunteer to make sure you don't have to scramble to calculate the hours once it comes to application time!
Speaking of GPA, let me start off by saying it doesn't define you and it is only one element of your application. As you can see from my GPA, it wasn't amazing. I would try to shoot for a 3.4 total GPA and a 3.2 science GPA. If you can take the hard classes at a community college, do it! This doesn't mean take ALL your science classes at one, however, pick and choose 2-3 classes and prevent that GPA from plummeting too much!
If you need help calculating your GPA, here are great links I used. Make sure to average out your pluses and minuses as CASPA does weigh these differently. Use https://help.liaisonedu.com/CASPA_Applicant_Help_Center/Submitting_and_Monitoring_Your_CASPA_Application/Verification_and_GPA_Calculations_for_CASPA/CASPA_Grade_Value_Charts this link to see the correct numerical value for your grade form the CASPA site itself!
After you do that, fill in this sheet to get your complete GPA calculation. https://spreadsheetpage.com/study/cumulative-gpa-calculator/
Pro Tip: Even if your school doesn't use +/- grade point averages, CASPA does! Beware of this before you apply to know exactly where you stand.
I am not completely sure how many schools are still requiring GRE or TOEFL, However, with little to no knowledge of TOEFL, I'll stick to what I do know, the GRE. As long as you get a 300, you're set! As you can see I got a 301 and didn't try again! If you're trying to improve your application, I don't believe this is where you should be focusing, unless you're under that 300 mark! I used Kaplan's study book and really made sure to go through the ENTIRE book and secure my understanding of the math and reading that it has to offer. I would stay on a section until I really grasped that idea. I did this 3 months before taking the GRE and did a lot of studying after work and on weekends!
Kaplan Study book: https://www.amazon.com/Practice-Questions-Online-Question-Tutorials/dp/1506282032/ref=asc_df_1506282032/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=582093279989&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8669768445744493782&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9026910&hvtargid=pla-1642920387510&psc=1
What Schools to Apply to
Using this list: https://www.thepalife.com/pa-program-picker/ I downloaded it to Excel and highlighted all schools my stats fit in with in green. This was the first step to narrowing down what programs I would later apply to. I then went through the green highlighted programs and saw what schools I had a great interest in attending. Of those, I picked 12 that I would love to attend. I then picked 6 more schools that I thought I had a decent chance of getting in at. These numbers will change depending on how many programs you are willing to apply to and if you are willing to change states! After doing this, you know exactly what schools to apply to come to CASPA opening!
The personal statement was the hardest aspect of the application process for me. I am in no way a writer (despite starting this blog) and I had no idea where to start. I actually went on the Pre-PA subreddit and searched for personal statement tips. This is where I found a nice enough person to send me their personal statement and pretty much encouraged me to copy their outline. The personal statement is all about engagement and relating to the physician assistant position. I encourage you to take something you are good at and relate it to why it will help you be a great PA.
So please, use my draft and copy my outline of how I wrote it. (Heads up, this is the cheesiest essay you will ever read. However, I actually got complimented during on of my interviews, so the cheese works!) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uzqeO5m0MKr8qAQkvn22GiSJpPa-M7-hRbiJwmF8bXs/edit?usp=sharing
Pro Tip: DUMB IT DOWN!!! This essay should not be scholarly or complex in any way. The programs get 5000+ essays, they don't want to read complexity. They want the facts as fast and engaging as you can get to them! This may be counterintuitive, but trust me on it! 2 sites I used were Hemingway Editor and Grammarly. Hemingway Editor goes line by line and describes the complexity of that given sentence. I encourage you to make your essay around a grade 6 reading level. Grammarly allowed for edit suggestions and grammar check, and we all know I needed that!
You can find these sites here:
Pro Tip: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use Physician's Assistant. The apostrophe is offensive and you will immediately get your app thrown away for no knowledge that PAs are NOT someone's property or an assistant. Use Physicians Assistant.
Gather the Materials
Prior to CASPA opening day, you need to gather your transcripts, standardized test scores, and who will write your letter of recs. You want to have this all nice and neat so come game time you are ready!
Pro Tip: I think one of the only reasons I was as successful as I was is because I applied to all schools within the first month or two of opening. That meant that everything was submitted by June. The earlier you apply the more likely your chances are! Get everything ready so you can apply as fast as you can!
What Comes Next
Now that you have applied, what comes next? SUPPLEMENTAL ESSAYs. I don't know if I didn't do my research or if I was just oblivious, but I didn't realize how many and how intricate supplemental essays would be. For those of you who were like me and didn't know a thing about supplemental essays let me break it down for you. After you apply to CASPA and all your apps are in most schools will do 1 of 2 things: 1. reject you, 2. Send you a supplemental essay. These were essay prompts that require a paragraph to a page response. Some schools gave you one prompt and some gave you... three. It was exhausting for a non-writer like I am. I highly recommend you create a word document for each prompt and try to knock out one-two prompts a night to get your essays in ASAP!
I actually had applied to 18 schools in CASPA, however, come supplemental essays 4 of those schools sent prompts that were long and time-consuming so I actually backed out on applying to them. Therefore, only going through 14 of the 18 apps.
After these applications are in, go get a drink! You have officially applied to PA school. May the odds be ever in your favor!!
**if you have any other questions, comment below and I'd be happy to answer!**