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What you should do to ensure that you can get into a PA program
In the last several years as the demand for physician assistants has increased, so has competition for entry into PA programs. Many PA programs are now faced with the daunting task of choosing a handful among many qualified applicants. In this competitive landscape, how do you ensure that you are competitive enough? Below we outline a list of five key steps you should take to make sure that you are considered competitive in the eye of PA school admissions committees:
1) Do well in academics: Because PA school is academically challenging and competition is intense, getting accepted requires doing well academically. This means achieving a good science GPA as well as a good overall GPA. It is especially important to perform well in the prerequisite courses for PA school. Although these prerequisites vary from school to school, most schools require 1-2 courses in biology (often genetics and microbiology), 1 year of chemistry, 1 semester of biochemistry, anatomy and physiology. Many schools also require additional courses in mathematics and the humanities such as psychology and English. To get an academic edge among applicants, it may help to take additional science/medical courses such as pharmacology, pathology, or medical terminology. Although minimum GPA requirements for schools may be as low as 2.5 – 2.75, competitive applicants generally have higher GPAs (3.3 or above).
2) Gain hands-on clinical experience: PA schools emphasize hands on clinical experience and many schools require it. This includes any experience in which you are involved in patient care and playing an active role in treating the ill. There are many different opportunities through which you could gain hands-on clinical experience. The include serving as a phlebotomist, paramedic/emergency medical technician, certified nursing assistant (CNA) or medical assistant. In our experience, many students choose to serve as CNAs or medical assistants to complete this requirement. It is important to recognize that short spurts of experience are not nearly as valuable as consistent long-term experience. Many successful applicants have more than a thousand hours of hands-on clinical experience by the time they matriculate.
3) Shadow a PA: Beyond hand-on clinical experience, shadowing a PA helps demonstrate that you have gained direct exposure to this field and you know what being a PA is all about. Many schools favor applicants who have taken time to shadow a PA.
4) Show commitment to the underserved: Applicants who gain clinical experience by working with underserved communities are very impressive to PA schools. For example, if you have served as a medical assistant at a free clinic or shadowed a PA in an emergency room in a county hospital in an inner city, you will look very impressive to PA schools. In today’s healthcare system, PAs are frequently relied upon to address the health needs of underserved communities. Working with underserved communities shows a commitment to the undeserved.
5) Focus your clinical experience on primary care: Avoid gaining clinical experience in exotic medical specialties like dermatology or plastic surgery. Instead, seek experiences that give you exposure to common medical problems. Working in primary care, you will be involved in the care of patients with common problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and asthma. This type of exposure is more representative of what you would see in PA school than working in a highly specialized area of medicine. While you have the opportunity to specialize as a PA and focus on an are of interest, many PA school emphasize primary care and seek applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to this area.
For more information and assistance on getting accepted into PA school, call us at 1-888-839-9997 or visit www.admissionshelpers.com
PA School Admissions Tutorial Part 1
PA School Admissions Tutorial Part 2