Applying to PA school is stressful, overwhelming, and incredibly scary! It feels like there are a million people out there fighting for that spot in a program, and it’s so hard not to compare yourself to others. Every time you check the PA forum or go on Facebook, you see a horror story of someone who is so impressive and didn’t get in. Or, you look through stats and feel like you fall short compared to everyone. All you want is to get interviews and get into school, and you don’t feel like you’re going to be able to achieve that dream.
CASPA is one of the most important parts of your application. It’s the first thing a school sees from you, and its how they judge what kind of applicant you are. Together with your scores and supplemental application, it determines whether or not you get one of those coveted interview spots. You want to make sure that you put your best foot out there for the school’s to see.
Here are my Top 5 Tips for a Successful CASPA Application!
#1: Proofread, proofread, proofread
This is one of the easiest things that you can do to ensure that you get off on the best foot with an admission’s committee! If the grammar and spelling in your application isn’t correct, chances are the reviewer isn’t going to want to spend their time going through your application. So you need to make sure you take the time to go through every part of your application to make sure you present yourself in the best way possible. I can tell you that when I get emails asking for my advice on something, and I spend more time trying to decode their grammar to understand what they’re trying to say than considering their question, it makes it challenging for me to give them the best answer. Imagine that happening with an admissions advisor.
Consider having someone else read through your application to make sure it makes sense. Double and triple check all of those hours are correct. I made an error with the amount of hours I had, and it was the most embarrassing thing that happened during my application. I spent weeks worrying about whether that simple mistake would break my application and make it so that I didn’t get an interview. Save yourself that stress and do it right from the very beginning.
#2: Be detailed
I cannot stress how important this is! The amount of detail you put into your experiences is going to help the school determine whether or not they count it as Patient Contact Experience or Healthcare Experience. You need to put all of your responsibilities for the experience in the “description/key responsibilities” box. There’s two different options on how you can do this: paragraph form or bullet points. I personally like bullet points because it allows you to add in more detail and have less extraneous sentences for paragraph flow. Additionally, you should use “action” words. Think of it like a resume, you want to fully emphasize the importance of what you are doing as concisely as possible. Where you great at helping nurses even beyond the tasks of a normal CNA? Did you train new employees? Did you change the way something was done at work? Ask yourself what made you stand out as an employee (or volunteer) and make sure to include it!
Adding details is also important if you’re on the fence as to whether to include something as an experience or achievement. It’s almost like you can use adding more detail as a way of arguing that something is important for the admission’s committee to know.
#3: Stay organized
Not every school you apply to is going to have the same due date, and not every school is going to have the same kind of due date. Make a calendar so you can be sure you submit on time. There are a ton of other things to consider as well. What kind of prerequisites do you need for each school? What are the grades needed? Does the school have additional paperwork to fill out on CASPA (like essays, submitting documents, etc)? Do you need to send transcripts directly to the school? Is the GRE required? Do you have to have CASPA submitted before you get an email with the supplemental application? You need to know this kind of stuff forwards and backwards. If your CASPA doesn’t meet all of these requirements, the school probably won’t fully look through your application. So you want to make sure you have all the pieces so that you don’t waste any money applying. Or, you don’t want to spend time putting your application together only to later discover you don’t have all the requirements. Best way to do this is to make sure you stay organized and on top of your application. I suggest making a chart or a checklist to ensure you complete everything. I used a checklist because it gave me a feeling of accomplishment every time I marked something off! And I could compile all of my checklists for different schools together in a binder.
#4: Submit when you’re ready
One of the most heard of tips for applying to PA school is to apply early, and while I think this should be something you consider, it is NOT the most important thing. If your application isn’t ready, don’t submit just to say that you got it in early. If you don’t have those 1000 hours, wait the time it will take you to get them. If you feel like your personal statement needs another draft (or 5), take the time to do it properly. You only get to submit CASPA once! Once you submit to a school, certain aspects of the entire CASPA application become un-editable for other schools you may be applying to. So make sure your application is 100% before you submit to even one school. This in part goes back to making sure your proofread your application!
I submitted to a couple of schools right before their due dates and still got interviews! Clearly this means that submitting early is not the most important part of an application.
Caveat: it is important to submit to Rolling-Addmission schools earlier rather than later. So you do need to walk a fine line between submitting too early or editing your application too many times and thus submitting too late.
#5: Show your passion
One of the pieces of advice that stuck out the most to me during the time I was applying came from a Duke PA program advisor. She told me that one of the biggest things I could do to set myself apart from others was to have a passion and stick to it. Use this for your application, both in the personal statement and as you fill out experiences and awards/honors. Even if something is not medically related, consider putting it in your application if it shows that you have a passion for something. So many of us are outstanding students and do all sorts of medical volunteering, but who are you outside of those things?
I personally love children. I worked as a lifeguard for 5 years, I volunteered to teach swim lessons to underprivileged children, I volunteered at a gymnastics camp for children with physical and cognitive disabilities, and I tutored. None of that was necessarily medically related, but all of those pieces made up the kind of person I was. And I got asked about some of these experiences during my interviews. I think it made me a little more real and well-rounded, both of which could only help me stand out.
Remember that while CASPA seems so important, it’s only the first piece of applying to PA school. Having a successful application will get you in the door for an interview, and hopefully, an acceptance!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so comment below on what you feel are some of the best things you can do to make your CASPA application successful! Also, definitely make sure to check out the rest of my Pre-PA posts, I’ve discussed a ton of topics ranging from the costs of applying to how to handle rejection.
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