Many who have traversed the PA school path will tell you it is the toughest journey they’ve experienced. I tend to agree. The hours are rough, constant stress of studying and excelling on the grueling exams, juggling your physical health, your mental health, maintaining social contacts, while cooking, cleaning and being a citizen of the society is what makes it so challenging. But before the prospective PA student gets to PA school, he/she must overcome the obstacle of being accepted to PA school, a similarly difficult task. PA school admissions have become extremely selective over the last decade for several reasons.
So, what does it take to get into PA school? What caliber must one possess to be determined a valuable candidate for PA school? To keep things objective, we will only discuss the quantitative aspects of the application.
For qualitative assessments, see the article : 3 Characteristics That Will Set You Apart From Others
A clear objective indicator for all schools is the GPA. A cumulative GPA of an undergraduate degree over 4 years is one of the best objective indicators for an admissions committee in order to predict the student’s ability to overcome the academic challenge that is PA school.
As per PAEA, in 2018, the average first-year PA student had an undergraduate degree GPA of 3.56, science GPA of 3.51 and a conscience GPA of 3.61. In other words, an average of B+ in all classes will increase the probability of an acceptance.
Another objective qualifier are the standardized exam score, specifically the GRE. Drifting from the traditional culture, PA schools are decreasingly requiring the GRE as it does not foreshadow PA school performance. However, some schools do still require it.
As of 2018, per PAEA, average GRE scores of an accepted PA student for verbal reasoning is 154, quantitative reasoning is 153, which comes to a total of 307. GRE score are certainly important for the programs that require them, however more programs are eliminating this standardized exam as it gives no indication of future PA school performance.
Health/Patient Care Hours
Another major component of PA School admissions is health care/ patient care experience. Health Care Experience (HCE) is “both paid and unpaid work in health or health-related fields where you are not directly responsible for patient’s care.”. Patient Care Experience (PCE) is “experience in which you are directly responsible for patient’s care.” Because PA school can be loosely defined as condensed medical school ( 1 year didactic vs. 2 year didactic), admission committees want to ensure applicants have medical experience prior to entering PA school. This is the reason a 2nd year PA student is far clinically advanced than 2nd year medical student.
In 2018, according to PAEA, average accepted PA student has over 2500 hours of PCE and close to 200 hours of shadowing. Top tier schools require that you have at least 2000 hours of PCE/HCE. To put this into perspective, this is 1 year of full time employment, which can be quite difficult when attending undergraduate courses. HCE/PCE is one of the biggest rate limiting factors when applying to PA school because most younger applicants cannot compete with older applicants or those who have already been in the medical field.
It is important to note that these are averages. There are students that are above and below these numbers and more importantly, to keep in mind that your PA school application is a holistic, multifaceted application process. Being within the ranges of above numbers will guarantee that the application will be noticed by the admissions committee. That’s all. The personal statement and the interview will make or break your application. Additionally, all program’s minimum requirements are different. So, always keep things in perspective with all the data that you have available to you.