Physician assistant programs are notoriously competitive. Some PA programs have acceptance rates in the single digits making it seem nearly impossible to get in. But, with some planning ahead and careful attention to qualities that matter to admissions faculty, you can increase your chances of being accepted to a physician assistant program. Which aspects of your application are the most important to work on?
1. It’s All About Grades
Most PA programs require applicants to have a certain GPA. For most schools, this GPA requirement ranges from 3.0 to 3.5. The higher the GPA you can achieve, the better your chances of acceptance to a physician assistant program. While GPA is important, avoid the temptation to water down your schedule to elevate your grades. PA programs also give priority to students with a background in science meaning enrolling in challenging courses is a must. If you didn’t achieve as high of a GPA as you would have liked in your undergraduate education, retaking a few courses will help give your GPA a boost while also showing admissions staff you have a renewed commitment to your education.
2. Ace the GRE
Many physician assistant programs require applicants to take the GRE as part of their application. The GRE is an opportunity to show the PA program of your dreams your smarts. While it can seem nearly impossible to study for standardized tests, GRE study books go a long way in helping students prepare for this exam. Start working on your writing skills, memorizing vocabulary words and refreshing your math know how. There are predictable topics you can expect to be covered on the GRE. Know these topics, tips and tricks so you can maximize your GRE performance.
3. Get Quality Medical Work Experience
Physician assistant programs prefer, and most require, that students have hands on medical experience before beginning their PA education. This experience shows admissions faculty that students are committed to the medical profession and provides a foundation for what you will learn in your PA program. Some schools require that students have as many as 2,000 hours of medical experience before applying. So, get to work! Unfortunately, working in a non-clinical role, such as medical billing, does not count as clinical experience. Start getting the certifications you need to work with patients in a role such as an EMT or paramedic so you will have sufficient hands-on medical experience when it comes time to submit your PA program application.
4. Apply to Multiple PA Programs
Applying to more than one physician assistant program can significantly increase your chances of acceptance. Considering multiple PA programs can be difficult as this may require you to relocate for your physician assistant education. If you are having trouble getting in to a PA program locally, expanding your search nationally can significantly improve your chances of admission.
5. Understand the Role of a Physician Assistant
Nearly all physician assistant programs require students to interview as part of the application process. During this interview, admissions faculty assess your knowledge of the physician assistant profession. They want to make sure you know what you are getting into with a PA career. Job shadowing a physician assistant before your interview will be helpful in giving you an in depth understanding of the physician assistant role.
6. Prepare for Your Admission Interview
Come to your admissions interview prepared with a few questions to ask admissions faculty. Anticipate the questions you will be asked in the interview and prepare appropriate responses for these questions as well. Even if you can’t anticipate the exact questions you will be asked in an interview, your practiced responses will likely lend themselves, at least in part, to many questions.
7. Pay Attention to Detail
Poorly written admission essays, negative letters of recommendation and a sloppy overall application completely tank your chances of acceptance into a PA program. Spend time crafting your essays to perfection. Ask friends and family members to look over your application packet offering suggestions for improvement. Your PA program application must be flawless; this is the first impression of you that admissions faculty will see.
Are you applying to a physician assistant program this year? What problems have you encountered so far in the admissions process?
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