Prep Materials & Application Process
Below is a rough timeline for preparing your application to physician assistant school.
Fall Semester Before You Apply:
1. Research Physican Assistant Schools.
The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) manages a Physician Assistant Program Directory.
Candidates should research the academic rigor of a program, the clinical experience offered, and the availability of faculty and support services. Of course, the cost of the program, availability of financial aid, and the location and environment of the college can be contributing factors in deciding which program is best suited to the candidate. Deciding on a program that best fits the applicant’s needs is a very personal process. All schools produce graduates who are competent and capable of providing quality medical care. The applicant must decide what values are personally important and then use those as a basis for evaluating the various programs.
Some factors to consider:
What is the focus of the physician assistant school’s training and does it match the applicant’s interests and needs? Clinical opportunities? Research opportunities? Specialty training? Qualifications of teaching faculty? Qualifications of clinical faculty?
What is the structure of the curriculum in terms of what is taught and when? How early does the student see patients? Opportunity for electives? Externships? Community service? Part-time work?
What academic resources are available to students? Faculty availability? Numbers and diversity of patients? Community settings?
What services are available to students? Tutoring? Peer advising? Student government? Stress counseling? Housing? Medical care? Parking? Extracurricular activities?
Where is the school located? Is a rural or urban setting more desirable? Cultural or sports availability?
2. Review the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) website.
The PAEA website provides a wealth of information to help you research PA schools, learn about the profession, and to apply to multiple PA schools via CASPA, the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants.
3. Make a list of your activities.
Activities may include: employment, internships, volunteer, etc., outside of class, in addition to: hours, dates, locations, contacts; and your role and what you learned
4. Identify possible faculty for letters of recommendation.
Spring Semester Before You Apply:
1. Check to see if your school(s) requires the Graduate Records Exam (GRE).
Some physician assistant schools require the GRE. If your school requires the GRE, begin studying for the exam.
The GRE consists of the following:
- Verbal Reasoning: measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.
- Quantitative reasoning: measures problem-solving ability using basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
- Analytical Writing: measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.
For detailed information about the GRE Exam, go to the GRE website:
- Test dates and test centers
- Test preparation/study guides
- Register for the GRE exam
2. Write a personal statement.
For tips or assistance on writing your application essay, or to have your personal statement critiqued, please make an appointment with a career counselor in the Career Center.
3. Request letters of recommendation.
Schools vary in their letter of recommendation requirements. Please check with individual schools. Most will generally require 2-3 letters from science faculty (Biology, Chemistry, and/or Physics), and 1 non-academic letter.
Summer That You Apply:
1. Complete the CASPA, the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). (Online application services open in June)
Each physician assistant school may require additional materials, including supplemental applications and letters of recommendation, before your application is considered.
The centralized application includes:
- Biographical Information
- Colleges and universities attended
- Academic course history
- Personal Statement
- Work & Volunteer Experiences
- Extracurricular activities
- Letters of Recommendation (must be electronically submitted to CASPA)
2. Complete school-specific secondaries or supplemental application.
Some physician assistant schools require a secondary application unique to each school. For information about secondary applications, check individual schools or programs in the Physician Assistant Program Directory.
3. Interview Preparation.
Applicant finalists will be asked to participate in interviews. For help preparing for interviews, please make an appointment with a career counselor in the Career Center.