Competition is tough for physician assistant school! Schools accept only 5 – 10% of applicants. The first step in ensuring a successful process is to closely follow application requirements. For 125 of the 154 accredited schools, the application process begins by submitting an application to the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), a service of the Physician Assistant Education Association. CASPA is a web-based application service that allows students to file one application for multiple schools. CASPA verifies applicant information and calculates grade-point averages. The service then sends student applications to physician assistant schools as directed.
To start, students open an account with CASPA and complete their online application. Then, transcripts, reference letters, and application fees are sent to complete the file. Applicants must apply and submit accessory documents in a timely fashion. It can take up to ten days for mailed materials to be received and up to four weeks for materials to be processed and forwarded to physician assistant schools.
Physician assistant programs are continuous and, accordingly, do not follow a traditional college schedule. Different programs have different start dates. Applications for different schools may be due at different times, requiring an additional level of awareness and coordination by applicants. Marking key dates on a calendar may help.
Cycles can also differ from the central application process. Applicants must ensure a valid application with CASPA, timed for the correct study year with the physician assistant school. Once an application is filed with CASPA, it is active for one year. Students can reapply to keep their file active with CASPA.
Schools that do not use the centralized application service accept applications directly. Application materials are available through each school’s website. Materials must be gathered and sent directly to each of these schools. Even when CASPA is used, it is critical to check each school’s website or application information to ensure the proper materials are provided in a timely manner. For example, some physician assistant programs require references from specific sources and do not accept alternates.