There are three general steps in applying to physician assistant programs: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview. A sample application timeline process can be viewed here.
1. Primary applications for most schools must be filed with the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), which is a centralized application service. CASPA opens in late April but many schools have an application submission deadline in early fall of that application cycle. It includes a personal statement (5000 characters). Once your application is complete, CASPA forwards it to whichever schools you have designated. The CASPA application fee is about $179 for the first program and $55 each additional program designation. For schools with rolling admission, submit your primary application as early as possible.
Note: A list of specific letters of recommendation types for Physician Assistant Schools can be found here.
2. Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual physician assistant programs. Schools may include these applications in the CASPA application. Other schools may send these applications after they have received the CASPA application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, letters of recommendation, and/or fees. Some schools may even screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out. However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application. Some schools may also require you to take CASPer. For a list of schools and programs that participate in CASPer, click here.
CASPer (Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is an online situational judgement test that assesses collaboration, communication, empathy, equity, ethics, motivation, problem solving, and professionalism. More information, test dates, and a list of schools and programs that require CASPer can be found here.
Test Breakdown: CASPer takes approximately 90 minutes to complete, including an optional 15 minute break halfway through. There are 12 scenarios: 8 video-based and 4 text-based, each followed by 3 open-ended questions.
Scoring: Each scenario will be scored by a unique scorer. Schools will receive a cumulative z-score based on the scores of the 12 unique scorers. Applicants will not see their scores.
Cost: CASPer costs $10 as a base fee and an additional $10 per school.
Note: Most PA schools participate in CASPA. Students interested in applying to other schools must complete each of their prospective schools’ individual applications. For these schools, the application process consist only of steps 2 and 3.
3. Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), physician assistant programs invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs of interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, and meals. To learn more about interviews, attend our upcoming interview-related orientations and workshops here. For sample interview questions click here.
CASPA’s Admissions Code of Cooperation: Although the application process varies from school to school, CASPA has established “traffic rules” to ensure fairness for all concerned. The rules are available online and stipulate both schools’ and applicants’ rights and responsibilities in the application process. All applicants should be familiar with these rules before applying.
Background Check: Prior to official acceptance, schools usually contact a background check on accepted students. Thus, please ensure that you conduct yourself professionally at all times. A record of misconduct may result in the residence of acceptance by schools.
Re-applicants: Many applicants may not be admitted to the professional school that they desire on their first try. However, if an when you choose to re-apply, there are many things to consider before re-submitting another application the following cycle. For more information on how to improve your application, click here.
- The more you know about a school, the better your chances of being accepted.
- Most application questions can be answered by reading the PA Programs Directory.
- Contact individual schools’ admissions offices to find out how they handle:
- Advanced Placement (AP) credits
- International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
- military credits
- courses taken at a community college
- non-U.S. coursework
- courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
- residency issues
- time limits on prerequisite science courses
Please note that if you are retaking courses because PA schools may not accept Advanced Placement (AP), online, or community college credit, your financial aid and/or scholarship status may be affected.
Financial Planning is a crucial step in applying to physician assistant programs. It is important for students to create a plan and make decisions in their educational expenses. Students are highly encouraged to budget their finances before, during, and after a physician assistant program. To learn more about financial planning, click here.
FAFSA: All students are encouraged to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through this information, students are eligible to apply for grants, work study, and loans to help fund the cost of undergraduate, graduate and professional school education. FAFSA opens on October 1st.
Note: To be considered for this financial aid, you must apply the year prior to matriculation even if you do not know if you were accepted into graduate or professional school yet.
Military Financial Aid: For more information, click here.
Scholarship Opportunities for Test Prep Materials
- ASUH Graduate Test Prep Award
- Gold Standard MCAT Prep Crash Course Scholarship
- Hawaii Pre-Health Career Corps Discount
- Join their organization and get a discounted Kaplan in-person or online course (a discounted price of $1299 vs. regular price $2499). The online registration form can be found here.