What Does it Take to Get into PA School?
Experts Provide Advice for Pre-PA Students
April 26, 2019
By Divya Williams
Want to know how to get into PA School? Pre-PA students heard from PAs Brian Palm and Savanna Perry in a one-hour webinar on how to be a competitive applicant. Palm, the founder of myPAresource, and Perry, founder of The PA Platform, both created programs to fill gaps they identified when applying to PA school themselves.
“Once I graduated, I felt like there was just a lack of information for all of the other pre-PA students out there. So, I created a website,” Perry shared. In the members-only webinar, Accepted: The Secrets to a Successful PA School Application, Palm and Perry share the wealth of knowledge they’ve gained from helping pre-PA students get into PA school.
The first tip shared by Palm and Perry is to apply early. Some programs have rolling admissions, which means applications will be evaluated in the order they’re received. This alone can increase your chances of securing a seat, if more seats are available when you apply. “We don’t really like to talk about the competitive side of things, but it’s competitive,” Perry stressed. “What is early? I used to say August, September, but now I’m saying shoot for May or June,” she said of applying to fall programs. AAPA members can use this application timeline and checklist to keep track of all the moving pieces.
GPA and GRE
“Any Pre-PA I talk to is always nervous about their GPA because they want to know how they stack up to other students,” Palm shared. Most PA programs have a minimum overall GPA requirement and a minimum science GPA requirement between 2.75 and 3.2. These are non-negotiable. “If the school you’re applying to has a minimum of 3.2 and you have a 3.19, your application won’t even be considered.”
Regarding the GRE, Perry says to shoot for a minimum combined score of verbal and quantitative of 300 and work to make it into the top 50th percentile in each section. “The nice thing about this test is that you can retake it. If you don’t get the score you need, this is an area of your application that you can improve,” Perry said.
Explaining your experience
Palm and Perry cover describing your healthcare experience and patient care experience. “When we’re talking about writing a successful CASPA application and making yourself stand out, use those experience details. That is like a mini personal statement. Don’t waste that space,” Perry encouraged. “Instead of just listing out roles and responsibilities like, ‘took vitals, entered patient history,’ tell me what you learned there.”
Palm and Perry recommend getting 100 shadowing hours across two different specialties or settings. “You want to get as many broad experiences as possible, especially before you apply or are accepted to school. If you are a medical assistant in an internal medicine office and that’s all you know, you don’t know what it’s like in the OR or in the emergency room or in urgent care. You need those different experiences,” Palm said. A lack of shadowing hours is one factor that may be a red flag to someone reviewing your application. “That’s why these schools recommend that you shadow for a certain number of hours, because they want to make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Crafting a compelling personal statement
“I’m really fond of personal statements,” Palm said. “Personal statements help people communicate why they want to be a PA, their journey from their first interest in medicine, and how it progressed to becoming a PA.”
Palm had specific advice for reapplicants when writing personal statements. “Make them feel like you are serious about this,” he encouraged. “That you are committed, you know you want to be a PA, and this is why, because I’ve done this, this, this, and this since the last time I applied to make myself more competitive because I really want this.”
What makes a successful interview?
As the final stage of the admissions process, Perry stressed the significance of leaving a lasting impression with your interview. “The personal statement gets you the interview. The interview is what gets you accepted.” Similar to submitting your application, the earlier you start preparing for your interview, the better. “Start preparing for your interview the day you submit your application,” encouraged Perry. “You don’t know how much notice you’ll get.”
Perry recommends practicing out loud – she has a list of top interview questions on her blog. The PA School Interview Guide and mock interviews with The PA Platform are other useful tools, which you can get at discounted rates if you’re an AAPA member. “If you get to the interview, that means they’re interested in you,” Perry said. “They want to learn more about you, and you need to be able to talk about what makes you unique.”
Pre-PA with AAPA
Palm pointed out that having memberships on your application could potentially give applicants an edge. Listing your memberships with any local or national PA organization could be a benefit. “You’re showing schools that you’re serious about this. You’ve been serious about becoming a PA since year X.”
AAPA pre-PA members receive exclusive member discounts on helpful tools to help them stay ahead of the curve on deadlines, interviews, applications, and more. Find out more about what a pre-PA membership with AAPA includes. Members can also watch the full webinar for free here.