What is CASPA?
CASPA is an acronym standing for The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants. It is an application system, which provides students and participating PA programs with a streamlined admissions process with a single application for multiple programs. Essentially, it is one application you fill out, provide all requirements such as GPA, transcripts, letter of recommendations, exams scores and all health care experience hours, a single PA narrative. This one single application is accepted by 95% of currently accredited PA programs. The other 5% of accredited PA programs require applications to be sent via their website. Why do we only talk about accredited programs? Because in order to practice as a PA and sit for your boards, you must be a graduate of an ARC-PA accredited PA program.
The most valuable step in applying to PA school, whether it be this application cycle or next, is to go to the CASPA homepage (www.caspaonline.org) and sign up for an account.
Creating an account and filling out an application is free of cost, and nonbinding. Just because you start an application, there is no obligation to submit the application. Why is this step so crucial? Any school that accepts the CASPA application will base their decision to interview you or not based on this one application. Looking through the application BEFORE you begin the application process gives you an opportunity to see exactly what information PA schools are searching for. This allows you to identify weaknesses in your application that you may need to improve on and structure your personal narrative to include information that is not required in the application.
Reviewing the application prior to the beginning of the cycle, allows you to review the instructions in each section. All the answers to questions like “How many references do I need?” “How do I submit the letters of reference?” “Where do my health care experience hours go?” “How do I submit transcripts to CASPA?” can all be answered with a thorough reading of the instructions. Reviewing the entire application will also allow you to budget your time so every aspect of the application is submitted prior to your deadlines.
Be aware that the CASPA application must be verified prior to submitting a copy of the application to each PA program requested. The verification of the application is a confirmation that every aspect of the application is uploaded. It is your responsibility to continuously check the application to be sure each section is completely filled out and each upload has been submitted. Without completion of the entire application, CASPA will not verify the application. Without verification, the application will not be submitted to the PA programs you requested. You don't want this. Trust me.
Prior to starting the application process, create an excel sheet with information about each PA program you wish to apply to. Deadlines, application fees, reference requirements, minimum requirements such as prerequisite courses, standardized exams. Submit for official transcripts from all colleges you’ve attended, contact ~4-5 potential references and begin drafting your narrative. Along with sending official transcripts directly to CASPA, ask your schools to send an official transcript to you as you will need it to enter your coursework. By 6-8 weeks prior to your first deadline, complete your application, verify your reference letters and transcripts have been received. Within the last 4 weeks of your first deadline, monitor your application status until it is Verified by CASPA, then begin submissions. Be aware of the fees per application via CASPA: CASPA charges $179 for the first program you apply to and $52 for each additional program you apply to.
Keep checking back with @thehumeruspa for more CASPA tips to help you through this
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