Having chosen this career, a candidate will want to maximize his or her potential for acceptance at physician assistant school. Narrowing down schools of interest allows candidates to focus on the requirements of specific schools. Some schools require prerequisite course work to have been completed within the last 5 – 7 years. For someone working for years in the field, that may mean repeating some courses. Similarly, even a recently completed science course might be repeated to improve a mediocre grade. Although many schools require a grade-point average above 2.8 or 3.0, accepted students often have GPAs far above those numbers.
Hands-on patient-care experience is a critical component of an application. Such experience shows the admissions office at the physician assistant school that a candidate is devoted to this work and has enough experience to jump into an intensive program. Physician assistant programs receive many questions from applicants regarding acceptable work background. Schools look for several months to several years of work with patients as a nurse, paramedic, emergency medical technician, respiratory therapist, radiology technician, or medical corps member. Desk jobs or laboratory jobs without patient handling would not qualify for patient-care experience. Greater experience increases the strength of an application. Although a school may require six months (1000 hours) or two years (4000 hours) of experience, the majority of accepted students exceed that demand with an average of four years of patient care.
Many physician assistant schools require the GRE . Some ask for the MCAT. In this area, as well, some physician assistant schools offer guidelines for acceptance. An applicant with a combined score on the GRE below 1000 should consider retaking the test to improve his or her score.
Up to three references are required with an application. Often, at least one must be from a physician or physician assistant familiar with your work. Cultivate relationships and do exceptional work to ensure quality recommendations, which will also increase opportunities for additional work.
Physician assistant schools are looking for a qualitative skill set as well as quantitative skills. With so large an applicant pool to choose from, admissions teams work diligently to ensure enrolled students have the complete skill set needed for success. They will look for personality traits found in successful physician assistants. Applicants should focus on their maturity, compassion, community orientation, devotion to helping others, ability to observe and intuit, communication skills, and integrity.
Physician assistant schools typically interview the top tier of applicants to assess qualitative skills that affect success as a student and as a future physician assistant. Applicants should be aware that most schools perform a background check and drug testing.