This can be one of the hardest questions any pre-PA student has to answer. Applying is a HUGE undertaking, and it can be stressful to know whether or not you’re as prepared as you need to be.
Okay, the very first thing you need to do when deciding if you want to apply this cycle is to make a profile for yourself.
Start out with the objective facts: what your GPA is, GRE scores, how many patient contact hours you have and what you did, what classes you have taken (stick to listing the “main” prerequisite classes most schools require – you can see a list of them of the FAQs page – and other science classes) and the grade, and what certifications you have.
Next move on to the subjective parts of your application: who you think will write your LoR, what your goals are or what you will write your personal statement on, and other things that aren’t set in stone (aka things you are planning on doing)
Step 2: look at the schools you’re interested in. You need to get some information down about the programs requirements to know if you’re ready to apply of not. I know a lot of people make a spread sheet of this information, personally I used a spiral notebook and each program got their own page. That way I wasn’t looking at this super long spread sheet, and I just felt like it was more organized in my mind. Whatever you do, come up with a system and write it down in a way you’ll be able to understand when you look back later. Things to look at are:
- CASPA due date
- Supplemental due date and cost
- Prerequisite Classes required
- GPA requirements (science and general)
- GRE – is it required? What score is needed?
- also write down the GRE code for the school. They can be different than the general school’s code and you don’t want to scramble for this later
- Patient contact hours
- Letters of Recommendation (i.e. who needs to write them)
- What the profile of their current class looks like
Which leads me to….
Hard cutoffs versus “Recommended”
Some schools have a hard cutoff in regards to a part of the application, this could be number of hours you have at the time of application, the GRE score, or your GPA. These cutoffs mean that if you are below the required, your application will NOT be looked at. You’ll often see the word “must” on the school’s website – that’s how you’ll know its a hard cutoff. For example,
1,000 hours of direct patient care experience is required. These hours must be completed at the time the application is submitted.
Applicants must have a minimum score of 153 on the verbal, 144 on the quantitative, and 3.5 on the analytical writing components of the GRE.
Recommended cutoffs are a little more pliable. For instance, you all should know by now to shoot for at least the 50th percentile for the verbal and quantitative sections and over a 300 total score on the GRE. Another common recommendation is patient contact hours or volunteer work. GPA tends to more commonly be a hard cutoff for schools.
Here is an example of a recommended cutoff:
Although there is no minimum direct patient care requirement, applicants are encouraged to complete one year (2000 hours) Direct Patient Care(DPC) experience before their intended matriculation.*
Best thing to do to figure this out is to check the website of the schools you want to apply to so that you can determine what is a hard cutoff and what is just a recommended.
Step 3: Now that you’ve gotten all of this information done, mark what you have and what you don’t have.
This is SO IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO DO. The very best way for you to decide if you’re ready to apply is to look and see if you have all of the requirements. Start with the “must haves” first, before moving on to the suggested requirements of the program. Look at where you fall in the current class’ profile (normally this is a range or an average, so look to see if you are above or below). Be honest and don’t try to make yourself out to look better than you are – you want to be able to make the best decision about whether you should apply, and the only way to do this is to be honest. You’re going to do this for every single school you are considering applying to.
Consider having someone else look at your stats versus the school’s requirements. This second opinion (which you should try to find a non-biased person), will be kind of like an admissions member looking at you.
Step 4: Consider your finances. Applying to PA school is EXPENSIVE. Going to PA school is expensive. This post has a breakdown of my costs during applying. Look at it before you make the decision on whether you want to apply. If it’s not feasible for you to spend $500- $1000, consider taking an additional year to save money and strengthen your application before applying. Completing an application is not a guarantee that you will get into a school – and you don’t want applying to PA school to hurt your life in a monetary way that may inhibit you from reapplying.
Hopefully, this gave you some steps in the right direction for making a decision on whether or not you should apply. Comment below to let me know where you’ll be applying to, and how you came to the decision that this CASPA cycle was the right one for you! I would love to be there to cheer you on during this experience.
If you still are on the fence about whether you should apply after reading this, let me know what you’re concerned about and I would be happy to help! I just ask that you’ve completed steps 1-3 for me so I can better form an opinion. Or that you have a specific question (like is it bad I still have prerequisite classes to complete).
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